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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's nothing really objectionable for younger kids in Sense and Sensibility, but the plot may be too sophisticated for them to follow, and the film features some emotional intensity. Characters drink wine at dinner and on social occasions; during one dinner, an older couple drinks wine and acts intoxicated as they giggle and gossip and make jokes at the expense of one of the characters. There also are tame discussions of characters who leave town when their lovers become pregnant. In one scene, a female dog is referred to as a "bitch."
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What's the story?
Directed by Ang Lee, Emma Thompson's adaptation of the Jane Austen novel follows the Dashwood sisters as they try to redeem a lost fortune by marrying well and end up finding love. Sensible Elinor and sensuous Marianne are left impoverished after their father's death because the law awards their estate to a half-brother. They retreat to a little cottage by the sea and hope to marry well. This is a trying task, however, since Elinor (Emma Thompson) falls for a young man who is previously engaged, and Marianne (Kate Winslet) is literally swept off her feet by a handsome rogue. Despite their marked temperamental differences, Marianne and Elinor are devoted to one another. As they find love, lose it, and find it again, sentimental Marianne learns the value of restraint, and sensible Elinor discovers that composure melts in passion's flame. And, as in many Austen novels, the sisters are plagued by gossipy neighbors and selfish in-laws, but through it all they manage to handle challenges with grace and humor.
Is it any good?
What makes this adaptation so endearing is its loving depiction of the Dashwood family as a high-spirited and supportive clan. Sense and Sensibility shows how women in upper-class Georgian England, though privileged, had relatively few choices in life. The beautiful, humorous movie creates a buzz of excitement around the Dashwood sisters' romantic intrigue. Some of the characters you'll love to hate (the Dashwoods' horrible sister-in-law and gloating Miss Steele), and others you'll absolutely adore (little Margaret Dashwood, the future pirate).
Romantics and anyone with a penchant for Jane Austen will have a ball with this film. For many fans, this a favorite to be watched repeatedly. For them, the movie strikes the same wistful chord as the blockbuster Titanic, and it even ends happily!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why "costume dramas," such as Sense and Sensibility, are popular. Did you enjoy seeing how people once lived, dressed, and interacted? Do you think all people living in Georgian England enjoyed such clothes, balls, servants, and wealth? Why aren't more films about the far more numerous common people of the time? This also may be a good time for parents to introduce Austen's books to their tweens and teens.
What do you see as the challenges of adapting a Jane Austen novel into a film?
How are the values of the time conveyed in this movie, and how are they similar to and different from contemporary values, in terms of love, money, and family?
- In theaters: January 1, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: September 25, 2004
- Cast: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet
- Director: Ang Lee
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 136 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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