Thursday, 19 May 2011

Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona, 2008

Movie poster courtesy of Media Pro/Wild Bunch Studio

After  seeing Woody Allen’s 2005 film, Match Point, which I felt sure a masterpiece, I’ve become a reluctant fan of Mr. Allen.  I’ve tried to be a fan before, but, well, there was that off-putting scandal in his personal life and I’ve often felt I just didn’t “get” his movies.  However, I’m impressed with and enjoyed Vicky Christina Barcelona in much the same way I was impressed with Match Point, and  I find myself looking forward to his new films.

Mr. Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona  has cast three of the most gorgeous people on the planet—Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson—and has set his story in one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Barcelona, Spain.  As with many of his films, he examines the notion of love and the complexities of romantic relationships and is dialogue-driven.  Mr. Allen seems to develop interests in actresses and uses them again and again in his films, much in the way he did with his long-time lover, Mia Farrow.  In Vicky Christina Barcelona, his crush seems to be with Scarlett Johansson as she was also cast in Allen’s 2005 film, Match Point and his 2006 film, Scoop.

Vicky Christina Barcelona is the story of two young women, Vicky and Christina, played by Hall and Johansson, respectively, and their summer spent in Barcelona, Spain.  The two women are long-time friends but both have different desires in love: Vicky seeks devotion and security in marriage while Christina longs for love that she is unable to define, but is always on the lookout  for.  The story chronicles what happens to the two women and their ideas of love after they meet two Spanish artists, Juan Antonio, played by Javier Bardem, and his ex-wife, María Elena, played by Penélope Cruz.

Johansson and Hall were fine in their roles and I particularly enjoyed the sassy banter of Hall’s character, Vicky.  I’m a huge fan of Ms. Cruz and am happy to watch her act in anything, but I particularly enjoyed her performance as the fiery, unpredictable  María Elena.  It was great fun to watch her lose her temper while spouting off obscenities in Spanish!

If I have one disappointment with the film, it is with the performance of Javier Bardem.  In saying this, I loudly proclaim Mr. Bardem one of my favorite actors living today and find him perfectly capable—beyond capable--as an actor.  However, I couldn’t quite feel that Mr. Bardem inhabited this role: he seemed aloof and detached and, well, inebriated most of the time.  Perhaps this was Allen’s vision for the character, but I didn’t find him quite as dreamy as I was hoping.

In addition to his stars, Mr. Allen also cast witty, intelligent actors in Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn, and Chris Messina, all who take marvelous turns and are fun to watch—especially Ms. Clarkson.

The Spanish music in this film is simply gorgeous—especially the selections featuring Spanish guitar!  And the narration by Christopher Even Welch kept me smiling throughout.

Mr. Allen both wrote and directed Vicky Christina Barcelona and the film was produced by Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Gareth Wiley. The film earned several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical and Ms. Cruz’s performance won several awards for Best Supporting Actress.

I recommend this film if you’re a fan of Allen, the actors, or Spain! Mr. Allen’s
Vicky Christina Barcelona showcases beautiful people, in a beautiful place, listening to beautiful music, and saying beautiful things—well, sometimes saying beautiful things!  The film is simply gorgeous!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways, 2010

Movie poster courtesy of Apparition
In 1975, Joan Jett formed an all-girl rock band, the Runaways, in Hollywood, California and the band’s brief three year run influenced later generations of rock and roll musicians and paved the way for women in rock.  Floria Sigismondi’s film, The Runaways, chronicles the story of the major players in the band’s original line-up: Joan Jett, played by Kristen Stewart, and Cheri Currie, played by Dakota Fanning.

Original band mates Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were actively involved in making the film. In fact, the film is based on Currie’s memoir recounting of her life with the band:  Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway.  Joan Jett served as a producer of the film along with  Bill Pohlad, Art and John Linson, and Kenny Laguna.  Floria Sigismondi wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

The film opens with Joan Jett and her pursuit to play electric guitar “in a man’s world of music” and her meeting Kim Fowley, the infamous record producer, who would navigate the Runaways into fame and rock and roll history.  Early in the film, we see how Jett and Fowley recruited the very young Cheri Currie to front the band.  The band quickly rises to fame and the film follows the shooting-star projection of a limited run in the flashy chaotic lifestyle of rock and roll fame.

