Promotional Line: " Lose your heart and come
to your senses."
This story begins, showing a dying gentleman,
Mr. Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), on his deathbed, talking with
his son, John (James Fleet). Because of English law, Dashwood's
whole Norland Estate must be given to John, with only 500 pounds
a year designated for his second family. Looking his son squarely
in the eye, the elderly Mr. Dashwood firmly lets John know his
wishes for part of his estate to go to his second wife (Gemma
Jones) and his daughters, strongly imploring him and making
him promise to financially take care of his step-mother and
his three step-sisters, which includes providing dowries for
their future marriages. While young John Dashwood earnestly
promises his father he will do so, he later shows himself to
be an arrogant, selfish, gutless wonder, by agreeing with his
wife's rationalizations to do the opposite. John's heartless,
selfish wife, Fanny (Harriet Walter), easily persuades him into
only giving them 20 pounds on occasion, providing them no house
to live in, and no dowries for the future.
John and Fanny move into what is now their
Norland Mansion with Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) and her daughters,
Elinor (Emma Thompson), Marianne (Kate Winslet), and young Margaret
(Emilie Francois), who can stay temporarily until they find
a home to rent. Elinor is the strong, practical one who makes
the hard decisions as her mother and Marianne aren't taking
this at all well. During this time, Fanny's kind, warm brother
Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) comes to visit. The amiable, kind
Edward endears himself to the Dashwood women by his thoughtfulness,
his kindness and his sense of humor. Elinor and Edward are soon
attracted to each other, but their blooming, deep friendship
is abruptly stopped when he is suddenly called home by the tyrannical
Mother Ferrars, who demands absolute obedience from her children,
or will cut them completely off without a penny. This pairing
between Elinor and Edward is not approved of by Fanny or her
family, because Elinor has no money, and they want Edward to
marry someone with social status and money, as the family has
great plans for Edward's future, though Edward really wants
to be a pastor in the countryside.
Fanny unkindly and snidely tells Mrs. Dashwood:
"Edward is the compassionate sort of man, the kind that is preyed
upon by penniless women."
Luckily for Mrs. Dashwood, and her three daughters,
Mrs. Dashwood's cousin, Sir John Middleton invites them to come
and stay in the small, three story Barton Cottage, located on
his estate, Barton Park. So, with two servants, Thomas and Betsy,
they all pack up and travel to Barton Park. Sir John Middleton
(Robert Hardy) and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth
Spriggs) come to enthusiastically greet them, making them feel
wanted and at home. Sir John and his mother-in-law are very
different people, being folksy and earthy, who love to tease
and joke. Dashwood women were not used to being with these personality
types, and must learn to adapt.
It doesn't take long for two country gentlemen
to become interested in young Marianne, who loves poetry, and
is an accomplished pianist. She is described as being full of
"aerial sensibilities and romantic notions." Both the gentlemanly,
noble, upright Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) and young, dashing,
full of fun, spontaneous John Wiloughby (Greg Wise) begin to
court young Marianne, with John capturing her heart totally
- hook, line and sinker. Things look very promising in the marriage
arena, as John and Marianne care for each other, and John asks
to see her alone. Instead of proposing to her as all of the
Dashwood women thought, he comes to her on the day he asked
to see her alone, looking very guilty, and abruptly says he
has to leave, giving no explanation. Marianne is crushed, but
refuses to give up on him, pining away.
At a family get together at Barton Park Mansion,
that included Mrs. Jennings' daughter, Charlotte (Imelda Staunton)
and her husband, Mr. Palmer (Hugh Laurie), Elinor meets the
insincere, not too bright Lucy Steele (Imagen Stubbs), a niece
of a schoolmaster, who confides to Elinor that she and Edward
Ferrars had been secretly engaged for five years, and was scared
about his family finding out. Elinor puts two and two together
and surmises that this was what Edward was trying to tell her
in the stable before he was abruptly sent away by Fanny. There
are now two strikes against her yearnings, her love for Edward.
The now tormented, heart-sick Elinor, being the self-disciplined,
practical person she was, inwardly grieves but doesn't tell
anyone, not even Marianne, because she had promised Lucy she
would keep the secret about the engagement.
Things come to a head when Mrs. Jennings decides
to take Elinor, Marianne, and Lucy to London to introduce them
into society, in hopes of finding them husbands. Once there,
Marianne feverishly sends notes to Wiloughby, and gets even
more upset when he ignores them. Finally, at a big, grand party,
Marianne sees Wiloughby with his bride to be and her family.
Wiloughby totally and publicly rejects her, sending her into
inconsolable mourning. It was a moment of "English, upper-class
snobbery." It seems that Wiloughby has a dastardly secret or
two, and needed to marry a woman with money. Marianne becomes
deathly ill, which is upsetting to all who love her, especially
Elinor and Colonel Brandon.
The following twists and turns and heart rendering
moments that come next in the screenplay build and keep the
audience guessing as to what is going to happen next, keeping
the audience involved in this most enjoyable screenplay. Will
Marianne survive her illness? Who will end up marrying who?
How will this story end on a happy, romantic note, despite all
the problems and situations presented? Will Fanny and John get
their just comeuppance?
Based on Jane Austin's novel, this marvelous
screenplay was written by Emma Thompson, which earned Thompson
the Oscar for Best Screenplay based on another source. She is
as talented a writer as she is an actress, as the film flows
wonderfully. Jane Austin would be very pleased with her effort.
Emma omitted some parts of the novel, and added some other scenes,
as she adapted the novel for the film. She fully captures the
wit, charm, human heartlessness, as well as human kindness and
caring in her debut masterpiece that Jane Austin wanted to get
across in her novel. By the end of the story, the characters
bring home the point that a balanced mixture of sense and sensibility
is the best plan.
