I used to hate period pieces. Couldn’t stand them. The love stories were drawn out and complicated. The girls seemed to be foolish and only cared about some eternal love that was only found in fairy tales. Typically there was some douchebag who was handsome, and a wealthy older gentleman who pined after someone younger. There was a relationship that no one wanted or approved of, and a person that everyone wanted to murder.
After devouring “Downton Abbey,” watching the most recent “Great Expectations” with Douglas Booth and Gillian Anderson, and seeing that series I reviewed a while back, “North & South,” I’ve developed a liking to them. I think it’s the clothing.
It’s probably the accents.
Did I mention I took 19th Century British Women Writers *cough* 3 times in college. I had this habit of zoning out while reading…and falling asleep. Among the books of that class were Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, Emma by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe. My favorite was no doubt Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. *yawn*. Don’t get me wrong. The history is wonderful. We get a glimpse of the oppression that women went through in that time period. Their struggles, triumphs, and tribulations. It’s the narrative I can’t get behind. For that reason I tended to steer clear of the period pieces. They’ve seem to have remade every Jane Austen story about eight thousand times.
I watched Sense and Sensibility…a Jane Austen story. The 1995 version.
Sense and Sensibility follows the Dashwood family. In particular Elinor and Marianne. Portrayed respectively in this version by Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, Much Ado About Nothing), who also wrote the screenplay, and Kate Winslet (Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Revolutionary Road). In the very beginning of the movie their father dies. In this time period the money didn’t fall to women, not even the wife, so the money was transferred to their uncle. His wife, a total bitch, decided to give them very little to live on. They hold their heads high, and make due. The first half of the movie deals with the budding romance between Edward Ferrars, played by Hugh Grant (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, Did You Hear About the Morgans?), and Elinor. This is that romance destined to happen but that is unapproved of. Edward is to inherit quite a lot, and it is seen beneath him to marry Elinor. The second half of the movie is pretty much all about Marianne. There’s her first suitor that she doesn’t even look at, the older caring gentleman, Colonel Christopher Brandon, played by Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Dogma, the Harry Potter series). Then there’s the fine young handsome douchebag that she falls in love with, John Willoughby, played by Greg Wise (Johnny English, “Cranford,” “According to Bex”). The majority of the movie is chattering gossip and desperate older matchmakers. Grieving women desiring that story book love. Of note is that Hugh Laurie plays Mr. Palmer…well before he became “House.”
I won’t lie. For the majority of the movie I kept it on as background noise. You can SEE where the story is going. You practically know how its going to end and what is going to transpire. The plot is rather repetitious. What I liked least about this movie, and many period pieces, is always the ending. They make these grand attempts at epics, but they try their best to keep it around the two hour mark. What you end up with is two hours of the rising action and a five minute climax. It’s bullshit. You follow these characters for two hours and everything gets tied up in a nice little bow in the blink of an eye. You feel cheated.
That being said…
Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) did a fantastic job at directing. Which is not unusual, it’s Ang Lee. Plus he had a fairly fantastic cast working with him.
If you’re into this style, this genre, you can do exceedingly worse. If you like this genre I would certainly recommend it. Although, if you are into this genre you’ve probably already seen this version and I’m just blowing smoke up your ass.