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My Favorite Comfort Film - And A Glorious English Romance!
on 16 February 2005
Some people have comfort food to help them through dull, drizzly evenings. I have comfort films, and Ang Lee's, (and Emma Thompson's), "Sense And Sensibility" is one of my favorites. I have watched this movie several times since I first saw it, and it never fails to lift my spirits.
This glorious romance of mores and manners, set during England's Regency Period, is very faithful to Jane Austen's brilliant novel. The film vividly brings the novel, with all its characters, to life. The plot focuses on two of the three Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, and their extremely different temperaments. Emma Thompson wrote this wonderful screenplay and earned an Academy Award for her efforts. She added pizzazz to the film, with an extra dash of drama, some humor, splendid panoramic views and a fabulous ball scene.
A lovely, young Kate Winslet plays Marianne Dashwood to perfection. Marianne is a passionate young woman, with a definite inclination toward the humanities: art, music and literature. Her heart rules her head, more often than not, and she has a very spontaneous nature. Emma Thompson gives a strong performance as Elinor Dashwood, the older of the two sisters. She has a more practical, sensible temperament. While Elinor appreciates the music and literature that her sibling so passionately loves, she definitely thinks things through before making decisions, or taking action, and keeps her personal feelings to herself. She feels tremendous responsibility for her family's well-being. Ms. Thompson gives Elinor a wicked, dry sense of humor, and her character adds much wit to the dialogue. Marianne believes that Elinor, whom she dearly loves, is too cold, and restrained - more concerned with propriety than with feelings. Elinor, on the other hand, is concerned about Marianne's open and guileless behavior. She fears her sister will be hurt by indulging in her strong emotions, and that conventional society will condemn her for this attribute.
The movie opens dramatically, with Mr. Dashwood, the girls' father, on his deathbed, begging his son and heir, (by his first marriage), to please take care of his wife and three daughters after he dies. The spineless John Dashwood sincerely promises his father to do so, and then is persuaded not to by his greedy wife, Fanny, in a wonderful satire-filled scene. Before Elinor, Marianne, their adorable younger sister Margaret, and their mother are forced to leave their home, the Norwood estate, they meet Fanny's brother, the shy and kind Edward Ferrars, (Hugh Grant). Over a period of a few weeks, while the women are packing their belongings, Elinor and Edward grow obviously fond of each other. Their attachment is interrupted by Fanny, who senses the bond forming between her sister-in-law and her brother, and urges the four Dashwood women to leave immediately for their new home.
Upon arriving at their new residence, Barton Cottage, near the estate of Mrs. Dashwood's cousin John, the women meet their relatives and some new neighbors. Colonel Brandon, played by the charismatic Alan Rickman, is included in the welcome party. Brandon is drawn at once to the beautiful, musical Marianne, who does not reciprocate his affection. Instead she falls madly in love with the dashing Willoughby, and Greg Wise is extremely charismatic with his persuasive performance as the reckless, feckless young suitor.
The family settles in and explores their surroundings. Elinor waits in vain for Edward to visit her at Barton Cottage. Willoughby's expected marriage proposal to Marianne is unexpectedly interrupted. Two unhappy sisters travel to London for the season, hoping to settle their romantic affairs, and instead, find their dreams thwarted.
I won't give the story away, but it is a tale told wonderfully well, dramatized to perfection by extraordinary actors, and directed by the incomparable Ang Lee. Too many superlatives? You won't think so after you have seen "Sense And Sensibility."