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Starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, and Hugh Grant
Adapted from the Jane Austen novel by Emma Thompson
Directed by Ang Lee
Cranky reminds you that he does not compare adapted film material to its source material. He deals with the film as an individual, if you will, to stand or fall on its own.
That being said, Emma Thompson and Ang Lee's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel "Sense and Sensibility" would probably have Ms. Austen doing a jig, had she eaten enough yogurt to keep her alive to the 220 years she would be now. It is a great film, not bound by period piece rigidity. It is filled with romance, betrayal, mystery, greed, and secrets -- and a couple of tons of humor.
Sense, is the story of the widow Dashwood and her three daughters who, because of 18th century English law, receive no inheritance when their husband/father dies. That inheritance goes to a son by a previous marriage, whose scheming wife manages to get her husband to break a promise to support his (half)sisters. All of this is set up beautifully and cleanly in the first five minutes of the film.
When Elinore Dashwood (Emma Thompson) falls for Edward (Hugh Grant), brother of the scheming wife, the aforementioned schemer reveals to Elinore's mother that Edward would be disinherited if he were to pursue his happiness. That by minute twenty. Elinore never learns of the threat. The newly impoverished family moves to the country, to make a new life in a society which will not allow the daughters to do much other than wait to be married. Now they must deal with a new societal level, with far less inhibitions (in some ways) than the life they had been forced from.
In this "lower upper class" they are taken in by a widower cousin (Robert Hardy in a delightful character performance -- his passion is for his dogs), his mother in law, and her gossip trading friends. Their passion? To fix the eligible ladies up with the area's eligible men.
Elinore is the "old fashioned" sister. She waits for word from Edward who, in the "proper" way, has won her heart. The middle sister Marianne (Kate Winslet), is swept off her feet, literally, by Willoughby, a dashing young man of unknown background. There is some money in his estate, but it is not his own. Left in the dust is Colonel Branford (Alan Rickman), who yearns from afar.
Sounds complicated? T'isn't. Emma Thompson's screenplay presents each character, main and supporting, as distinct and instantly recognizable people. There are the two sisters, a younger tomboy, the widow, three suitors, two medical emergencies, a fop, a bitch of a sister-in-law, three separate locations, two mysteries and a confusion of identities. At no point is there any confusion about any one of them, or their place in the story. It is a terrific piece of work, which earned Thompson the New York Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay.
The leading ladies of Sense and Sensibility are NOT gold-diggers, though gold-diggers, male and female, abound in the story. There is enough strong characterization, and humor within those characters that Cranky sat in his seat laughing, while the various romances unfolded, and sometimes collapsed, in front of him.
Ang Lee's camera direction is simple and to the point. At several times he uses the camera to visually emphasize a point in the dialog. For example, when Elinore and her mother are discussing their dire finances, the camera pulls back to frame them in a shoddy doorway.
Alan Rickman, known for his over the top villains in Die Hard and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is remarkably, and effectively restrained as Marianne's suitor. Thompson, as Elinore, locks her emotions down, as was proper, while her emotional attachmen ts to Edward fester. Hugh Grant as Edward is, well, the shy "Hugh Grant" character that has been a success on screen before. And it is perfect.
If you are expecting lots of passionate embraces and the like, forget it. Not even a kiss is exchanged -- being the 18th century, that wouldn't be proper. Neither will you miss it. Cranky is not a great fan of romance books/ films/ whatever, but he DOES understand frustration. Within Elinore, it builds and builds and two hours or so passes very quickly, until the emotional dam breaks. Not in the way you'd expect though.
Sense and Sensibility, though it does lag a bit towards the end, is an extraordinary film. This is, IMO, a great date flick.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Sense and Sensibility, he would have paid . . .
And if Cranky were the kind of guy to date more than one woman at a time, he'd see it twice, which would up the rating to a full $8.00.
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