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Sense and Sensibility

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Just discovered The Canon is back, and I'm soooo psyched!


Perusing the old episode list it looks like there's never been much discussion devoted to period films, and Jane Austen hasn't come up once. In the interest of both expanding the genres considered and the number of female led stories, I submit Sense and Sensibility.


I've been watching this movie for ages, and I just rewatched it a few weeks ago. I endeavored to watch it with an analytical lens, but I struggled to find much to fault it on. For what it is I think it's nearly a perfect movie. Some points that I love:

  • Most obvious is the phenomenal cast. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet shine as the two leads, and I could easily write an essay on how they completely inhabit their characters. Suffice it to say, the sisters feel fully realized as women grappling with two very different ways of navigating the world. They're backed up by supporting roles large and small played by the likes of Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Tom Wilkinson, and Hugh Laurie. The quality of acting all around is superb.
  • The cinematography does a wonderful job of filling out the storytelling. Class and power dynamics are of course paramount, and this is illustrated by the camera to great effect. A favorite shot that comes to mind is early in the film. Elinor and Edward are just making a connection, and we watch as they walk out of the room engaged in delightful conversation. Then Mrs. Dashwood, the mother, walks in frame having just descended the stairs and walks toward us, a knowing smile on her face. Last, we pan up to the second floor balcony where Fanny, Edward's horribly classist sister, looks on in disgust from her dominant position. Everything we need to know about how these two women perceive Elinor and Edward's blossoming relationship as well as their relative power over the matter is communicated in a matter of seconds.
  • The music is lovely. It runs the gamut from quiet to sweeping, romantic to unnerving, and everything in between. It's also used to great effect when diegetic. One of the funniest moments in the movie results from Mary Anne being asked to play something else to lighten the mood.
  • The film has an excellent sense of humor throughout, subtle and dry though it is. Hugh Laurie pre-House, though he probably only has about five minutes of screen time, steals every scene he's in.
  • The screenplay, adapted by Emma Thompson herself, deservedly won an Oscar.
  • The economy of storytelling overall is impressive. All the points above, guided by the direction of Ang Lee, form a whole in which every line serves a purpose and no shot is wasted.

Tl;dr, I would be willing to say this is my favorite Austen adaptation ever as well as one of my all-time favorite films. It's masterfully crafted all around, and it would make my year for this to be debated on an episode of The Canon.



(Avalailable to rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon)

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