Emma Thompson and Jane Austen are quite a team.
"Sense and Sensibility" will lift you right out of your seat. Take Emma Thompson's subtle yet rollicking first screenplay, add an impeccable cast, and put the whole thing in the talented hands of director Ang Lee. Then tip your hat to Jane Austen, who surely had no idea in 1811 that she was writing novels that would sweep the world on film in 1995.
Emma Thompson has pulled off the trickiest of feats by writing a script that allows Austen's brilliant period novel to stay within its time without seeming dated. After sketching the characters in telling detail, the film fairly races along in twists and turns that reveal their follies and foibles. And it all unfolds in sublimely clever dialogue delivered at high British speed.
We meet the widow Dashwood, who has just lost the magnificent family estate to her stepson through the British law of primogeniture. The Dashwoods, mother and three lovely daughters, are displaced by the weak son and his dreadful snob of a wife, Fanny, who spews articulate cruelty everywhere she goes.
Eldest sister Elinor (Emma Thompson) lives in contained goodness; Marianne (Kate Winslet), the younger, responds to the vagaries of life with whatever emotion comes spilling forth. "We have nothing to tell," Marianne says to her sister. "I, because I conceal nothing, and you because you reveal nothing." Sense and sensibility.
Despite the remoteness of their country cottage, both sisters manage to fall in love--Elinor with the shyly amiable Edward (Hugh Grant) and Marianne with the dashing John Willoughby (Greg Wise), who blinds her to the faithful attentions of her besotted neighbor, Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman). When the men are called suddenly and mysteriously to London, the women pack up and follow. These women can only wait and hope that life will come to them.
The twin propellants of their time are marriage and money. With everyone trying to secure one or the other, their efforts and entanglements become the stuff of high comedy as they collide with the rule of propriety. The English drink tea when they're in trouble, and in this movie, tea and trouble are everywhere.
Their lives are a dance of goodness and snobbery concealed under a cloak of restraint that hides whatever boils inside. This is a country, after all, where "Come, we must be calm" is the response to catastrophe, where an unexplained "Forgive me" carries the weight of an explosion.
This grand cast collectively sustains the beat of the extraordinary rhythms set by the director. Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant, in a drawing room scene involving an atlas and the tempestuous youngest sister, carry on a conversational ballet so perfectly timed that it is sweet to the ear. It's a perfect moment of dialogue and image, one of many.
"Where is your heart!" Marianne demands of Elinor. When Elinor finally reveals it, the movie soars with her anguish and joy. Emma Thompson and Jane Austen are quite a team.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Columbia
Rating : PG
Running Time: 2h15m
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