Last weekend, I wandered through various TV channels in search of something good to watch and came across a movie called “Scents and Sensibility.” As a lifelong Jane Austen fan, I was intrigued by the resemblance to Jane Austen’s book Sense and Sensibility, so I thought I’d try it. (No, my English professors didn’t have to twist my arms to make me read it. They did bribe with chocolate, though. )
The movie turned out to be pretty good. The writers took Jane Austen’s original plot and converted it for a modern-day family. Elinor is a business executive who takes up a job at a spa after her father’s disgrace, while Marianne goes to work as an office helper and creates lotions as a hobby. Mrs. Dashwood, Margaret, Lucy Steele, Brandon, Edward Ferris and John Willoughby all put in their expected appearances and do their thing, in a way that is reasonably similar to the original novel.
I wonder how Jane Austen would have felt about this remake? Would she be collapsed in shock or rolling around on the floor, laughing hysterically? I think she would have liked it. Jane had a sense of humor, since she satirized the Gothic novels so popular in her time in Northanger Abbey.
I like remakes or adaptations of my favorite novels, but it depends upon the script and how faithful it remains to the book. Now I’m realistic: I understand that you can only fit so much of a novel into a script and you have to add certain elements to a movie to get bodies into those theater seats, but I can’t say I like it much when a movie veers away from what made the plot so appealing to read.
Take, for example, the Jim Caviezel version of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” another adaptation of a favorite book. There are some scenes that were never in the novel by Alexandre Dumas and it felt like those scenes were added purely to entice audience members. Still, Jim Caviezel is a good Edmond Dantès. You root for the poor guy, even though he does some not-so-nice things. And Luis Guzmán as Jacopo is a terrific sidekick with some of the best lines in the movie.
I guess it all depends upon who does the remake and how carefully they do it. The next time a novel is converted into a movie or miniseries, I hope that the best and brightest in Hollywood will stay as faithful as possible to a novel in their next remake. I can dream, anyway.