25 August 2020

Bee Gees Comforts - The 80s! (Yes)

Comforting Bee Gees Eighties, Oddities, and Hits, Oh Yes.
by Kristin Battestella

Contrary to popular belief, The Bee Gees did not disappear after the disco demolition backlash. After going underground for several years and writing for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Dionne Warwick, The Brothers Gibb embarked on various solo efforts before reuniting under the house name for more international hits.

Paradise – “He's a Liar” is one of three Gibb songs I really dislike, and this ballad should have been the single for Living Eyes instead. Rather than falsetto run amok like Spirits Having Flown, here the classic lyrics and harmonious crescendos in many ways return to the pre-disco sound. Sadly, the tired market didn't want to hear it.

Guilty Guilty was the first Gibb-related record I actually bought, and the catchy scandalous is superbly arranged for Barbra Streisand's highs and Barry's accompaniment. The dual story telling and culminating chorus showcase Barry's award winning behind the scenes work, and this session is an important staple in appreciating their songwriting catalog.

Woman in Love – Likewise, this moody, desperate ode isn’t like anything else Barbra had done. It's soulful and mellow in emotion with Gibb echoes rising to a grand, epic feeling, and the duet “What Kind of Fool” bookends the love eyes fall out splendidly.

The Love Inside – This track written by just Barry might be my favorite on Guilty. Barbra’s delivery takes its time as the swells escalate to tearful understanding and bittersweet mood. It's okay to need a pause and take a few minutes to step back and reflect on our hurt.

Chain Reaction – This Gibb track for Diana Ross's Eaten Alive is a Motown throwback with deliciously naughty hooks to contrast the familiar finger snapping beat. Combined with Diana's notes and Barry's harmony, I'm still surprised this was not a stateside hit in 1985.

Islands in the Stream Anyway you cut it this Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet from Kenny's Eyes That See in the Dark is just a superb song. I loved this song then and had no clue it was really those dreaded Bee Gees! The Brothers themselves do a wonderfully catchy rendition live, and you can't help but sing along with the perfect melody, rhythm, lyrics, and harmony.

Heartbreaker – Dionne Warwick's effortless rendition is fine sublime, but it's a treat to hear the nuances in The Brothers' versions live or recorded in full on Love Songs.The amazing lyrical refrains and relatable, snappy chorus are perfectly imperfect. There are wording changes, wispy notes, and swaying beats to echo the gone wrong sentiments.

In and Out of Love – This ballad from Robin' solo How Old Are You has an eighties sound, but it's smooth, with time to pay attention to what Robin is saying as he stretches his range. Before disco, Robin always lead the melancholy songs, but with the falsetto gone, he returns to the group with the stronger, confident voice heard here.

The Longest Night Robin continues the eighties five o'clock shadow mood with this complex ode of dark verses and serious feeling. It's a seedy, stream of consciousness ballad with intriguing notes and solid delivery. Indeed ESP coupled with Robin's Walls Have Eyes represents deeper, mature material that everyone seemed to miss. Pity.

You Win AgainThis global hit from ESP has oh babies, booming drums, and fun word play to bop your head and stomp your feet. Hot damn. That is all.

One Likewise brimming with effortless power, enchanting lyrics, and delicious riffs, this is another fun song live, remaining fresh and tropical as The Bee Gees returned to the American charts at the end of the decade with this timeless topper.

Bodyguard – And now onto what may be one of the steamier Gibb songs from One, even the then shocking slightly soft core music video here was very naughty. Robin’s delivery is again in romantic form with moaning words every woman wants to hear amid Barry's crescendos and objections. Let The Brothers Gibb take care of you, oh yes.


Man on Fire – This eighties Andy Gibb torch song builds up more Gibb heat with saucy lyrics, juicy vocals, and sexy pleas. It's strong, validating the yes please with solid escalation and climax. Despite the echoing touch of Barry's post-production, it's bittersweet to hear Andy return to form in material just before his untimely death, but what a steamy swan song it is.

The One for All Tour – Once elusive, this 1989 Australian concert video is now freely available with its unique session line up including less often performed live tracks. Most of those are slightly dated rockers from One, but live the grooves are excellent. The acid wash jeans, maybe not so much.

Please visit our Bee Gees tag or our Music label for more analysis, but do excuse any empty codes, broken links, format errors, and beloved bias in our decades old Bee Gees reviews!

