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Sense and Sensibility (1995) – DVD Review

Sense and Sensibility DVD Book Edition


Written by Emma Thompson, based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Ang Lee
Starring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Emilie François, Hugh Grant, Tom Wilkinson, Hugh Laurie, and James Fleet


  • Running audio commentary with Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran
  • Running audio commentary with director Lee and co-producer James Schamus
  • Video of Thompson’s Golden Globe acceptance speech
  • Deleted scenes
  • The original novel

Released by: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Rating: PG
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it…unless you already do.

[ad#longpost]The Dashwood family is a bit out of sorts. Mr. Dashwood (Wilkinson) has passed away and left his wife (Jones) and three daughters, Elinor (Thompson), Marianne (Winslet), and Margaret (François) with very little money and no real security for their livelihood. The family’s only hope is to marry one of the daughters off to a rich young suitor, but with very little money for a dowry, their hopes look quite slim.

Even though the movie was released ten years ago, it still remains one of the best adaptations of an Austen novel to date. Thompson’s adaptation is, admittedly, not a purist adaptation of the novel to screen, but it captures the very essence of the book and that makes the transformation absolutely perfect. The superb cast of the top British actors of the day is expertly directed by the unlikely Ang Lee (who, if you recall, at the time had just made a relatively significant indie impact stateside with Eat Drink Man Woman. It balances the perfect blend of hilarious comedy and stunning Georgian melodrama with uncanny ease. The beauty of it is that you can’t pin this perfection down to one person. The cast is a perfect ensemble and the director doesn’t try to put his directoral “signature” anywhere on the film. If anything, Lee succeeded in being nearly invisible on this film.

The DVD is quaint, but excellent. There are two commentary tracks featured on this disc; one with actor/writer Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran and one with Lee and co-producer James Schamus. The commentary track with Thompson is absolutely priceless. Just to let you know what you’re in for, it starts out with Thompson complaining about what a hard day it was shooting the Columbia logo (for those of you out of the loop, Thompson bares a striking resemblance to the Columbia lady) and then it just bounces all over the place from there. Thompson at times waxes philosophic about Austen’s novel and other times, she’s providing an MST3K-style parody of it with little bits of inside information thrown in just for good measure. In case you were wondering, this is what recording a commentary track is all about. It’s informative and entertaining all at the same time. The commentary with Lee is not any less informative, but it is no way as entertaining. Still, it’s worth sitting through. Unfortunately, the deleted scenes add nothing to the value of this DVD other than seeing what pieces of amazing performances get left on the cutting room floor.

The crown jewel of this DVD is Thompson’s Golden Globe Acceptance speech. She wrote her speech as though Austen was looking down on Thompson’s adaptation of her novel and writing a letter of measured approval. Classic Thompson writing and performance: not to be missed.

This collection is set apart from others in that it includes a copy of Austen’s novel in the packaging. However, this book was shabbily published by the geniuses at Columbia-TriStar. It’s presented in a mediocre binding with a very bland and uninteresting cover. I have to give them a bit of credit, though, for the idea behind this. I’m sure someone said it would be a great idea to package a novel with the DVD release of the movie on which it was based. However, it would have been a better idea to pair that idea with another release of the DVD with some more features added to it. Perhaps an interactive comparison between the novel and the screenplay? I’m sure that Thompson would have happily turned over some of her handwritten notes that were taken during her adaptation. Instead, all we get is the same DVD that has been out forever along with a copy of the novel. It almost feels like they were hoping that unwitting fans of the movie would buy this hoping for a new release of the DVD without actually reading the back cover to see that it’s just a shabby repackaging job.

So unless you already own a copy of this movie and have a copy of the novel on your shelf, you can pass this one by and be happy with the world as it is. However, if you fall into neither of the above categories, I suggest picking this one up.