Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries" by Emma Thompson

First, a confession:  I didn't read the screenplay half of this book, only the diaries.  I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of reading screenplays unless they're for something I dearly love, so I skipped that.  But Emma Thompson's filming diary is delightful, and I read it all this afternoon.  And so I have this impromptu addition to my Jane Austen Week celebratory posts :-)

My goodness, I want to be friends with Emma Thompson and hang out with her all the time.  She is an amazing blend of intelligence, humor, and capability -- or at least, that's how she comes across in this collection of her random thoughts while filming Sense and Sensibility (1995),  which she not only starred in, but wrote the screenplay for.  (And she won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, too!)  If you're not particularly interested in how movies get made, you might not be too keen on this book, but I found it fascinating, hilarious, and informative.  So many insights into the story and characters, so many incisive and wry comments about modern life as an actor, so many random and chuckle-inducing anecdotes.

However, a sprinkling of bad language and some casual mentions of sexual matters prevents me from universally recommending this book.  Alas.  I wish it was cleaner, because it's lovely overall.

Particularly Good Bits:

I seem finally to have stopped worrying about Elinor, and age.  She seems now to be perfectly normal -- about twenty-five, a witty control freak.  I like her but I can see how she would drive you mad.  She's just the sort of person you'd want to get drunk just to make her giggling and silly (p. 253).

Sense and Sensibility is about love and money.  Perhaps its main question is, can love survive without money?  A pithy question.  Romantic codes teach us that love conquers all.  Elinor disagrees.  You need a decent amount of money.  It's a difficult thing to accept.  It cries out against all our cherished ideals.  But interesting that our 'western' romantic symbols cost a great deal.  Roses, diamonds... (p. 255).

Elinor and Edward seem both to belong to the eighteenth century, the age of Augustan reason.  They are firm, balanced, judgemental, drily humorous, far more Alexander Pope than Walter Scott.  Marianne shoots toward the middle of the nineteenth century, embracing each romantic ideal like a new lover.  The turn of a century always seems to produce a Janus-like generation, some clinging to old systems, some welcoming a new age.  Always a powerful time (p. 265).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a disappointing R for language and suggestive material, as well as drinking and smoking.

12 comments:

  1. I honestly can't remember if I've read this or not -- but I DO remember someone else recommending it, also with a warning that the language can be a bit salty. Either way, this woman is HILARIOUS. (If you're ever bored, check out the time Ellen got her to play animal charades on YouTube. I laughed so hard I almost cried.)

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    1. Oh, good heavens! She's just relentlessly funny, isn't she? Have you seen this bit from some British talk show about her photo bombing people on the red carpet? I stumbled on it while manically watching all things Luke Evans a few months ago, and it is priceless.

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    2. BTW, Charity, I don't think you would have issues with the language and content in this book.

      I had completely forgotten that Emma Thompson is now married to Greg Wise, which is making me think back about what she said about him in this and laugh, because she was always describing him as full of boundless energy and being like a large puppy. Which, I suppose... she was 36 at the time, and he was 29. I wonder how much later it was when they got together.

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    3. *watches video and laughs*

      She really was the perfect person to adapt S&S... because she gets it, that Jane was intentionally writing absurd characters and silly situations. Her screenplay is hilarious in the same dry-witted way that Jane wrote. So yes, she's always funny. Not always classy, but always funny.

      I... don't think it was long after S&S that she started seeing Greg. I imagine she was drawn to him because of that boundless energy -- she seems to have a lot of it! ;)

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    4. YES! Exactly, Charity. She gets it. In this, she mentioned at one point that she tried to include at least one genuinely funny line or joke in each full scene. My mom and I watched the first half of it last night, and sure enough, I noticed at least one really funny (but usually dry and sometimes missable) line in each one so far. Very awesome.

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    5. I LOVE the more recent miniseries for S&S, but it sucked all the humor out of the story and made it just plain drama. Emma's screenplay gets that it's all delightfully absurd. There are wonderful qualities to both. (In truth, if I could, I'd keep the Elinor and Edward from the more recent miniseries, and the Brandon and Marianne from Thompson's film, and have the perfect movie!)

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    6. Charity, this leads me to believe I'm going to still like S&S95 best after I see the 2008. I'm going to see it soonish, but... I like humor. It's one of my favorite things about Austen.

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  2. I've got this book! I personally love reading screenplays, so I've read her screenplay loads of times, too. :-) Her diaries are really interesting! It's like watching a 'the making of' in the 'extra' part of a DVD. :-) I agree though, it would be much nicer without all the language and other things. That's why I'm not crazy about her diaries.

    ~ Naomi

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    1. Naomi, it's a very cool book! If I hadn't been planning to start watching the movie last night with my mom, I would probably have read the screenplay too. Or if I had more time... it's my mom's book (I gave it to her, along with the movie on VHS, for Christmas many years ago) and I won't be here much longer...

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  3. Thank you for sharing your review and comments. I think I will take a pass on this one; perhaps it is only for the die-hard Austen fans, but even then it sounds like a questionable reading adventure, and I can't imagine the published sold many copes. Your posting, though, reminds me that I have neglected/avoided Austen for a longtime. My reading plan at my blog includes one Austen title -- Emma -- so that might get me into the swing of things for all things Austen. BTW, do you have a favorite Austen title?

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    1. Blaine, this seems to be available in at least 3 different editions (this paperback, plus another paperback, and a hardcover), so I'm guessing it has been fairly popular, at least among fans of Jane Austen and/or Emma Thompson.

      I like Persuasion best, and in fact I've got a guest post about it coming up on Naomi's blog as part of her Jane Austen Week. I also like Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey a LOT -- they tie for my second-favorite Austen work.

      If you have trouble getting into Austen, may I recommend A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz? It's an excellent look at each of her major novels and how a grad student used lessons he learned from them to change himself into a better person.

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    2. Hamlette, thanks. I will definitely look for the Deresiewicz book.

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