21 August 2020

Bee Gees Comforts - The 70s!

Comforting Bee Gees Disco Hits – and There are Others, Too.
by Kristin Battestella

You may immediately notice “Stayin' Alive” is notably absent from this list of famed feel good dance music from The Bee Gees. Although it is the song I like the least, maybe now in retrospect, I can say it isn't that bad. As an ardent Brothers Gibb fan, however, I object at its ubiquitous nature as the one Bee Gees song everyone knows – and it's often a mocking reference or at least not always favorable. They have a thousand songs, people! The already much beloved “Too Much Heaven” is also set aside here in favor of a few pre-disco grooves and more post-treats proving The Bee Gees were much, much more than disco.

Run to Me The guitar cum heartstrings and vocal harmonies here are simply marvelous. Tender verses and a pleading chorus alternate whispers and swells while the lovelorn lyrics offer musical consolation. “Run to me, whenever you’re lonely”...That, after all is why we're here.

Please Don't Turn Out the Lights – This brief, two minute ditty also from To Whom It May Concern only has one problem: it's impeccable harmonizing is too damn short. I just repeat it three times in a row to make up the difference.

Mr. NaturalThe Mr. Natural album and its eponymous track should definitely not be dismissed as it has been. The easy beats and ear worm refrains here are surprisingly upbeat, contrasting the hidden sadness in the lyrical story while mirroring the titular casual cool. Yeah, I'm dying inside, but I look like I'm feeling great! Barry's strong lines provide the macho front while Robin's wailing high notes represent that love lost lump in the throat.

Nights on Broadway – Before Fever, it was Main Course and this excellently arranged hit that changed Barry, Robin, and Maurice from brokenhearted to falsetto grooves. The pouting lyrics capture the bitter romance of the moment while the bridge and chorus refrains run the gauntlet in range. No need for auto tune – those notes are real, and they're spectacular!

Fanny Be Tender with My Love – You can hear all three brothers in the lofty, chorale harmonies here, yet each refrain remains tight, carefully crafted down to every echo with subtle changes on each chorus. We're hooked by the bittersweet mood while listening for the next uptick showcasing the bellowing mastery. Is it over the top? Yes. Do I care? No. Listening to this never sounds the same way twice.

Baby as You Turn Away – The last song on Main Course is my favorite for it's effortless breezy and catchy melodies once again cleverly disguising what is really a sorrowful song. Maurice's down contrasts Barry's high notes for a different, unique melancholy compared to the group's previous pathos.

You Should Be DancingHow many movies have spoofed that white suit routine? More than a mere dance song, the full throttle here is embedded in the cultural lexicon thanks to rousing beats and get up and groove proclamations. Live arrangements and longer remixes elevate the complex rhythms, yet the simple, titular push remains hip moving essential. It's still a good dance song. Always has been, always will be.

Love Me My mother hates this Children of the World power ballad, but I simply adore the croaking, lovelorn lyrics. It's moody, it's depressing, it's expertly handled by Robin. This is a great song to cry to, and that's perfectly okay.

Night Fever This recognizable boogie is back in style! Cruising seventies lyrics capture the suave of the time. It's sexy and everyone can get down or cut a rug. Nostalgic fans can reminisce on the good old days in song and young listeners can immerse themselves in the not so innocent innocence with almost whimsical interludes and verses that vibe. After decades of gun shy, it's fascinating how this song came full circle, appearing in commercials and films whenever we need a pick me up bop.

How Deep is Your Love – Back then, it was unheard of for Robert Stigwood to release the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack before the film, but thanks to this excellent, most excellent Gibb staple, that's pretty much standard practice today. This sounds as good now as it did then – a penultimate love song with delivery from the soul. The emotion and artistry remain vital and fresh as the refrains tug on your heartstrings.

More Than a Woman – Even setting aside it's huge place in the Fever mythos, this swaying bliss provides musical genius with every verse. You can cha cha to the marvelous beat or indulge with the harmonious, pleasant lyrics.

If I Can't Have You While Yvonne Elliman's powerful version brimming with female heartache showcases The Brothers versatile potential in writing for others, their flip side collected on Greatest highlights Barry's range. Three grown men screaming about love shouldn't be so catchy, but I'll be dang it is.

Love You Inside and Out – I love the naughtiness of this feel good keeper – my favorite from Spirits Having Flown. You can dance, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, and sing along to this softer falsetto capturing the carefree in words, music, and mood. The Bee Gees actually have a lot of kinky tunes, but that's a whole 'nother topic!

