Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sense & Sensibility

Almost vintage these days (especially knowing that the BBC recently released their 'new' version!) but this film featuring the stellar cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman, in my humble opinion, will be difficult to beat!

I haven't read the novel for years so won't comment on the film's adherance, but it is a very enjoyable movie, in a quiet, gentle way. Wonderful humour, amplified by the comic talents of both Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant, had me smiling in appreciation more than once. Interesting dialogue that was easy to understand. The odd character that makes you cringe (well, there always has to be a couple!). A character with a mean streak (of course) and a mother that likes to remember what she wishes to remember and of course lavish grand houses and picturesque scenery. It all adds up to a great recipe for a good story.

The film starts with the death of Mr Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), telling his son John (James Fleet)- from his first marriage - that according to the law, he must inherit his estate and requesting he look after his step-mother Mrs Dashwood(Gemma Jones) and his half sisters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Not counting on his greedy wife, Fanny (Harriet Walter), however, the father's ghost must be disappointed to see that John withdraws his promised support. The grieving women of the late Mr Dashwood must find an alternate home that they can afford for their 500pound stipend a year and intend to leave their old home to John and Fanny, as soon as they can. Fanny has a visit from her brother Edward (Hugh Grant), who unlike is sister, is kind, gentle and unassuming. He finds immediate contentment in the presence of Elinor (Emma Thompson) but never quite gets around to proposing before Elinor and her sisters and mother move to their new cottage, provided by a cousin of their mother's, Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy), on his estate. Thus Elinor is left hopeful, but in limbo, until a visiting young lady, Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) professes to being secretly engaged to Edward.

Marianne (Kate Winslet) is vibrant and full of emotion - for her love is worth professing to the world, is heady and consuming. She finds favour in her new home with a local gentleman, Col. Brandon (Alan Rickman), but as he is quiet rather than overtly handsome and retiring rather than rash and bold, she pays him little attention. Going for a reckless walk on the hills, she falls and sprains her ankle and is rescued by a very dashing Mr Willoughby (Greg Wise). He courts Marianne and seems on the verge of proposing but he ends up making a hasty exit with no hope of return.

Invited to London by Sir John's mother in law, Mrs Jennings (Elizabeth Sprigs), Elinor, Marianne and the visiting Lucy Steele, start to experience London life. Marianne repeatedly attempts to contact Willoughby without success. Eventually they see each other at a ball where Willoughby is with his fiancee, a young woman of great wealth. Marianne, her romantic hopes dashed, falls into a state of despair and Elinor arranges for them to return home as soon as they are able, with the help of Col. Brandon.

In the meantime Edward finally visits ... to be confronted by Elinor AND Lucy! Austen being Austen, nothing is actually said about the confusion and what everyone is thinking but the actors easily translate the stress of the situation! Lucy has made aquaintance with both Edward's sister Fanny, and his younger brother Robert, and is in fact staying with Fanny, so Edward escorts her home. Standing by his vow of marrying her against all opposition, Edward declares his intention and is immediately disinherited.

Elinor and Marianne leave London in the care of Mrs Jenning's daughter Charlotte (Imelda Staunton) and her long-suffering husband (Hugh Laurie). Their estate, unfortunately, is adjacent to Willoughby's estate and Marianne predictably heads in that direction before she can be stopped. Caught in the weather, she is rescued by Col. Brandon and falls seriously ill. She eventually recovers and they all return home where Marianne continues her recuperation and in her new, quietened state, values the attentions of Col. Brandon.

Edward finally visits and clears up the mistaken thought that Lucy did indeed marry him, as she really married his brother Robert. Upon hearing he is single and thus available, poor Elinor finally breaks down and their feelings for each other are made clear, much to the delight of her family.

The film ends, at the wedding of Col. Brandon to Marianne and Edward to Elinor. A fitting end for a lovely story.

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