Making the Grades
An early Jane Austen novel originally Sense And Sensibility has been given a screen overhaul by Emma Thompson, who fills the role of screenwriter and actress in this production. The story revolves around the three Dashwood daughters (Thompson plays Elinor, the oldest) and their widowed mother. All are left "pennyless," meaning they will have to cut back to only two servants and live in a "cottage" which would qualify for the cover of any home magazine.
Their financial plight is due to a law, which at that time in Britain, restricted inheritance of the family estate to the first son. Of course, this creates hard feelings in the family, but what makes the situation interesting is that these times demanded the utmost in social graces. Conversations are so formally polite that as an audience you yearn to have someone stand up and speak their mind.
This film provides an insightful look into Austen's life, and reveals her frustration with the plight of aristocratic women, as her characters desperately put in time waiting for men to waltz into their lives. However, even though Austen's view of women was ahead of her time, she still portrays servants as mere objects, remaining oblivious to the humanity of the hired help.
There is nothing in this film that should present a problem for parents. Elinor, as the lead character, does her best to hold true to confidences and promises she has made, even though her dedication to honesty is almost painful. These examples provide children with an interesting contrast to compare today's values. From a historical perspective, the fine detailing of sets and costumes is an education by itself.
If you are an admirer of Austen's works, this movie should do more than satisfy, however, for the merely curious, it may drag a little. The good news is even when the story is slow, the costumes, sets, and beautiful photography of the English countryside will hold your attention.