Tragedy This heyday hit doesn't feel 1979 dated thanks to progressive beats, synthesizers, and pulsing notes emphasizing the mellow rage lyrics and explosions. Yes, explosions. Live this one is also a lot of fun, an entire production rousing the crowd to sing along to such bitter lyrics with a smile on their faces.


I've Gotta Get a Message to You Here at Last...Bee Gees Live – If I had to tell my utmost favorite Bee Gees song, this version has to be it. Is it perfect? No. There are certainly tighter tunes compared to the live mix here. However, the original's melancholy somber and Robin's quivering sadness escalate to a Barry ad-libbed rock out. It's sets the entire tone for the big brass concert session, and you can hear someone in the crowd shouting, “You rock, Barry!”

Oh, Darling – This Robin led cover from the bemusingly dreadful and deliciously so, so wrong Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band film actually charted n 1978 thanks to the soulful delivery and edgy throwback. The movie is pretty infamous, but it does have a few gems like this.

I Just Want to Be Your Everything I don't know how anybody can not like this lead off single from Andy Gibb's Flowing Rivers. Granted the vocals are a bit ‘Barryfied‘, and the rest of the album is a much more Andy country true to himself, but the extra Gibb orchestration is what makes this sound so good.

Shadow Dancing – This Andy Gibb hit is a great sing along song for the car. It's the only recorded song credited to all four brothers, and sometimes I fancy you can hear all of them, too. If this is what the entire family would have sounded like all together, wow.

One of the reasons I hated The Bee Gees growing up was because my ballet dancer sister made me practice the moves from Saturday Night Fever with her over and over again – at least until I broke the record. I much preferred Andy Gibb! Today, however, rather than dated like several infamous “Disco Duck” type extremes, the transformative dance music here takes you to another time and place to move your hips – no matter how bad you're feeling.

Please visit our Bee Gees tag or our Music label for more analysis, but do excuse any empty codes, broken links, format errors, and beloved bias in our decades old Bee Gees reviews!

19 August 2020

Mixed-Motivated Period Horrors

Mixed-Motivated Horror Period Pieces ??? 
by Kristin Battestella


Yes, accurately describing these recent horror period pieces and their misguided, mixed motivations is a mouthful. I'm undecided on if they are good for the atmospheric mood they get right or bad for hampering themselves with shoehorned plots, conflicted structuring, and backward viewpoints.

You Make the Call!

Crooked House – This 2008 British miniseries from producer, writer, and star Mark Gatiss (Coriolanus) is combined as one ninety minute feature stateside, and the picture looks flat, older than it is with uneven sound and over-reliance on strobe splices as an excited museum curator tells a young history teacher about the now demolished 1585 manor once nearby, its disturbing reputation, and the eerie Tudor relics remaining. The setting is neat, but it's a lot of telling to start with flashes of hooded robes, torches, and rituals suggesting the real story lies elsewhere. Indeed this museum account is the anthology frame for more stories about our notorious home, which may work great for the three part event, but this feels misleading as an all in one feature. I actually didn't know it was going to be an anthology when reading the description and suspected some kind of twenties museum in a Tudor house with eighteenth century ghosts. ¯\_()_/¯ Fortunately, the 1786 past in our First tale “The Wainscoting” looks good with pipes, quills, candles, powdered wigs, and tricorn hats. Our noble has profited from a shady business scheme, and he wants the restoration on his newly purchased, notorious manor complete despite phantom blemishes and spooked, behind schedule craftsman who request a cat, for surely it's mice behind the paneling making all the strange noises. Paint won't cover the recurring stains, and angry widows cry that there's blood on his hands when the men he ruined end up dead. Not believing in superstition or ghouls, he stays up to prove there's nothing spirited about his re-purposed, morbid woodwork. Despite period mood, the rushed pace leaves little time to embrace the sordid history and horror opportunities. Flapper fun and bee's knees slang open the Second story “Something Old” but her ladyship Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs) isn't pleased with her grandson's poor fiancee. We get to know the characters quickly and the era is well done again, so it's odd these two tales are shoehorned in here when they could have been their own holiday horror specials. The conniving ex-girlfriend, a suggestive, jealous BFF dressed as a sailor, and a creepy bridal figure lurking about the party had potential for more depth and complexity as eerie searches and roaming the dark house reveal veils, dried rose petals, and a scandalous 1876 family wedding. Bad luck, curses, and knives lead to jilted ghosts and the gory truth, but a more immediate object or ancestral relations would have helped tie these stories together, compensating for the budget special effects, dark lighting, padding strobe shocks, and cheap production both chastising those ghost hunter shows while simultaneously imitating them. Our museum curator enjoys the delicious evils – giving away that the museum isn't what it appears to be – yet he's overly cryptic about the original necromancy. Now our teacher hangs the home's freaky knocker on his contemporary door, leading to alarm troubles, relationship problems, and phantom 3 a.m. callers in “The Knocker.” Sudden figures, ominous music, and transformative scares are best when they happen naturally without interfering effects. Increasing encounters, internet research, and library visits escalate to Latin rituals, sleeplessness, and an apartment that's starting to look like the infamous manor. Despite quality shocks, tokens that return after being discarded, and devilish hopes for an heir, this museum plot should have been all together as one finale rather than the intrusive frame. Instead of being a worthwhile topper, this awkward structure withholds the most interesting past pieces before dumping the gotcha in the final moments with no time for the audience to stew over the interconnected horror. The frame setting up the third story also means the two previous tales were just anecdotes that had little to do with the evil Tudor past we never even get to see. Although the parts are enjoyable, the uneven structure isn't a cohesive whole. The small, Christmas ghost stories vision never maximizes its embarrassment of riches when today this would be a star studded season of connected period fears.

