Film Scouts Reviews

"Sense and Sensibility"

by Kathleen Carroll

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December 13, 1995

Emma Thompson is an astonishingly good actress who rarely makes a false move in front of a camera. But, interestingly, it's not just the much-acclaimed British actress's latest performance that should earn her her usual rave notices. She also wrote the buoyantly witty and wonderfully incisive screenplay for her latest movie - a simply sublime film adaptation of Jane Austen's comic novel "Sense and Sensibility."

The screenplay captures Austen's gentle irony and full-blooded characters so perfectly that Thompson is virtually certain to win Academy Award nominations in both the best actress and best screenplay categories. In fact do not be surprised if this movie wins all the major awards for the year.

Nor should one overlook the contribution of director Ang Lee. Although born in Taiwan he, too, seems to have an intuitive understanding of the social scene in Austen's Victorian England.

The movie's two heroines, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, have just been, more or less, excluded from that social scene because their half-brother has inherited their family estate. As Elinor, a determinedly sensible young woman who's learned to conceal her feelings as a proper Victorian should, puts it ""I'm a woman of no rank who cannot afford to buy sugar." Without the benefit of a dowry the Dashwood sisters can hardly expect to marry the right sort of man.

Yet Elinor is admittedly drawn to her sister-in-law Fanny's brother Edward, a shy, socially inept man who even gets along with her tomboyish sister Margaret. The hilariously snobbish Fanny sends Edward packing just as it appears he may propose. Elinor will only admit she feels "great esteem" for Edward and her restraint infuriates Marianne. For she is exactly the opposite - an impetuous romantic who's looking for a schoolgirl's notion of the perfect lover. A wealthy older man, Colonel Brandon, is hopelessly smitten with Marianne. But she, in a breathlessly funny encounter straight out of a romance novel, injures her ankle and is carried to safety by a handsome man on a white charger. The man, Willoughby, captures Marianne's heart on the spot but both sisters face a certain amount of heartbreak in finding true happiness.

Thompson is enormously appealing as Elinor. You care for her character so much that when she finally loses control of her emotions you share her tears of relief. Kate Winslet is extremely touching as Marianne whose emotional suffering is painful to watch but who ultimately proves to be a woman of sense and sensibility. Alan Rickman is equally moving as he expresses the colonel's patient yearning for Marianne.

Hugh Grant gives one of his trademark bumbling performances as Edward. Elizabeth Spriggs is full of zest as the matchmaker Mrs. Jennings. This is case in which all the elements - the acting, the writing, the photography and the directing combine to create what is easily the most captivating movie of the year.

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