TBT: Sense & Sensibility (1995): Elinor

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The 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen‘s Sense and Sensibility is, for me, one of the ultimate frock flicks. It’s one of a spate of films from the 1990s that made a strong attempt to achieve period accuracy. Its screenplay was thoughtfully adapted by Emma Thompson, and it was directed with care by Ang Lee. The performances — by Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and more — are strong and pretty much everyone is well cast. Now, I will say I saw the film before reading the original novel, so Austen purists may have more bones to pick than I do. But for me, Sense and Sensibility is a film that feels like real life, with achievable heroines, small-scale drama, and an unassuming air that conveys what life could have been like in Regency England. I can’t count just how many times I’ve watched the film, and I’ve read Emma Thompson’s published screenplay and filming diaries several times. I no longer own the DVD, but when I did, I loved watching the film with Emma Thompson’s audio commentary (is that available anywhere for streaming? Someone let us all know, because it’s that good).

I’ve put off doing a real, thorough review of this film because while it’s not the flashiest, it’s so pivotal to me. So I’ve finally decided to break things up, looking at each main character individually, as well as some of the supporting characters in groups. Throughout, I’ll try to weave in both information about what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, as well as comparisons to real fashions of the era. I hope this will do justice to this wonderful film!

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1995 Sense & Sensibility

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

8 Responses

  1. Roxana

    Ruskin later tried to marry another teenager suggesting he may have been an ephebephile, attracted to pubescents. The parents wrote to Effie and on her advice broke off the engagement.
    At least poor Effie got a happy ending with Millais.

    Reply
  2. Kristina

    “…pretty much everyone is well cast.”

    Really? I get that these are mostly well-liked actors, but their ages are all over the place. Elinor and Marianne are supposed to be only a couple of years apart, not 16. Brandon is supposed to be around 18 years older than Marianne, not 30. In this movie, the actor playing Mr. Henry Dashwood (the dying man) is not much older than the actor playing John Dashwood.

    The costuming is not terrible, and is much better than we see in a lot of Austen adaptations, but there are plenty of problems: the bust silouettes of Thompson and Winslet are off, Thompson’s hair twists and bangs are off, Rickman’s hairdo and dye job are wrong, the colors are off (in the early Regency, there were a LOT more white gowns than we see here), Thompson is wearing obvious eyeshadow, etc.

    Reply
  3. Kady Bourn

    Kendra, I absolutely love your commentary about this version of “Sense and Sensibility.” I think this might have been the film that ignited my love for all things Austen. I, too, watched before reading the book. I had tried to get through “Pride and Prejudice” in high school, and got bogged down in the idiocy of Elizabeth taking a turn around the drawing room with one of the awful sisters. I didn’t understand that Elizabeth also thought that was a pretty idiotic activity too. I had read “Persuasion” in college as part of a grad-level history class where we explored whether the new concepts of womanhood (just before the Victorian era) were something that women embraced or whether that was thrust upon women. But “Sense and Sensibility” stirred my heart. My favorite Alan Rickman role. I once had a potential romantic interest (didn’t pan out) who flirted with me by calling me “Elinor Dashwood.” I mean, be still my heart!

    Reply
  4. Lily Lotus Rose

    Ditto to Kendra and Kady. This movie was one of my early entrees into Austen from the (mostly) halcyon days of 90s adaptations. Like both of you, I saw the movie before reading the book and thus retroactively forgave any tweaks to the story. (In fact my first set of Austen books was a Sense and Sensibility movie tie-in 4-pack of S and S, P and P, Emma, and Persuasion. I still have those yellowing and falling apart books on shelf, and they are greatly cherished.) In my view the movie gets top marks all around, especially the cast–which was phenomenal! Can’t wait until I can become a Patreon supporter and get access to even more amazing content!

    Reply
  5. Frannie Germeshausen

    “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.” Swoon. Still missing Alan Rickman.

    Reply

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