Sense and Sensibility [1995]

Emma Thompson scores a double bull's-eye with this marvelous adaptation of Jane Austen's novel. Not only does Thompson turn in a strong (and gently humorous) performance as one of the Dashwood sisters--the one with "sense"--she also wrote the witty, wise screenplay. Austen's tale of 19th-century manners and morals provides a large cast with a feast of possibilities, notably Kate Winslet, in her pre-Titanic flowering, as Thompson's deeply romantic sister. Winslet attracts the wooing of shy Alan Rickman (a nice change of pace from his bad-guy roles) and dashing Greg Wise, while Thompson must endure an incredibly roundabout courtship with Hugh Grant, here in fine and funny form. All of this is doled out with the usual eye-filling English countryside and handsome costumes, yet the film always seems to be about the careful interior lives of its characters. The director, an inspired choice, is Taiwan-born Ang Lee, who brings the same exquisite taste and discreet touch he displayed in his previous Asian films (such as Eat Drink Man Woman). Thompson's script won an Oscar, and 1995 was a fine year for Jane Austen all around: Persuasion was made into an excellent picture, and Emma became the spritzy high school comedy Clueless. --Robert Horton

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Elinor Dashwood:
Marianne suffers cruelly. What breaks my heart most is how hard she tries to justify Mr Willoughby. But you know her disposition.

Colonel Brandon:
Miss Dashwood, would you allow me to relate to you some circumstances, which nothing but an honest desire to ease your sister's suffering...

Elinor Dashwood:
You have something to tell me of Mr. Willoughby.

Colonel Brandon:
When I quitted Barton last... no, I must go further back. No doubt... no doubt Mrs. Jennings has apprised you of certain events in my past. The sad outcome of my connection with a young woman named Eliza. What is not commonly known is that twenty years ago, Eliza bore an illegitimate child, the father, whoever he was, abandoned them. As she lay dying, Eliza begged me to look after the child. I had failed Eliza in every other way, I could not refuse her now. I took the child - Beth is her name - and placed her with a family in the country where I could be sure she would be well looked after. I saw her whenever I could. But she grew up so headstrong, and God forgive me, I indulged her. I allowed her too much freedom. A year ago, she disappeared.

Elinor Dashwood:
Disappeared?

Colonel Brandon:
I instigated a search, but for eight months I was left to imagine the worst. Finally, on the day of the Delaford picnic, I received the first news of her. She was with child, and the blackguard who had left her with no hint of his whereabouts...

Elinor Dashwood:
Good God... do you mean Willoughby?

Colonel Brandon:
Before I could return to confront him, Lady Allen had learned of his conduct and turned him from the house. He fled to London.

Elinor Dashwood:
Yes, he left us that morning without any explanation.

Colonel Brandon:
Lady Allen had annulled his legacy, he was left with next to nothing and in danger of losing Combe Magna and all the money that remained to his debtors.

Elinor Dashwood:
So he abandoned Marianne for Miss Grey and her fifty thousand pounds.

Elinor Dashwood:
Is Beth still in town?

Colonel Brandon:
She has chosen to return to the country for her confinement. I would not have burdened you with this, Miss Dashwood, had I not in my heart believed that it would, in time, lessen your sister's suffering.

Colonel Brandon:
I have described Mr. Willoughby as the worst of libertines. But I have since learned from Lady Allen that he did mean to propose that day. And so I cannot deny that his intentions towards Marianne were honourable, and I feel certain that he would have married her. Had it not been...

Elinor Dashwood:
For the money.

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