Top 10 Goofs in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Top 10 Goofs in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

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.

40 Responses to Top 10 Goofs in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

  1. Isn’t the “microphone” on Margaret’s back actually a buckle (which her sash is threaded through)? That’s what it looks like to me. I guess it’s possible that it’s a disguised microphone, but it shows up in more than one scene (here, for instance: while, in other scenes, Margaret just has her sash tied in a simple bow. To be fair, though, if viewers can’t determine whether something worn in a scene is a historical fashion accessory or a modern device, then I guess the costume design has failed to be convincing!

  2. When Willoughby leaves the house after rescuing Marianne, he is handed a cane which he didn’t have on arriving.

  3. In the scene when Willoughby asks if he can ascertain if there is a break in Maryann’s ankle, the camera turns back to Maryann. In the background over her left shoulder it looks as though there is a vehicle driving by in the distance. At 42:38

  4. In the scene where Lucy starts to confide with Elinor she refers to Fanny as Elinor’s sister in law but she is not. Correct?

    • The opening paragraphs of Sense and Sensibility, give a brief history of the Dashwood family. It is there that we learn that John Dashwood is Henry Dashwood’s son from a first marriage, while his three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are products of his second marriage, making John Dashwood Elinor’s half-brother. So technically, John’s wife, Fanny, is their sister-in-law. The introduction of characters in the first chapter is rendered a bit confusing because Austen refers to Mrs. Dashwood as John’s mother-in-law when we would consider her to be his step-mother. I suppose it is probably because he is related to her only by marriage. You can refer to the opening chapter here:

  5. I am happy to see the comment about the cups of tea. That one has always bothered me. Why wouldn’t you just refill the cup that Mr Palmer offered?

    • It is certainly strange. The best explanation I have is that they had filmed a much longer scene where it made sense, but then cut out chunks of footage that created this goof.

  6. She says, “It is not to be borne, Elinor.” Although, the dog suddenly missing from Lucy’s lap during the outburst has bothered me for years!

    • It’s interesting that you hear it as “Elinor” also. I stand by my response to Dee (just below this one) and will add that I have found a couple of references to this goof online in other sources. Now I’m wondering if later editions were remastered and the goof was fixed. Speculation, but I listened to my copy again, and it is distinctly “Emma.” Thank you for commenting, Lisa.

    • It’s interesting that you are hearing “Elinor.” There was one of these goof posts in the past (not this one) where a scene that played one way on my television’s audio, and sounded like a goof there, sounded different, and correct, on my laptop speakers. Due to this past experience, I was actually very cautious with this claim. Not only did I rewind and listen repeatedly on both the television and my laptop from my DVD copy, but I also found a streaming source of the film and repeated the exercise. In all cases, I very clearly heard “Emma.” I’ll allow, however, that differences in audio systems can make for different perceptions of dialogue by the viewers. It would have been interesting to see what it sounded like in a theater environment. While I stand by what I hear and list as a goof, I sincerely appreciate your sharing your experience with this scene. There may be others who hear it the same as you do. Thank you.

  7. Good list! I have already mentioned the error of Willoughby referring to himself as the “poor dependent cousin” of “Lady Allen” (Mrs. Smith in the book) in a scene that occurs long after the one in which Brandon and Sir John refer to him as a nephew of “Lady Allen.” (Or perhaps it’s actually the error of Sir John and Brandon, given that, presumably, Willoughby would be familiar with how he is related to the woman! Is he meant to be lying in this version?) This mistake was apparently copied for the 2008 miniseries, in which Willoughby refers to himself as the “cousin” of his “aunt.”

    I also noticed a particularly egregious grammatical error in the 1995 film’s screenplay. The following exchange did not make it into the film, which is good, because it’s clunky, obvious, and ungrammatical:

    I do not understand her, Mamma. Why
    does she never mention Edward? I
    have never even seen her cry about
    him, or about Norland.

    Nor I. But Elinor is not like you or
    I, dear. She does not like to be
    swayed by her emotions.

    Clearly, the line should be “like you or me” instead of “like you or I.” No one would say “Elinor is not like I.”