Director Ang Lee did a terrific job directing
and putting together this wonderful film. I especially like
the way he worked with the marvelous cast, with everyone portraying
their character perfectly. He also directed the much acclaimed
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." He understands period pieces
very well, and brings the story to life, directing the cast
appropriately for the times that their characters live in.
What a dream cast!
Emma Thompson uses her great talent as an actress
to show the many sides of Elinor. She expertly and creatively
shows the changes Elinor goes through after experiencing the
various trials and challenges that confront her along the way,
as she finds it harder and harder to be all senseā and not show
Alan Rickman was convincing as the noble, brave,
kind Colonel Brandon, who deeply loves Marianne, but doesn't
stand in the way of the ill-fated love of Marianne and Wiloughby,
because Marianne was so happy. He steps up to the plate when
Marianne and Elinor need his help. His facial expressions and
delivery of his lines proves that Rickman is a talented, gifted
actor, who plays both heroes and villains equally well. A favorite
scene that shows Brandon's true character happens after Wiloughby
rejects Marianne at the ball. He comes to Elinor, and tells
her the whole sordid story of why Wiloughby had married Ms.
Grey, and willingly forgot about his love for Marianne. But
despite telling about the true character of Wiloughby as being
the "worst of Libertines," he also tells Elinor, that he had
found out from another reliable source that Wiloughby had truly
loved Marianne, and was planning to ask her to marry him, until
his ugly doings had come to light.
Kate Winslet gave an outstanding performance
in her portrayal of Marianne Dashwood, who loves poetry, loves
music and believes in both living and showing her feelings.
Winslet earned a normination for Best Supporting Actress. Marianne
desires an idealistic romantic love, that burns in intensity.
Heart and feelings overrule the questions and common sense of
the mind. When Wiloughby rescues her and brings her home, and
she discovers that he also knows by heart the Sonnets she adores,
she falls head over heels in love, ignoring the questions of
My favorite scene with Marianne and Elinor
takes place the following morning after the rejection at the
ball, when Marianne finally gets an answer from Wiloughby in
the form of a dear john letter. When she still tries to defend
Wiloughby, Elinor tells her the truth that Wiloughby had had
the rest of them believing that he loved her and wanted to marry
her. Marianne suffers a total emotional melt down.
Hugh Grant is charming as the bashful, good-hearted,
honorable Edward Ferrars who must decide at some point between
towing the family line or doing what is honorable, and best
for him in the long run.
My favorite scene between Edward, Elinor and
Margaret takes place in the Norwood library before the Dashwood
women move to Barton cottage. Young Margaret had been hiding
from them all, since her father had died. Edward discovers where
she is, and tells Elinor. He and Elinor fabricate a conversation
with a straight face about where the Nile is located. Margaret
is a geography enthusiast and is compelled to come out of hiding
and set them straight.
Greg Wise gives a convincing performance as
the romantically exciting, witty John Wiloughby, with a few
huge character flaws that make him unsuitable as a marriage
prospect, from a practical point of view.
Elizabeth Spriggs had a wonderful time portraying
the very shrewdly observant Mrs. Jennings, who thinks it is
her mission in life to help the unmarried women find appropriate
husbands, while having a lot of fun along the way. She prides
herself on her ability to "winkle" secrets out of people.
Robert Hardy also has fun in his role portraying
Sir John Middleton, a fun-loving man who enjoys Mrs. Jennings
efforts at zestful wrinkling and gladly steps in to be a father
figure for young Margaret.
A favorite sequence of scenes between Mrs.
Jennings, Sir John Middleton and the Dashwood ladies happens
when they come to Barton Park for a meal for the first time.
Mrs. Jennings makes the observation that Colonel Brandon, who
was scheduled to arrive to meet them would make a fine match
for Marianne, as by looking at Elinor's face, she could tell
that Elinor had left her heart back at Norland. With the help
of the young Margaret, much to the annoyance and dismay of her
mother and sisters, Mrs. Jennings finds out about "Mr. F." Though
Elinor is rescued from this uncomfortable situation by a quick-thinking
Marianne, Mrs. Jennings periodically teases Elinor about "Mr.
F." through out the first part of the film.
I thoroughly enjoyed the villainous performance
of Harriet Walter, who did an inspiring job portraying the haughty,
unkind Fanny Dashwood, the wife of the step brother, John Dashwood,
who even discourages the luke- warm John from offering emotional
help to the distraught Marianne and her upset family right after
the disaster at the ball. Fanny, John and the younger brother
of Fanny, Robert instead sit around at tea time and discuss
Ms. Grey's 50,000 pound dowry, and how penniless Marianne will
eventually "loose her bloom," and be a spinster, like Elinor.
A classic scene that takes place between Lucy
Steele and Fanny Dashwood, is when Lucy foolishly tells her
secret to Fanny. It is a favorite in that it shows the true
character of Fanny, who looses control completely, after saying
to Lucy that any family would accept her because of her special
qualities, despite having no dowry.
The inspiring, absolutely beautiful musical
score, written by the talented Patrick Doyle won the Oscar.
Doyle also composed the music for "Bridget Jones's Diary," and
"Sense and Sensibility" is rated P.G. While
there is no sex or violence, some of the powerful scenes with
Marianne in such emotional pain or battling her illness may
be too much for sensitive children. Some say that this film
is a screaming chick flick, but if you enjoy Jane Austin, and
a gripping romantic story with a little humor, you will enjoy
this film, whether you are a male or female.