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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A high point in Emma Thompson’s career came in 1996 when, three years after winning the best-actress Oscar for ‘Howards End,’ she earned the best-screenwriting Academy Award for ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ and her film remains arguably the best of the spate of Jane Austen films that were popping up around that time. If you’ve a hankering to see it on the big screen, Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogden is showing the film on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. as part of its ‘Chick Flick’ series. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Jan. 19, 1996.

Elinor loves Edward. And Edward seems to love Elinor. But Edward runs off to London and we discover that he's already engaged.

Middle-aged Col. Brandon loves young Marianne. But Marianne loves the dashing John Willoughby.

Willoughby seems to love Marianne in return, but then he also makes a hasty, unexplained retreat and heads for London.

So what's in London that causes these men to run off? Will our heroines link up with them again? And what of poor, honorable Col. Brandon?

Sound like an English version of "Days of Our Lives"?

Guess again. It's the latest — and finest — of the Jane Austen resurgence, "Sense and Sensibility," with a wonderful screenplay by Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who also stars as Elinor. (And helmed with taste and style by Taiwanese director Ang Lee, of "Eat Drink Man Woman.")

     

Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, 'Sense and Sensibility'

Full of little mysteries, unabashed romanticism and delightful comedy, "Sense and Sensibility" is an utterly winning comic melodrama. And it unfolds casually, Merchant-Ivory style, with all the lush trappings of late 18th-century rural England.

As the story begins, Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) is widowed, and according to law her huge estate reverts back to the oldest son by a previous marriage. So, when snobbish John Dashwood (James Fleet) and his even more snobbish wife Fanny (Harriet Walter) move in, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne (Kate Winslet) and young Margaret (Emile Francois) are forced to move out.

But not before they meet Fanny's younger brother, Edward (Hugh Grant), a real charmer, despite his shy, self-effacing manner. He is attracted to Elinor, but their courtship is cut short when Fanny contrives to have him called to London.

The Dashwood women move to smaller quarters, taking charity from Mrs. Dashwood's cousin, the comically uncultured Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy) and his matchmaking mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs).

     

Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, 'Sense and Sensibility'

There, Marianne meets Col. Brandon (Alan Rickman), who is obviously attracted to her, though she won't give him the time of day. And then, in one of those romantic Austenesque moments, she meets Willoughby (Greg Wise), who quite literally rides in on a horse and sweeps her off her feet.

Col. Brandon mutes his jealousy and watches from afar, as Elinor and her mother observe Marianne's head-over-heels romance with some reservations. And, then, Willoughby takes off for London without explanation, leaving Marianne heartbroken.

Eventually, Elinor and Marianne will be afforded a trip to London, allowing them an opportunity to meet Edward and Willoughby again, and to learn the mysteries behind their abrupt departures.

Trying to explain this film in plot terms, however, can only make simplistic what is really a heartfelt story, filled with rich characters and compelling events, however low-key.

The performances are all excellent, with standouts including Thompson, Winslet, Jones, Spriggs and Walter.

"Sense and Sensibility" is rated PG, but there is nothing offensive (unless you are bothered by the cleavage of heaving bosoms in traditional 18th-century English garb).