The Miniaturist – A young wife moves to her new husband's seventeenth century Amsterdam estate in this 2017 three part BBC and PBS Masterpiece miniseries starring Romola Garai (Angel) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch). Lovely canals, barges, brick exteriors, frocks, bonnets, and capes belie the suspicious sister-in-law, odd servants, and severe welcome. Flashbacks to her poor gentry family are rich with firelight and music, but despite fine woodwork, antique furniture, and warm colors, this household is shadowed and cold with large windows that must remain uncovered so the neighbors can see they have nothing to hide – especially sugar because sweets sickens the soul. The whispering, aloof seafaring husband, suspect relationships, and peering camera views invoke gothic red herrings a la Rebecca and Crimson Peak, and an elaborate dollhouse miniature of the home is meant to occupy our newlywed. She furnishes this house because she can't rule her big one, going to the strange titular shop when not making secret trips to the bakery and spotting a mysterious hooded woman in the streets. Suspicious deliveries with specific, detailed items she didn't ask for arrive with the lookalike miniatures amid arguments over getting in on that sugar business, complex guild politics, and delicate Puritan attitudes. Miniatures with secret luxuries, hidden compartments, and missing keys suggest their large size materials have the same – leading to forbidden chambers, love notes, candles, and bloody confrontations. More small warnings provide foreboding and culprits revealed, but sinners, lost loves, women's troubles, and through the keyhole spying make the second hour a more serious drama than the initial creepy mystery. The giving it away mystical and meandering scandalous become uneven with separate if enjoyable stories sagging in the middle hour thanks to obvious twists and doubts about what the spooky miniatures have to do with the Amsterdam period piece intrigue. Great homosexual angst deserved its own time, with phallic looking symbolic sugar cones, shady warehouse activity, heavy handed trials, and corrupt burgomasters who vicariously enjoy the sordid courtroom testimony. Inexplicably, the scandalous associations never sully our wife's reputation, and some numbers negotiating is all it takes to make her a shrewd business woman – which comes off as too modern and meddling. Confessions aren't so shocking when the viewer already knows what happened, and the miniature clues are completely forgotten until convenient. If a woman can take action herself then what was the point of the prophetic toys? Miniaturist? Irrelevant. Strong women? Inadvertently proactive. Interracial couple? Never seen together. Gay men? Not shown being gay. After all the back and forth, the abrupt end cuts off in hopes of a sequel – unfinished rather than leaving the audience wanting more. Maybe it's meant to be a coy wink to the observant audience paying attention and seeing all, but it's just a slap in the viewer's face compared to the expected supernatural on the tin. This has its moments, but it's unsure of its audience, deterring gothic viewers wanting more than the occasional ominous and annoying period piece fans who dislike spooky intrusion.

