When Mr Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) dies, by law he has to leave most of his estate to his first born son which leaves his daughters and his current wife almost penniless. They are taken in by a cousin, but their lack of money impacts the two eldest daughters Elinor (Emma Thompson) and the romantic Marianne (Kate Winslet). When Elinor gets attached to the rich Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), his sister (Harriet Walter) disapproves. Although, Mrs Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs) throws Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) at her, Marianne falls for the local pretty boy John Willoughby (Greg Wise). Yet, both relationships are fatigued and exhausting.
Emma Thompson is one of the greatest actresses working today, and her performance in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (nearly twenty years ago) is brilliant. And, she wrote the screenplay for this picture as well. Many of the best moments come from the script, including those zingers typical of any period costume drama. Colonel Brandon (Rickman) carries Miss Marianne (Winslet) which is echoed again by Willoughby (Wise). Her sickness later on the film pushes much more drama in the adaption than the original novel by Jane Austen. This adaptation is a good one, stepping away from the novel but still respecting the source material. Good show!
The late Alan Rickman was notorious for playing “bad guys” or morally questionable characters. But here, he is very much that Darcy-esque, brooding protagonist from the shadows. I don’t think I can name a bad Rickman performance, regardless if the movie was awful. From A Little Chaos to Harry Potter to Die Hard to many more, he was truly a great actor. Kate Winslet wins and so does Emma Thompson, as does Hugh Grant. These four actors were made for the Period Drama. Their performances are four of the many things that carry this film. Not to forget to mention the incredible screenplay, musical score and cinematography. Lest us forget love, wit and heartbreak as well.
When you mention Jane Austen to young people, they think “urgh”, as it’s no different to telling GCSE students that their text for the year is Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. It incites groans and complaints. Though, these types of texts and films are often more loved by women/girls than boys/men. I don’t think I could tell you the last time I heard someone of the male sex volunteering to watch something like this. Recommending Poldark to my male contemporaries is a struggle enough, let alone anything written in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nonetheless, Ang Lee’s film is truly a case study of the period genre, and I applaud his directorial prowess.
This film isn’t only a look at character and human nature. It’s a look at women through the Male Gaze, as many of these 19th century stories are. Women couldn’t inherit from their father and earning a living for women in high society was a no go. Society wasn’t that progressive then. We are looking at a society with strict manners and that symbolic, British stiff upper lip. Money, materialism and capitalism all come into play as well, and how important they were. Well, it’s about who has it and who doesn’t. And those who don’t aren’t to be associated with. And this wouldn’t be a period drama without having those snakes in the grass. Silent, and get you where you sleep.
I watched this film twice in one day. That’s a testament to how good this film is. Along with films like Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings and classics such as Back to the Future and Casablanca, Sense and Sensibility makes my list of ‘most rewatchable films’ and it’s one of those movies that only gets better with each watch. Yet, films like this always have a tendency to break ones heart, especially if Emma Thompson is in the lead role. It’s a given. Never has watching someone having their world crushed been so exhausting. From the endless crying (Marianne) to denying you have emotions (Elinor), both characters show contrasting sides of what people are like when they’re in love.
Alas, from the direction to the writing to the musical score to the acting performances, this is a period drama for the generation that can be enjoyed by all ages, regardless if they are cultured or not. This came out in the year I was born, I love it to bits and I will continue to until I die.
Regardless of the romance, this is textbook witty banter; and at times, it’s almost like theatre