Lose your heart and come to your senses.
A lovingly crafted film involving the 19th century struggle to marry for love as well as for social survival. Happily, I can report that the creation of the DVD was given the same level of care as the original film was.
When you take a rich storyline from a novel such as "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen and combine it with strong acting, you get a wonderful film experience. Columbia has created an even better treat for us by giving this DVD the royal treatment—adding lots of extra goodies and giving us an enhanced (anamorphic) visual experience.
The story begins when Mr. Dashwood lies dying with his only son, John, at his bedside. He explains that given legal constraints he must leave his entire estate to his son, and thereby leave his second wife and their three daughters basically penniless and without dowries. He implores John to look after them. Unfortunately John is married to a rather cold and controlling woman, Fanny, who eventually persuades John that the women can take care of themselves. Given the times, the women cannot inherit wealth nor are they allowed to earn money; therefore, they must find a way to marry into money while still trying to find love.
Emma Thompson (who also won a Golden Globe for writing this screenplay) plays Elinor, the elder spinster sister who holds her emotions in check. Kate Winslet (Titanic, Jude, Hamlet) plays Marianne, the beautiful middle sister whose passions rule over her behavior. They have a younger sister, Margaret, who can best be described as a very proper tomboy who speaks her mind.
The story really gets underway when Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Mickey Blue Eyes, Four Weddings and a Funeral), as Fanny's brother Edward, joins the entire grieving family at their estate. He instantly shows his compassion by understanding the plight of the women and their accompanying emotions. He forms bonds with young Margaret and begins to have feelings for sensible Elinor. As both Edward and Elinor are very proper, Marianne finds Edward emotionless and chides Elinor as well for her apparent lack of emotion toward him. Soon Fanny devises a way to get Edward away from Elinor (he is expected by her family to marry for wealth and position) as his affection for Elinor is becoming more obvious. He is called back to London.
At this point, the stranded women are offered a country cottage to stay in by their matchmaking relatives and they accept. Alan Rickman (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Michael Collins) puts in a very strong performance as the wealthy Colonel Brandon who obviously becomes smitten with the much younger Marianne the minute he sees her playing the piano and singing. She, however, doesn't really see him as romantic material even though matchmaking Mrs. Jennings keeps reminding her of his positive attributes. Marianne instead falls passionately in love with the dashing Mr. Willoughby (Greg Wise). He gallantly arrives on a horse just in time to take her back to her house in the rain after she has fallen and twisted her ankle. Marianne casts proper behavior aside and goes for wild carriage rides with Mr. Willoughby, much to the dismay of Elinor. Just as it seems clear that Mr. Willoughby is about to ask her to marry him he announces instead that he must go to London for some undetermined time. During all of this, another young woman visitor arrives. She manages to tell Elinor in secret that she is in fact engaged to marry Fanny's brother, Edward. With both of the sisters' romantic lives in shambles, Mrs. Jennings decides that Elinor, Marianne and Edward's secret fiancée should all go to London.
At this point everyone is in London and thus the stage is set for the story to unfold. What is amazing is that as much as everyone appears to wear their heart on their sleeve for the world to see, they all have many secrets that are happily uncovered just in time for a happy ending to result. There is strong acting all the way around which makes it a pleasure to watch the characters grow and experience their fates.
The picture is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for widescreen TVs. The result is a clear, beautiful image that is only made better by the unblemished countryside and rich costumes that we are shown. Columbia did a great job in transferring this film. They also get high marks for all the extras on this disc. There are two audio commentaries; one by Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran, as well as one by director Ang Lee and co-producer James Schamus. There are also two deleted scenes—in this case I was glad they weren't part of the movie as presented, the original theatrical trailer, and three bonus trailers—Howard's End, The Remains Of The Day and Much Ado About Nothing.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When everything is so right about something, it seems rather picky to find something wrong, but there is one aspect of the presentation of this film that I found lacking. The audio was only Dolby Digital 5.0 and not much effort was put into the experience of the sound. Things like the sound of the horses galloping and the birds singing in the trees from the back surrounds would have made this a completely wondrous experience and were unfortunately missing. But don't let this small criticism keep you from adding this movie to your collection.
This wondrous film is a feast for the eyes and should be added to nearly every serious collectors shelf. With first rate acting and writing, it is a shame Hollywood cannot produce more films like this.
Columbia and everyone involved are totally acquitted. Great job! Keep ones like this coming…
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Emma Thompson and Producer Lindsay Dorin
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