  8. Number 3 always stuck out at me whenever I watched the movie. I am so glad you noticed. I will have to watch it again and look at the goofs you pointed out. The other thing I noticed was when Emma Thompson was walking… she had a hard tread. In the special features somewhere I heard the director was always chiding her for the way she walked. Regency ladies glided across the floor. I love this series. Thank you for doing this. It is so much fun.

    • Interesting point about the walking. I have encountered several stories about Ang Lee’s direction but I hadn’t seen that one. I didn’t notice her walk being specifically hard, but I don’t think of her as being particularly delicate or graceful in her walking either. I think that would be a mannerism that would be difficult to ingrain in your movement if you hadn’t been trained that way from childhood. Excellent insight there. Thank you.

    • I know what you mean – I often have the same reaction when learning new things about a favorite film! I always say that any reason to re-watch an Austen film is a good reason. Thanks, Chelsea

  9. I’ve only ever heard Mrs. Dashwood say “Elinor” in that scene, but she does say it very quickly, so i can see how it would either be mistaken for “Emma” or I just heard “Elinor” because it’s what I expected to hear.

    • Interesting! Next time you watch it, pay close attention and see what you hear there. It was very clear to me that she said “Emma” when I rewound it and listened carefully. Of course, we all remember the black and blue dress incident from a few years ago…

      • When I first read that she supposedly said Emma, I went and listened carefully a couple of times. It’s definitely Elinor. Her accent may be throwing people off. She starts the “E” on almost a sob, then it’s lih-nah (because they don’t really pronounce the r at the end).

  10. I don’t recall catching any of these goofs, definitely will need to pay attention next time I watch. I am shaking my head that I didn’t notice “Emma” being called as that seems like it should be an obvious one.

    • I know, right? When I caught it, I had to rewind to make sure I heard it correctly. It blows right past you because Mrs. Dashwood is in motion and the goof comes at the end of her rant. I wonder if we naturally tune out a bit when people are ranting. I’ve watched the film at least a dozen times and never noticed it before. I think because there is a different mindset when I’m looking for goofs that is more questioning – not as invested in the relax, enjoy, and “suspend disbelief” approach I usually have.

  11. Love the goofs. Most of them I never noticed, but I almost find the movies more endearing after I see the mistakes. I absolutely love this adaptation, even if I can’t possible see Emma Thompson as only 19 (Which is how old Elinor is in the book…) She did an outstanding job of catching the feel of the book in only a couple of hours though and still telling the whole story. Thanks for the delightful post!

    • I agree about having Emma play the role of Elinor. You get the sense that she is very nearly “on the shelf” and with age has come wisdom, rather than her good sense being simply innate to her character. Like you, I love the film anyway. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Those are fun!

    For the map one, they didn’t have google, so I don’t blame them so much… although you’d think it would have been someone’s job to open an encyclopedia and check that out 🙂

    I especially like the one about the nappy.

    • It seems that most period films have historical experts that fact-check such things, these somehow slipped through the cracks. I love the diaper one too. Hugh Laurie’s face is so expressive that it draws your eye away from the baby, and you only see the diaper for a few seconds.

    • Thank you, Rebecca. I love this one as well. When I do the goofs posts, the feeling I have is like knowing and embracing the idiosyncrasies of an old friend that I dearly love. Thanks for commenting!

  13. I love your series and am so glad you have done my favorite Austen adaption 🙂

    Although the goofs are a handful they do not distract in the slightest from any enjoyment (AR is a dream as CB).

    • Thank you, Virginia. I very nearly decided that people were likely tired of the goofs and trivia posts and decided to move on to something else. I had picked a different topic and had done a bit of research on it when I changed my mind and decided that the series wasn’t complete yet. After all, I’ve only done Pride and Prejudice and Emma! After I’d decided to keep going with the series and sat down to re-watch this film, I knew I’d made the right choice. Your comment is proof! How could I not do your favorite? What was I thinking? 😉

      • disappeared. I love all the Jan Austen movies and watch them on demand over and over. I especially love Pride and Predjudice. I like the 1995 series with Collin Firth. The last one with Keira Knightly is good too. I like to compare them. There are a lot of difference between the two but there are special things that make me love them both.

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