There are some Austen books that are perfect for modernization. There are some that are not every suppose to be updated at all. The key is in plot motivation and social construct. The ones that work best are the ones that are still issues today: the pressure on women to get married, the pressure on women to pick the best possible spouse (see Persuasion), or the way woman like to take care of other people (see Emma). Sense & Sensibility is not one of those books.
Sense & Sensibility is not a great modernization and the problem is not Joanna Trollope, but the source material. The driving force for the original is that these 4 women (a mother and her 3 daughters) can’t take care of themselves. They can’t inherit and they can’t work for themselves. They must rely on family, friends, and near strangers for the help they need. This does not translate well because women are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
It took me a long time to acknowledge why I dislike Sense & Sensibility so much (both this version and the original). For me it is this very issue: women can’t simply take care of themselves. Everyone is so busy thinking about income. Who is going to inherit and who isn’t going to inherit. It becomes even worse in this modernization because these women should JUST GET JOBS! Their mother won’t work even though she was an art teacher and artist. Maryanne is a musician who doesn’t PLAY ANY MUSIC! Eleanor is left to support a family of 4 on the salary of… well, on nothing. They are still reduced to relying of family, friends, and near strangers. They continue to live a completely privileged life without a care while Eleanor works her ass off.
Both this version of Sense & Sensibility and Eligable seem steeped in privilege. I wonder if the other two in this series of Austen modernizations will be the same. In Austen’s day these were commentaries on class, wealth, and societal pressures on women. These modernizations, at least the two I have read, don’t do this kind of commentary. Maybe they don’t need to do commentary on society, but I wish they would all do a good job of reflecting what is actually going on in the class of society on which they focus. Eligible did a far better job of it than Sense & Sensibility did.
For those who do like Sense & Sensibility, what do you like about it? What might I be missing? Don’t say Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon. He was wonderful, but that’s like saying Georgiana Darcy is the reason to like Pride & Prejudice.