Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for this 1995 Jane Austen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. It is one of my favorite Austen film productions, so please don’t take this list to be proof of anything other than my love of all things Austen. I will concede that a few of the items in this list are subjective, but I included them because I perceive them to be goofs. I’ll be interested to hear whether your take on them is the same as mine. See you on the other side!
10.) Is love a fancy or a feeling? This goof is one that I concede may be intentional, but it jumps out as strange to me. After humiliating Edward, forcing him to re-read the poetry because she didn’t like the way he read it, there is an entire day before the bedtime scene where Marianne criticizes his lack of feeling to Elinor and then mocks Elinor for the same. If the conversation had occurred on the same night, it would have seemed like a natural conversation, sisters discussing what has just transpired. With the scene where Sir John Middleton’s letter arrives placed in-between the two nighttime encounters, it makes Marianne seem petty and more judgemental than she is. To me, it feels like a post-production “oops” that they placed it in the sequence presented.
9.) What atlas are you looking at? This conversation is honestly one of the most endearing conversations in the film, so it is with sorrow that I throw darts at it, but honestly, I wonder if Emma Thompson didn’t just throw darts at a modern-day map when she was writing the dialogue. Elinor says that she thinks the Nile is in Belgium. The point is to draw Margaret out from under the table, but it probably drew a few Belgians out as well. The country of Belgium was formed in 1830, well after the 1811 setting for this film. But it gets worse. Edward says she must mean the Volga river and mentions that it starts in Vladivostock. This city was organized 30 years after Belgium in 1860. It seems that they are pulling names out of the air that wouldn’t make sense in 1811.
8.) No animals were injured in the filming of this scene. Mrs. Dashwood, having taken a liking to the young Lucy Steele practically strokes Lucy’s ego with compliments and assurances of her superiority while begins while Lucy, in turn, strokes Fanny’s pet dog in her lap. At no point during their conversation does Lucy let go of the dog, but when Fanny flies into a rage over Lucy’s reveal about her engagement to Edward, the dog has vanished as quickly as Fanny’s esteem for Lucy.
7.) The Pampered baby. In this scene where Charlotte Palmer declares for all to hear about what a wonderful father her husband is, Mr. Palmer is clearly of a different mind, holding the baby half an arm’s length away. This view gives us a peek at the blue edge of a disposable diaper tucked away underneath the period clothes of the infant.
6.) – Fiddler out of time. Leading the wedding procession out of the church is an accomplished fiddler, seen below. One little detail that eluded the historical experts was that the violin chinrest was not invented until the 1820s, around a decade too late to be accurately seen in this film.
5.) I shall ask Mamma if I may stay behind from Church. Colonel Brandon’s picnic at Delaford is set for “Thursday next.” After his hasty disappearance the day of the picnic, the next scene shows the Dashwoods sitting on the lawn in front of Barton Cottage eating a picnic with Willoughby who opens with, “Frailty, thy name is Brandon.” Due to the context the scene is presented in, it is implied that Brandon’s picnic is the fare for the meal, simply eaten back at the cottage on the same day…in the same clothes. This setup makes for a disorienting timeline when Marianne walks Willoughby to the gate, and he begs for a private audience the next day. Marianne, certain he is going to propose, decides to ditch church, meaning it was suddenly Saturday when we thought it was still Thursday.
4.) What are you hiding behind your back? After Edward and Elinor have coaxed Margaret out from under the table with their feigned ignorance about the Nile, we see Margaret with some sort of hardware attached to her back, probably the transmitter for a microphone hidden in the fluff of black ribbons at her neck.
3.) Would you like one cup or two? On the return trip from London, the Dashwood sisters stop at the Palmer’s estate. Marianne goes for a walk, determined to see Willoughby’s estate, which Mrs. Palmer has declared is very near. When a rainstorm ensues, Colonel Brandon goes in search of her and Elinor is left back at the house with the Palmers, worriedly looking out the window. Mr. Palmer takes her a cup of tea to comfort her. Moments later, Mrs. Palmer is pouring her a cup of tea. I speculate that this is done to hint at the passage of time, but for me, it is distracting because I wonder what happened to the first cup. Note that Mrs. Palmer has made no progress in the consumption of her piece of cake in the interim, so I’m suspicious that any time has passed at all. It’s a continuity goof.
2.) The dance of the disappearing shawl. When Elinor agrees to dance with Robert Ferrars, she has a shawl draped over her arms, and if you follow the couple in the distance shot, you can see that she is still wearing it when they get to the dance floor. The next time you see Elinor dancing, there is no shawl. Harry Potter fans may make a case that Mrs. Trelawney has a magical coatrack that Elinor stashed her shawl in. Later in the scene, when Marianne sees Willoughby and Elinor goes to her rescue, there is no sign of the shawl.
1.) My name is “Elinor,” but I’ll answer to “Emma.” I scratch my head at this one. I would expect this to be caught during filming–I’ve seen enough bloopers with this very mistake–or at least fixed in post-production. It would have been an easy job to dub the right name into the audio track, but they must have missed it. This goof occurs in the first five minutes of the film. At 4:49 to be exact. Mrs. Dashwood is running around packing as she complains aloud, “Reduced to the condition of a visitor in my own home. It is not to be borne, Emma!” The moment passes without even a blink from Elinor, aka Emma.
There you have it. Have you noticed any of these goofs in viewing this adaptation? Are there other goofs you’ve noticed that I’ve missed? Please share your thoughts and observations in the comments.