The Ritual – Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey) and Rafe Spall (Prometheus) plan an all bros adventure in this 2018 Netflix original. None of that been there, done that will do, and hiking an obscure trail in Sweden becomes the honorary guilt trip after they stumble into a liquor store robbery gone wrong. This cliché start could have been skipped in favor of the brisk mountain trail memorial toasts directly, for we learn all we need to know thanks to out of shape complaints, new $200 hiking boots, sprained knees, and the realization that they didn't even climb very far and can see their luxury lodge from the pretty peak. Despite questionable maps, a faulty compass, rain, and no reception, they of course take a shady short cut through the ominous forest, and if we haven't seen this movie already, we've certainly seen others like it. Rather than the injured and another stay while the other two return for help, logical ideas, talk of bears, and abandoned items from previous campers are dismissed by these husbands and fathers who are a little too old to be acting so stupid. The unrealistic actions dampen the animal carcasses, thunder, and eerie trees as mysterious symbols and carvings lead to a convenient spooky cabin where they can stay the night. They break in, trespassing and ignoring runes and effigies they presume are “pagan Nordic shit” on top of strange roars and growling in the forest. Unnatural lights and distorted dream visuals intermix with bed wetting and sleepwalking frights, and in the morning the men follow a path they know is in the wrong direction just because it's there and nobody is supposed to talk about what's happening. More creepy cabins, monsters in the woods, screams, and blood begat missing friends and gory tree hangings before arguments, contrived guilt, and false hopes lead to torches, folk music, and chains. In the end suddenly brave men make big declarations about their wives when earlier they cowered, passed blame, and couldn't wait to get away from their families. We know horrors are going to happen, but the giving it away title spoils the supposed surprise. The ninety minutes plus feels overlong because it took so long to get to the creepy death warmed over people and actual sacrificial parts, yet the past looking rural and ancient mythology revelations are the story we should have had. Viewers don't get to completely see what could be an awesome monster, and the unique Norse legends, pagan worship, and immortal bargains that should have been the focal point seem tacked on after we wasted all that time watching dumb dudes literally going around in circles in a tired guilt versus the supernatural metaphor. The familiar, predictable derivatives are shout at the television entertaining, but it's tough to overcome the feeling that we should have been seeing the eponymous history perspective while these intruders get what they deserve.

14 August 2020

Bee Gees Comforts - The 60s!

Comforting Bee Gees Songs from Their Early Era
by Kristin Battestella

Often in tough times I turn to one of my most favorite of favorites all time ever, The Bee Gees! The Brothers Gibb catalog keeps on giving with superb harmonies, catchy hooks, and memorable melodies. Here, in chronological order rather than preferential listing as if I could possibly choose, are some soothing and moving songs from Barry, Robin, and Maurice's sixties start and early seventies incarnation.

To Love Somebody Simply put, this is THEE most excellent place to start. Although live versions are a close second, the original 1967 First rendition is best, instantly recognizable with classic Summer of Love lyrics and a belting, emotional finale. It is impossible to dislike this song, and the budding musical genius is evident here.

I Can't See Nobody – Hearing Robin's range and vocals on this one the first time blew my mind. The sound here is quiet different, switching styles with unique ups and downs amid telling lyrics and heartbreak. When falling in or out of a relationship, the other person is everything, and the relatable hook will get stuck in your head thanks to rhythms echoing the in love heights. Wow.

And the Sun Will Shine – The mellow sounds begin slow as if Robin were here whispering in your ear, but the chills up your spine finish goes over the top amid lyrical trees, skies, love, and life. The impeccable, quivering delivery and nonsensical words ring true with universal ideas such as, “Love to me is life, and I live you.” The One Night Only live rendition may even top the original, with a strong, almost orgasmic intensity. I said what I said!

Massachusetts – The Bee Gees first number one hit is one of the few upbeat rather than psychedelic sounds on Horizontal, and it remains a delightful against type song. Today, the effortless melodic is even more pleasing with talk of home comforts, and this one is my father’s favorite.

I've Gotta Get a Message to You This execution ode, however, is my favorite! Somehow, the moody downbeats and haunting story make me giddy every time I hear them. Another deftly woven mix of swaying music belying the layered melancholy with big notes to hit the finale home.

Let There Be LoveThis single from Idea has a very orchestral musical and vocal arrangement, stirring with Barry’s crescendos before Robin's entry raises the, well, rousing. Even if you think this starts off slow, in the end, you too are down with the titular proclamation. Yes. Why not?

