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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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3.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is the latest Jane Austin movie to come to the big screen. Taking her first crack with a movie script, Emma Thompson adapted the novel for the cinema. For the director, we have the wonderful and imaginative Ang Lee from EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN among other highly acclaimed movies. To compliment these, almost all of the roles are well cast. The result for me was an excellent movie, but one, nevertheless, that disappointed me and found me checking my watch during the slow parts. Perhaps my disappointment lay in having recently seen similar but much better film adaptations in PERSUASION by Jane Austin and FEAST OF JULY by H. E. Bates.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY tells the story of two families joined by a common father, Henry Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson). At the start of the story, the father dies and by law and by custom he passes his huge estate onto his eldest son, John (James Fleet), but admonishes him to take care of his sister, Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones). John's evil wife Fanny (Harriet Walter) soon convinces him that the Dashwoods, having no estate to take care of, can get along fine on the 500 pounds per annum from the will and need no help from them.

Mrs. Dashwood's family consists of two daughters of marrying age, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet) and one about nine (Emile Francois). The Dashwoods stay briefly at the family estate while Fanny counts the silver. During this interlude, Fanny's younger brother, Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), stops by for a visit. He is a modest man of minimal emotions. He proclaims that, "All I want, all I've ever wanted is the quiet of a private life, but my mother wants me distinguished."

Eventually, Edward falls in love with Elinor, but Marianne is not impressed, declaring, "Can love really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn." Fanny can not stand the idea of her brother falling in love with poor relatives and gets the Dashwoods out of her house and Edward off to London. The Dashwoods rent a mere "cottage" owned by their cousin, a boisterous, rich, but fairly crude gentleman (Robert Hardy).

At the cottage, they met two mysterious men, the war hero Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) and the handsome young John Willoughby (Greg Wise), who both fall instantly in love with Marianne. They are jealous of each other, and John claims that "Brandon is the sort of man everyone speaks well of, but nobody talks to." To further complicate matters, Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) drops by to confess her love for Edward. A soap opera of the highest caliber.

Many wonderful scenes abound. The best is a sad scene of Marianne in blowing cold and gray rain while dramatic music plays. Many small scenes were wonderful too. One of my favorites was the one where Marianne and John Willoughby challenge each other in a sort of love duet to recite Shakespeare's sonnets by heart.

The best piece of acting is by Kate Winslet from HEAVENLY CREATURES. She is a stunning actress who shows more emotion that everyone else in the movie combined. I hope to see her in many more films. The brilliant Emma Thompson gives a perfectly acceptable performance, but one of the least impressive of her career. Hugh Grant plays Hugh Grant and sticks to a single awkward expression.

Emile Francois and Gemma Jones have small parts but do a lot with them. Imogen Stubbs, best in the great, but largely unknown movie A SUMMER STORY, gives a fetching performance. Alan Rickman and Greg Wise play excellent mysterious roles. Only James Fleet and Harriet Walter seem miscast. As villains, they are never believable and play their roles as too much of a caricature.

The best part of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY may be the costumes (Jenny Beavan and John Bright), especially the men's hats with the large flowing brims. Made me want to run out to my local haberdasher - too bad hats are no longer in high fashion. The sets by Luciana Arrighi are highly evocative of that era. The music by Patrick Doyle has the drama of some of the melodramas of the 30s and 40s. The cinematography by Michael Coulter does a good job of bringing out the inherit beauty of the surroundings.

Now for the problems with SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. For some reason, Ang Lee decides to hold back too much. The emotional punch of PERSUASION rarely occurs here; there just is not enough tension and passion. Lee keeps throttling his actor and actresses. Given the high energy of his other pictures, I remain nonplused why he approached this movie the way he did. The slow editing by Tim Squyres must also share some of the blame. In an otherwise enjoyable show, I found myself getting bored at times. Admittedly SENSE AND SENSIBILITY has a wonderful ending and people do leave the theater with an upbeat feeling even with all of its flaws.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY runs a long 2:15; my seat was complaining well before the end. It is rated PG, but is totally non-offensive G fare. I think it would interest kids over about eight. Even though I was quite disappointed by the film, I did like it a lot and recommend it to you. It gets *** in my book.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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