Jarrod Emerson’s Tribute to Alan Rickman
Part 2: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995)
“John Dashwood” (James Fleet) made a promise to his ailing “Father” (Tom Wilkinson) that as rightful heir, he would make sure his stepmother “Mrs. Dashwood” (Gemma Jones) and her daughters “Elinor” (Emma Thompson), “Marianne” (Kate Winslet) and “Margaret” (Emille Francois) are financially stable. However, the weak-willed John’s greedy and icy wife “Fanny” (Harriet Walter) convinces him not to, resulting in financial destitution for the Dashwood women. Luckily, a distant relative “Sir John Middleton” (Robert Hardy) offers the four women accommodation at a cottage on his estate. With the uncertainty of their futures, eldest sisters Elinor and Marianne both seek to marry into monetary stability, but also long for true love, as each pursues it very differently.
While I’m no authority on Jane Austen, this acclaimed adaptation is easily the best of the few I have seen. Directed by the ever-versatile Ang Lee, Sense and Sensibility benefits greatly from it’s well written, Academy-Award winning screenplay by star Emma Thompson. Thompson knows how to retain the spirit of Jane Austen, while making the film accessible to modern audiences. The core of the story is the love lives of Elinor and Mariane. Thompson and a pre-Titanic Kate Winslet both do wonderful jobs with their roles, as the two sisters with two vastly different approaches to life and love. Elinor is the cautious, logical and practical, while Marianne is theatrical, impulsive and a hopeless romantic.
Enter Alan Rickman as “Colonel Christopher Brandon”, an old friend of Middleton’s with whom the Dashwoods quickly become close. The complete antithesis to Rickman’s frequent villainous turns, this role sees the actor at his most subdued. Colonel Brandon is a seasoned, humble and kind man, who quickly becomes attracted to Marianne, illustrated in his wonderful entrance scene in which he hears her play the piano. However, Marianne initially takes little interest in him due to his somewhat advanced age, and bachelor status, thinking him past his prime. Instead she encourages the attentions of the younger, seemingly devoted Willoughby. However, it is the Colonel who looks after the Dashwoods, invites them to his estate and offers help in anyway he can during a time of crisis. Rickman very convincingly gives us a jaded, but empathetic man despite his painful past.
Other impressive turns include Hugh Grant as Elinor’s potential suitor Edward Ferrars, Harriet Walter as the sniveling Fanny and an amusing appearance by Dr. House himself, Hugh Laurie. Exceptionally written, directed and acted, Sense and Sensibility is one of the finest silver screen period pieces ever produced .