I Started a Joke Today, Robin's quirky, enigmatic, relatable in what it doesn't say signature song would probably never top the charts. It's brooding, personal, and will sends shivers up your spine.

Words I cried the first time I heard Barry's classic sweet nothings on Bee Gees Gold. Anyone who has ever been tongue tied or said the wrong words can never tire of Barry in his element.

My World This single from Best of Volume 2 again plays with harmony and lyrical juxtaposition. The words are seemingly simple with few refrains. Yours, mine, ours – what else is there? However the vocal overlays and three-part complexity remain surprisingly serious in their build.

Lamplight It's tough to pick one track from the Odessa concept album, and my mother thinks Robin's shipwreck creaking is like nails on a chalkboard. o_O Fortunately, the old fashioned story, strong chorus, and harmonious woe perfectly capture the album tone with pretty echoes and yearning thoughts.

Lonely Days Enough with the pathos! When you need a little pick me up, nothing does it like this dual rocker. Again, the slow start and nonchalant lyrics suggest something else before the raw, toe tapping uptick. This is one of those songs people may have heard but don't know it is The Bee Gees, and the ode remains a symbolic turning point that's also awesome live.

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart The Brothers themselves defined their early career as “Broken Heart Bee Gees” and this reunion ditty from Trafalgar is steadfast and quintessential. Barry and Robin poured their feelings into a soothing, harmonious song asking one of life’s biggest questions.


Birth to BrillianceEven The Bee Gees were kids once! This compilation set is one of many gathering the Brothers' early Australian tracks – silly fifties romps, cover songs, and teenage originals. Some are laughably charming with their pip squeaks and simple rhymes while others are impressive odes of what was to come.

I've always been quite adamant about this era of the group, as when I was growing up, everyone – including myself – was over the disco everywhere fallout. So it was fascinating to rediscover the early Gibb sounds later as a teenager. Some of my earliest reviews were glowing Bee Gees critiques, and while those writings are probably very dated now, the music remains good for the soul.

Please visit our Bee Gees tag or our Music label for more analysis, but do excuse any empty codes, broken links, format errors, and beloved bias in our decades old Bee Gees reviews!

07 August 2020

Unpopular Opinion: Sense and Sensibility (1995)

An Unpopular Opinion on Sense and Sensibility
by Kristin Battestella

It's an unpopular take, but Sense and Sensibility is really a terrible story. How does no one else see it? Allow me to summarize director Ang Lee's (Crouching Tiger, HiddenDragon) 1995 adaptation of the Jane Austen novel as thus:

Brother John Dashwood (James Fleet) and his snobbish wife Fanny (Harriet Walter) cast out his late father's (Tom Wilkinson) second wife (Gemma Jones) and his three half-sisters to live off cousins in what they think is a meager, destitute humble in a delicious three story cottage with servants, picturesque views, and neighborly gentry. To escape this supposed squalor and regain their financial status, the only option is for one of the daughters to marry well. Eldest Elinor (Emma Thompson) becomes esteemed with her sister-in-law's brother Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), head over heels in their stiff upper lip after one country visit while middle daughter Marianne (Kate Winslet) throws herself at the enchanting John Willoughby (Greg Wise) after he touches her sprained ankle in a scandalous rescue in the rain. Poetry, picnics, locks of hair – it all seems like a marriage is in the bag until Willoughby is cast out by his wealthy country relations. Marianne continues to pathetically write a bunch of unanswered letters, throwing herself at him during a ball as high society whispers behind the backs of these reeking of desperation Dashwood ladies who really don't know how to pick men. Two hundred year old book spoiler alert – smooth talker Willoughby got a girl pregnant, so instead of making right by her, he's marrying another rich lady to cover his costs. Viewers are meant to feel sad by the fact that the one of his count 'em three women her really loves is Marianne, but clearly she does not love herself, just like Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs), who's been secretly engaged to Edward– yes, Elinor's awkward enchantment – for five years. At this point, it feels like the audience need a flow chart to follow these ironic inter-relations as more cousins, in-laws, and families threatening to disinherited men who marry penniless women enter the crowded narrative.

