‘Sense & Sensibility’ (1995) (Film)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Romantic Drama with the Dashwoods

This is the 1995 film of ‘Sense & Sensibility’ – the one with Emma Thompson’s funny laugh!

I recall seeing this at a very young age over one Christmas in the 1990s. It was after seeing the film ‘Titanic’ with my parents, which also stared Kate Winslet with Leonard DiCaprio in it. Kate Winslet also stars in this film as well, so I was able to easily recognise her after seeing her in the ‘Titanic’ film.

‘Sense & Sensibility’ is based on the original novel by Jane Austen, who is famous for writing many other romantic novels including ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Persuasion’. I wasn’t really into Jane Austen’s works at a young age, but gradually I got into the TV and film adaptations of these novels.

This Jane Austen story was adapted into a film screenplay by Emma Thompson, the leading star of the film. I discovered this when I was re-watching ‘Sense & Sensibility’ with my parents as a young adult. It’s clear that Emma Thompson is a fan of Jane Austen’s works, both starring and writing in the film.

Surprisingly, this Jane Austen movie is directed by Ang Lee, who also directed the 2003 film ‘Hulk’. No, seriously! Ang Lee directed ‘Hulk’ as well as ‘Sense & Sensibility’. It’s quite a complete contrast in his career to have directed both a Jane Austen romantic movie and a Marvel superhero movie here.

This film is also quite starry as there are lots of names and faces I recognise from seeing this movie. ‘Sense & Sensibility’ is led by Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood and Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood. There’s also Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars and Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in this.

‘Sense & Sensibility’ is about a family of the Dashwood sisters and their mother, who are forced to leave their wealthy family house after the father dies. Living in the countryside, the eldest two sisters Elinor and Marianne find love with two suitors, under very strict circumstances of the period.

I’ve not read ‘Sense & Sensibility’ as a book and ‘Pride & Prejudice’ is more familiar to me as a story compared to the other Jane Austen novels. But I’m able to easily recognise the ‘Sense & Sensibility’ from this film especially, which has helped me to enjoy other film and TV adaptations of the novel.

The title of the story is focused on the two female leads featured in the film. Sense focuses on Elinor, who is the quiet, reserved and sensible of the two heroines. Sensibility focuses on Marianne, who is more emotionally-driven in her quest for romance. These are both positive and flawed personalities.

Emma Thompson stars as Elinor Dashwood in the movie. I like Emma’s performance as Elinor. Elinor is wiser and older than Marianne, as she’s careful in her emotions towards Edward Ferrars who she clearly likes and falls in love with. The majority of Emma’s performance is good, despite the last bit.

Kate Winslet is equally good as Marianne Dashwood. Sometimes Marianne seems rash and eager in her pursuit of romance. She has a love of poetry and is easily swept off her feet by Mr Willoughby who rescues her during a rainstorm. Her heart gets broken when her romantic story goes downhill.

Hugh Grant stars as Edward Ferrars. Hugh Grant is a well-known actor these days and ‘Sense & Sensibility’ is one of the highlights of his career. I enjoyed his performance as Edward in this film. He tends to be shy, quiet and a stutterer at times, but is a perfect match for Emma Thompson’s Elinor.

Alan Rickman stars as Colonel Brandon. I first saw Alan Rickman in ‘The Barchester Chronicles’ before this. His performance as Colonel Brandon is quite different to his odious performance in ‘The Barchester Chronicles’. Colonel Brandon is very noble and he clearly has an eye for young Marianne.

Greg Wise also stars as Mr. Willoughby in this movie. Willoughby is the potential love interest for Marianne in this movie, until he breaks her heart. At first, Willoughby seems a very pleasant, dashing young man that Marianne falls for. But as the story progresses, more gets revealed about his history.

In the film, there are many recognisable faces. There’s James Fleet (who I’ve seen in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’) as John Dashwood and Harriet Walter (who I’ve seen in a TV version of ‘Lord Peter Wimsey’) as Fanny Dashwood. These two are the ones who move into the Dashwood’s residence whilst the Dashwood sisters and the mother move out. There’s also Tom Wilkinson as the father who dies.

There’s Gemma Jones as Mrs. Dashwood, the mother of the three girls. I’ve seen Gemma before in the TV series, ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, where she’s very different. There’s also Emile François as Margaret, the youngest of the three Dashwood sisters, who I sometimes found grating in this movie.

There’s also Robert Hardy (who I’ve seen in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’) as Sir John Middleton and Elizabeth Spriggs (who I’ve seen in many period dramas) as Mrs. Jennings, Sir John’s mother-in-law. Both welcome the Dashwoods to the country, but they can be really silly and gossipy at times.

There’s also Hugh Laurie (who I know as Bertie Wooster in ‘Jeeves & Wooster’) as Mr. Palmer and Imelda Staunton as Charlotte Palmer, Mrs. Palmer’s wife. I enjoyed the comedy double act between the Palmers, as Hugh Laurie’s character moodily puts up with his wife’s silliness through this movie.

There’s also Imogen Stubbs as Lucy Steele, who could risk Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood’s romance. I enjoyed it when Lucy Steele revealed her secret to Harriet Walter’s Fanny Dashwood and they fight. There’s also Richard Lumsden as Robert Ferrars as well as Oliver Ford Davies as Dr. Harris.

I enjoyed the music in this film, composed by Patrick Doyle. The music sounds very beautiful, especially with its own signature tune, the soloist and the dance ball scenes featured in it. I enjoyed listening to the movie soundtrack on CD whenever my parents and I listen to it in the car on holiday.

Now we’ve reached the point that brings the movie downhill. At the movie’s climax, Edward Ferrars reveals that he’s not married and Elinor is overjoyed. It’s brought downhill by the fact Emma Thompson does this funny laugh. It sounds like crying and laughing when she’s doing it in that scene.

I’ve done my best to take that scene seriously. But it’s so hard to take seriously when Emma’s laughing away and Hugh Grant does his best in his performance to deliver the lines in the scene. It’s supposed to be a romantic moment and it’s ruined. Dawn French from ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ agrees.

The DVD special features on the Special Edition DVD are as follows. There are two audio commentaries. The first is with Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran. The second is with director Ang Lee and co-producer James Schamus. There is also an isolated music option to enjoy.

There’s also the ‘Adapting Austen’ documentary; ‘Elegance and Simplicity: The Wardrobe of Sense & Sensibility’; ‘Locating the World of Sense & Sensibility’; ‘A Sense of Character’ documentary; and ‘A Very Quiet Man’ documentary. There are also some deleted scenes; Emma Thompson’s Golden Globes Acceptance Speech and trailers for the movie.

‘Sense & Sensibility’ is a well-adapted and well-directed Jane Austen film by both Emma Thompson and director Ang Lee. I enjoyed this film whenever I see it with my parents. Despite Emma Thompson’s funny laugh at the end, this is a lovely romantic movie that is well-cherished by many.

‘Sense & Sensibility’ (1995) rating – 9/10

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