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Sense and Sensibility

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Sense and Sensibility

Starring: Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant
Director: Ang Lee
Rated: PG
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: December 1995
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Gemma Jones, James Fleet, Harriet Walter, Elizabeth Spriggs, Robert Hardy, Greg Wise

Review by Dragan Antulov
2½ stars out of 4

The rule about good literature being usually adapted into bad movies and vice versa can be applied even to the works of Jane Austen. Last decade saw the flood of high profile Hollywood adaptations of Jane Austen's novels. Arguably the most successful of them, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, 1995 melodrama directed by Ang Lee, is based on the least successful of all Jane Austen's novels.

The plot takes place in early 19th Century England. Mr. John Dashwood (played by Tom Wilkinson), wealthy rural aristocrat, has just died and the law demands that the inheritance goes to John (played by James Fleet), his son from first marriage. Mrs. Dashwood (played by Gemma Jones) and their three daughters are left with small cottage and modest annuity. Their situation is even worse because of John's greedy wife Fanny (played by Harriest Walter) and Dashwood women are forced to seek shelter in the home of their cousin Mrs. Jennings (played by Elizabeth Spriggs). Two oldest Dashwood daughters are forced to earn money in the only way imaginable for women from their social class - by marrying wealthy suitors. Each woman has found possible candidates - older and sensible Ellinor (played by Emma Thompson) attracts Fanny's brother Edward Ferrars (played by Hugh Grant) while her younger and passionate Marianne (played by Kate Winslet) attracts her wealthy neighbour Colonel Brandon (played by Alan Rickman). Marianne, however, is attracted to another man, dashing playboy John Willoughby (played by Greg Wise).

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY featured two talents that had to make something of a point. Respected British actress Emma Thompson not only appeared on screen but also proved that she could be successful screenwriter, later winning "Oscar" for her efforts. Taiwanese director Ang Lee had to prove that he could handle such an alien subject and settings like the life of British aristocracy in early 19th Century. Ang Lee succeeded in this, in many ways aided by the group Thompson's intelligent script, great care for period detail and likeable musical score by Patrick Doyle. But the most important ingredient in the formula was the casting - apart from use recognisable and reliable faces like Grant and Thompson the best thing was Alan Rickman, here playing something of a good guy for a change. Yet all those talents can't hide the simplicity of the Cinderella-like plot and the predictability of its resolution. However, the audience probably wouldn't mind, just like it didn't mind in mid 1990s. Seeing world that seems kinder, gentler, nobler and simpler to our own can have certain therapeutic value.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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