Elinor, Marianne, and Lucy go off with more rich, distantly related folks as all everyone seems to do is invite people over to gossip and play matchmaker or reveal secrets to people they hardly know. They enter, greet, bow, curtsy, sit for five minutes of discomfort and misunderstandings before abruptly standing and suddenly departing. Carriage distances make these grand estates seem so far apart that it takes a day's rest to travel, yet the men for whom the women pine manage to speed to and fro on horseback at will – remaining absentee crushes for most of the two hours plus. Lucy is taken in by that snobby sister-in-law Fanny because The Ferrars don't know about the secret engagement and toss her out once they do hear of it, but Lucy takes a liking to Edward's younger brother Robert (Richard Lumsden) anyway. Marianne, meanwhile, ends up sick with a fever because she ran out in a storm so Willoughby could literally be her hill to die on, and her convalescence kicks another set of loosely related wealthy neighbors The Palmers (Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton) out of their own house. This time, Marianne was rescued by Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), another nearby gent who's been moon eyeing at her while she looks the other way at the heroic shadow of cad Willoughby. Brandon, you see, couldn't tell Marianne that the girl Willoughby knocked up was his ward – at least not until it's time to dump the stiff upper lip excuses, contrived suspense, and backdoor connected secrets on long suffering and heavy burdened Elinor, who's saving her lip tremble for hearing that Lucy is now Mrs. Ferrars. Of course, Lucy isn't Edward's Mrs. Ferrars, but Elinor doesn't get that memo. With fifteen minutes left, Edward finally shows up once more to tell Elinor what he should have said in the first dang place, which would have saved us all from one lame ass misunderstanding. Now, there can be a double wedding; the Dashwood women are no longer so desperate nor destitute, just relying on different men for their money and maybe happiness. Marianne has learned to like the Colonel after all and Elinor and Edward have apparently overcome their communication problem. Bravo, I guess.

Despite trying on numerous occasions, I've never made it all the way through Sense and Sensibility in one sitting. Why do I keep trying to catch the whole thing in bits and spurts? I can't lie, I just like looking at all the Regency costumes. Disliking the supposedly charming story also doesn't mean one hates on these ladies. Emilie Francois (Now with a PHD you go girl) as youngest sister Margaret is, unfortunately, pretty much an afterthought. The potential for youthful spying to find the truth about what's not been intimated or speaking bluntly to ask the right damn questions of these bumbling men is not used to full advantage. Likewise Margaret's spirited reckless but possible sense of what's what remains underutilized as a positive example that perhaps the titular best of both her sisters can be embodied together, and if she's not there for any future hopeful, viewers may wonder why she's here at all. Thankfully, we all love Kate Winslet's (Titanic) flustered cheeks and wispy tendrils as Marianne, the perfect Regency rose. The audience wants her to be happy in love, escaping these crappy social circumstances with whatever throwing herself at a guy it's going to take. The whirlwind, butterflies in the stomach, heartbreak, and tears remain relatable. We're protective of these ladies, so whatever bug's up Sense and Sensibility's butt, we don't fault screenwriter Emma Thompson (Howards End) in doing the best she could – earning an Adapted Screenplay Oscar and other acclaim for pairing down the obnoxious for love or money trite into something streamlined and mildly bemusing thanks to the Dashwood femininity. In spite of the intertwined back and forth mistaken jolly goods with too many characters' hands in the pot, we enjoy how our screenwriter also pulls off a Best Actress nominated restrained performance. Elinor is the oldest, the responsible, good sister taking care of everyone else but herself. Everyone else is allowed to be problematic, and the culmination of the movie isn't so much that her dang love interest comes clean, but that Elinor expresses herself after spending all her time bottling up her emotions alongside everyone else's crying and secrets. Ironically, the self-insertion from Austen writing in her first published novel about what she knows as a woman stuck under the misogynistic Regency's thumb is a bit too much life imitating art. She never got a happy marital ending, so it's doubly ironic that Dame Thompson ended up marrying Greg “Willoughby” Wise in real life. Touché. Sadly however, Gemma Jones' (MI-5) Mrs. Dashwood misses the opportunity to capitalize on being witty and Dame Maggie on Downton sassy, remaining passive and accepting of the circumstances rather than standing up for her daughters by worming the bullshit out of the men. Instead mother Mrs. Jennings Elisabeth Spriggs (A Christmas Carol) and daughter Mrs. Palmer Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter) carry the matchmaker quirky, because in Sense and Sensibility, only once a woman has married rich and spend her youth is she allowed to be a busybody eccentric.

