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Sense and Sensibility is a 1995 Britishmarker drama film directed by Ang Lee. The screenplay by Emma Thompson is based on the 1811 novel of the same name by Jane Austen.

Plot synopsis

When Mr. Dashwood dies, his wife and three daughters - Elinor, Marianne and Margaret - are dismayed to learn that their inheritance consists of only £500 a year, with the bulk of the estate of Norland Park left to his son John from a previous marriage. John's scheming, greedy, snobbish wife Fanny immediately installs herself and her spouse in the palatial home and invites her brother Edward Ferrars to stay with them. She frets about the budding friendship between Edward and Elinor and does everything she can to prevent it from developing.

Sir John Middleton, a cousin of the widowed Mrs. Dashwood, offers her a small cottage house on his estate, Barton Park in Devonshire. She and her daughters move in. It is here that Marianne meets the older Colonel Brandon, who falls in love with her at first sight. Competing with him for her affections is the dashing but deceitful John Willoughby, who steals Marianne's heart. Unbeknownst to the Dashwood family, Brandon's ward is found to be pregnant with Willoughby's child, and Willoughby's aunt Lady Allen disinherits him. He moves to Londonmarker, leaving Marianne heartbroken.

Sir John's mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, invites her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, to visit. They bring with them the impoverished Lucy Steele. Lucy confides in Elinor that she and Edward have been engaged secretly for five years, thus dashing Elinor's hopes of romance with him. Mrs. Jennings takes Lucy, Elinor, and Marianne to London, where they meet Willoughby at a ball. They learn that he is engaged to the extremely wealthy Miss Grey; and the clandestine engagement of Edward and Lucy comes to light. Edward's mother demands that he break off the engagement. When he refuses, his fortune is taken from him and given to his younger brother Robert.

On their way home to Devonshire, Elinor and Marianne stop for the night at the country estate of the Palmers, who live near Willoughby. Marianne cannot resist going to see his estate and walks five miles in a torrential rain to do so. As a result, she becomes seriously ill and is nursed back to health by Elinor.

After Marianne recovers, the sisters return home. They learn that Miss Steele has become Mrs. Ferrars and assume that she is married to Edward, who arrives to explain that Miss Steele has unexpectedly wed Robert Ferrars. Edward is thus released from his engagement. Edward proposes to Elinor and becomes a vicar, while Marianne falls in love with and marries Colonel Brandon.

Production notes

Emma Thompson spent four years writing the screenplay, which went through many revisions. She hoped that producer Lindsay Doran would consider sisters Natasha and Joely Richardson, the daughters of Vanessa Redgrave, for the key roles of Elinor and Marianne; but when Ang Lee insisted Thompson play Elinor, she protested that she was too old to play a 19-year-old girl. Lee suggested that she change the character's age to 27, which would also make her distress at being a spinster easier for contemporary audiences to understand.

On an episode of the popular quiz show QI, Emma Thomson revealed that she lost the screenplay on her faulty computer. When a repairman could not retrieve the file, she took the computer in a taxi to friend Stephen Fry, who, along with flatmate Hugh Laurie, spent seven hours retrieving the missing file.

Sense and Sensibility was filmed at a number of locations in Devon, including Saltram Housemarker, the village church in Berry Pomeroymarker, Compton Castle, and the cobbled streets of Barbicanmarker in Plymouthmarker. Settings in London included Somerset Housemarker on The Strandmarker and the National Maritime Museummarker in Greenwichmarker. Additional scenes were filmed at Trafalgar Housemarker and Wilton Housemarker in Wiltshiremarker, Mompesson Housemarker in Salisburymarker, and Montacute Housemarker in South Somerset.

The film was budgeted at US$16,500,000. It grossed US$42,993,774 in the US and US$92,000,000 in foreign markets for a worldwide box office total of US$134,993,774.

Principal cast



Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, 48 of 49 critics gave the film a positive review, resulting in a 98% approval rating.

In her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film "...grandly entertaining... a sparkling, colorful and utterly contemporary comedy of manners... Emma Thompson proves as crisp and indispensably clever a screenwriter as she is a leading lady."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film is "entertaining and amusing [and] enjoyable, civilized, yet somehow not as satisfying as Persuasion... because the earlier film looked simpler and more authentic, and this one seems a little too idealized."

In his review in San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle stated, "[This is] an exuberant, well-crafted film that gets the audience involved on a gut level even before the opening credits are over... Ang Lee might at first seem an unlikely choice to direct an adaptation from English literature. But he does it with the right balance of irony and warmth. The result is a film of great understanding and emotional clarity, filmed with an elegance that never calls attention to itself."

Barbara Shulgasser of the San Francisco Examiner enthused, "What a glorious time is had by all in this wonderful adaptation of Jane Austen's novel... Ang Lee serves up this sweetmeat without fuss, without the super-seriousness of filmmakers awed by their literary material... [He] and Thompson create a world so believable in its absurd rigidity that we feel we have known these characters all our lives. We are unshakably interested in everything that happens to them. The movie is so intelligently wrought, and so full of good spirit that even those who have behaved badly are at the end given the chance to seem human and pained by their own weaknesses."

Todd McCarthy of Variety observed, "Thompson's script manages the neat trick of preserving the necessary niceties and decorum of civilized behavior of the time while still cutting to the dramatic quick. But she and Lee have always kept an eye out for the comedic possibilities in any situation, assisted by a highly skilled cast of actors, which, down to the most briefly seen supporting player, collectively seems to understand the wit and high spirits of the approach. The choice of Lee to direct this so specifically British and period film, and his great success in doing so, will no doubt be the source of much wonderment. Although his previously revealed talents for dramatizing conflicting social and generational traditions will no doubt be noted, Lee's achievement here with such foreign material is simply well beyond what anyone could have expected and may well be posited as the cinematic equivalent of Kazuo Ishiguro writing The Remains of the Day."

In Newsweek, Jack Kroll opined, "As writer and actress, Thompson has all the right Austen rhythms and filmmaker Ang Lee orchestrates with sensitivity and style. The screen teems with brilliant costumes and crackles with dialogue that turns English into verbal Mozart."

Trivia

Six actors in this film went on to appear in at least one Harry Potter film: Kenneth Branagh was attached to this film at one time.

During filming, the Jane Austen Society telephoned co-producer James Schamus to complain about the casting of Hugh Grant, claiming that he was too good-looking to play Edward Ferrars.

Director Ang Lee had not read Jane Austen's novel when Columbia sent him Emma Thompson's script.

The first draft of the screenplay consisted of 350 handwritten pages. The final draft was a culmination of that and 13 other drafts which were written over four and a half years.

Marianne Dashwood's wedding dress was trimmed with straw.

Awards and nominations



References

  1. Sense and Sensibility at Turner Classic Movies
  2. Sense and Sensibility at TheNumbers.com
  3. Sense and Sensibility at RottenTomatoes.com
  4. New York Times review
  5. Chicago Sun-Times review
  6. San Francisco Chronicle review
  7. San Francisco Examiner review
  8. Variety review
  9. Newsweek review


External links




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