12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A superb job of bringing Jane Austen's novel to the screen,
This review is from: Sense And Sensibility [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
I suppose it makes perfect sense that if you want to make a 19th-century English romance novel into a superb film you hire an actress almost twice the age of the main character to not only play the role but also adapt the screenplay into a book and then hire a Taiwanese director to direct the film. You might say, yes, such things happen in Hollywood, but the success of "Sense and Sensibility" is due to what transpired in England, not Southern California. Having read the novel and the original screenplay, the largest share of credit goes to Emma Thompson, who deservedly received the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation. Thompson began by dramatizing every scene in the novel, which resulted in 300 hand written pages to be followed by 14 drafts as the 1811 novel was crafted into the final script. The result was a script that manages to be not only romantic and funny, but also romantic and funny in the best Austen sense of both.
After watching the film again and again I focus on three particular points, which I think best reveal the strength of Thompson's script. First, the entire introductory sequence, which induces us to like the Dashwood sisters because we are introduced first to their step-brother and his shrewish wife (credit for this particular sequence also goes to Film Editor Tim Squyres, who recut the scene so that we get all of one side and then the other instead of alternating back and forth as in the original script). Our sympathies cannot help but be with the plight of Elinor and Marianne. Second, the use of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 ("Let me not the marriage of true minds"), which Marianne and Willoughby share to their great mutual delight (except he gets a word wrong, in an elegant little bit of foreshadowing) and which Marianne repeats standing in the rain looking at Willoughby's new estate. Third, Austen has Elinor bolt from the room to cry outside during the happy ending but Thompson creates a wonderful moment by having her stay in the room and having the rest of her family flee. There are not too many scenes where you are crying and laughing at the same time, but Thompson certainly created one (and has the added virtue of relying on herself as an actress to nail the performance as well). All of these are marvelous examples of playing to the strength of the cinema to bring Austen's novel to the screen.
The performances are first-rate, especially Kate Winslet as the passionate Marianne, Gemma Jones as Mrs. Dashwood and Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon (the look on his face when Marianne thanks him for rescuing her is so wondrously touching). Hugh Grant does find a way of slowing the delivery of his dialogue more than usual, but it does fit the overall pace of the film. The supporting cast is exactly what you come to expect from a British production with Elizabeth Spriggs stealing every scene she is in as Mrs. Jennings, Robert Hardy as Sir John Middleton, Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer, Oliver Ford Davies as Doctor Harris, and the enchanting young Emilie Francois as Margaret Dashwood ("They always kneel down"). On the darker side of the ledger we have Greg Wise as the less than honorable John Willoughby, and Imogene Stubbs as Lucy Steele and Harriet Walter as Fanny Dashwood vying for the main villainess role in the proceedings. No wonder Emma Thompson's performance as Elinor is almost lost in the proceedings, but she is the center around which everything resolves who has to keep it together when everybody around her is losing it (even when she first confesses her broken heart, she ends up consoling Marianne instead of the other way around).
Ang Lee had already proven he could handle a tale of sisters in love when he directed "Eat Drink Man Woman." In "Sense and Sensibility" he has the script, the actors and the set design all working in his favor to create a sense of 19th century England. But there are a few moments when he uses the camera to great advantage; in particular the overhead shot of Marianne on her sick bed achieves a painting like quality and the tracking shot of Mrs. Jennings running down the street bearing the latest gossip.
I first say this film when visiting England and I was so caught up in the story that I had no idea who was going to end up with who. Actually, I was sort of rooting for Elinor to end up with Colonel Brandon since they were obviously the two finest members of their respective sexes in the proceedings. So the ending was as much of a surprise to me as it was to the Dashwoods, which is certainly something to be cherished. Obviously if you love this film it will lead you to other Austen adaptations (the film versions of "Emma" and "Persuasion" along with the BBC mini-series "Pride & Prejudice" immediately leap to mind), but hopefully it will also lead you to the original novels as well. Finally, Thompson published "The Sense and Sensibility: Screenplay & Diaries," which I would highly recommend after you have done both the film and the novel.
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Initial post: 29 Nov 2013 19:07:15 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Nov 2013 19:27:49 GMT
How lovely, to be watching the film and not know the end of the novel! I had to smile when you paired Elinor up with Colonel Brandon. I'm sure that went through Jane Austen's mind too. It took me back to an art lesson in 1962 (I was twelve) when we were told to draw a scene from our favourite novel. By strange coincidence Catherine & Elaine, on the same table, were both doing Mansfield Park and they were both quite sure that Fanny would have been better off with Henry Crawford.
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