Like Diana Ross said in Mahogany, the men of Sense and Sensibility, however, ain't shit. All of them. Too many named John and multiples with the same last name acerbate the wash out male confusion, leaving every conversation with the opposite sex laden by a Who's on First back and forth. While this can start off bemusing for some, it inevitably ends up so, so tiring for most. We wouldn't put up with this crap, so it's infuriating that our girls have to settle for this patriarchal, pussyfooting gentry. Wise's Willoughby is supposed to be the most handsome therefore he drops the most poon in his wake, yet we don't even see him most of the time. In Sense and Sensibility, the men's roles are more about how the women have built up the intimations while pining for the gents in their absence. Again, we're supposed to like Hugh Grant's (Four Weddings and a Funeral, which as Al Bundy said, is really just five of the same thing.) Edward Ferrars because he's befuddling charming with our Elinor, but it's just too damn awkward in his bathroom break and you miss him handful of scenes. Did the whirlwind actually happened or was all love goggles? Even Edward's collars and jackets looks too big for him as he hunches over and mumbles something honorable enough to get a passing grade. Visually, Alan Rickman (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) is the upstanding opposite as Colonel Brandon literally on his high horse when not taking his own friend zone shit from Marianne. Why is he bothering when she won't give him the time of day? The Colonel with no first name seems more suited in temperament with Elinor, but these secret keeping wallflowers only exchange help or whispers as needed rather then develop something more – never mind that in the book, Brandon is over thirty and Marianne is supposed to be a teenager. o_O Whipped brother James Fleet (Death Comes to Pemberley) is there so his wife Harriet Walter (Little Dorrit) can have her only power through him, and Imogen Stubbs (Twelfth Night) as Lucy Steele is likewise defined as villainous because she is competing in the same shallow gentry pool. Poor domesticated Hugh Laurie (The Night Manager) is the man around the most, surrounded by the increasing number of flustered skirts his wife and mother-in-law invite into his home with only a newspaper and a few witty jabs to shield him. Obviously, there is a specific decorum and social control in Sense and Sensibility – men had all the financial and marital rights, remaining responsible for all their nearest women. However, that doesn't mean they had to be spineless dicks about it. Is this a twenty-first century perspective on a two hundred year old story? Yes, but with so much acclaim on the supposed romance herein, one keeps watching for a timeless characterization that isn't there. Instead of worthwhile men to our ladies, the males are all bloated and self-important, and it's tough to find the men are weak meta bemusing because it's true.

Thankfully Sense and Sensibility's Regency costumes, feathers, cravats, and gems are divine. Particularly now in a pandemic re-watch when it's been all pajamas with no need to dress up; the breezy frocks, purposeful yet pretty bonnets, and warm shawls provide elegance with their simple Greco-Roman revival touches as well as about the manor house comforting. Likewise, the landscaped estates, country cottages, and London town houses have candles, antiques, fireplaces, woodwork, and craftsmanship be they lavish or seemingly meager. Sense and Sensibility is bright with open spaces and sunny picnics. It's the typical English countryside ideal, yet all these dang people are so gosh darn unhappy about their expansive homes and picturesque views. It's such a chore apparently to ride on beautiful horses or in delicious carriages, going back and forth between neighbors when not breaking out the quills and inkwells and writing letters saying you are on your way. After all, there isn't much else to do when not reading idyllic poetry to escalate the socially unreciprocated yearning. Although right now, we can't even go over to a distant relation's mansion and kick them out of their own place when we get a fever, so I guess the grass is always greener amirite. Unpopular opinion or not, even an ardent Austen fan must admit Sense and Sensibility is a saccharin for love or money story with stupid guys who can't say what they mean, relatable in their pent up waiting women, and heaps of misunderstands going round and round on each intertwined couple. It's musical chairs until time's up and somebody finally tells who they love for real for reals – or at least learned to like for all their material assets.

Growing up reading Jane Austen, I always felt her books end up saying the same dang thing, and after all these tries, this Sense and Sensibility's main redeeming value is ultimately it's pretty dressings. I can't lie, when I'm in those Regency frocks feelings, I often fall asleep watching this on mute. The lack of sound makes one realize how this terrible who likes whom social confusion and heartache over nothing derivative can be so readily deduced. Even the British decorum hindrances permeate without hearing a word, rightly or wrongly indicative of the expected Austen same old, same old. I guess if it takes you dozens of times to see one adaptation, you really have seen them all. I'm utterly flummoxed how Sense and Sensibility's terrible story and time wasting bore – and possibly sleep inducing pace – can be so beloved. Sorry! ¯\_()_/¯