Kristen Stewart, of the Twilight franchise fame, is cast as Joan Jett, who would later front the band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  Stewart does a fine turn as Jett.  Dakota Fanning is cast as Cheri Currie, the original singer for the Runaways, in a gritty and very grown-up performance when contrasted to what we’ve seen Fanning in before.  Michael Shannon is cast as the extraordinarily creepy Kim Fowley and makes us fear for the well-being of all young women everywhere.  If you can get over how truly creepy his character is, Shannon’s performance is fun to watch.

Tatum O’Neal does a surprising turn as Cheri Currie’s mother—so surprising that she escaped my notice on my first viewing and I watched the film a second time just to catch O’Neal in her role.

The film is difficult to watch, probably due to the exposure of the very young women to the rock and roll lifestyle. Cheri Currie was only fifteen years old when recruited for the band.  I repeat, she was fifteen years old and toured the USA and Japan in a rock band.  The film accurately captures the mood of the pre-punk rock days in the 1970s and the dark, risqué nightclubs the girls frequented.  It’s also difficult to watch the characters using drugs at such a young age.

The film is a rock and roll drama, but interestingly, music isn’t featured as much as one would expect.  Both Stewart and Fanning performed music for the film but the soundtrack also features tracks from the actual Runaways as well as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  The film focuses on the relationship that develops between Joan Jett and Cherie Currie.

I was interested in seeing the film because, although I missed the Runaways as a fan (I was still too young in their 1970s hey-day), I did grow up watching Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Lita Ford on MTV.  Seeing the film has inspired my interest in the Runaways as a band and in Ms. Currie’s book, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway.

The film has been criticized for an underwritten script and a focus on Currie rather than Jett and you can’t help but feel that a sharper focus on Jett may have put the sparkle on the film that it seems to be missing.

I recommend the film if you’re a fan of the actresses, the band, or the history of rock and roll--but be warned: it’s a gritty, dirty, uncomfortable ride!

Ryan Murphy’s Eat, Pray, Love, 2010

Movie poster courtesy of Plan B Entertainment/Sony Pictures
When Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love was published in 2003, it became an international best seller.  A memoir, Gilbert tells her story of a spiritual quest that took her to three exotic locations: Italy, India, and Indonesia.  Gilbert traveled to and spent some time in each of the locations as she recovered from the aftermath of a devastating divorce.  The film version of Gilbert’s story was released in 2010 starring Julia Roberts, as Gilbert, and Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, James Franco, and Billy Crudup in other title roles.

I am a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert as a writer and was fascinated by her portrait of Eustace Conway in her 2003 book, The Last American Man.  When her book, Eat, Pray, Love came out in 2006, because I was already a fan, I was eager to read it.

I enjoyed Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love very much and was deeply moved by her accounts of the heartbreak experienced at the loss of her marriage and the resulting quest to rediscover the truth of her life.  In the book, the quest is very much of a spiritual nature, a fact that isn’t as strongly emphasized in the film.  Another point that isn’t emphasized in the film: the film portrays Gilbert as seemingly inspired by this trip all on her own, while in fact, Gilbert had negotiated a book deal with her publisher to finance her year abroad.  While I do not question the spiritual nature of Gilbert’s journey, I can’t help but feel she was as interested in selling a book as well.

Gilbert’s year-long quest to self-discovery and healing had her residing for several months in Italy, to learn the Italian language and enjoy wonderful Italian food; and then another few months  in India, to study the teachings of a guru in an Hindu ashram; and then finally to Indonesia, to study under a Balinese medicine man.

Ryan Murphy directed the film and co-wrote the screen-play with Jennifer Salt.  Ryan Murphy has another feature film under his direction, Running with Scissors, and he has also directed TV shows, including Glee.  I wonder how differently the film would have come out if Elizabeth Gilbert had adapted her own book for the big-screen rather than someone else.

Julia Roberts is cast as Elizabeth Gilbert and seems a likely choice: Ms. Roberts is an exceptionally capable actress that has an impressive body of work to her credit.  And while Roberts more than rises to the task of reaching the emotional peaks required of the role, I couldn’t help but feel her casting choice was a bit off the mark.  I found myself wondering if Nicole Kidman might have been a better choice. 

Javier Bardem, on the other hand, is an excellent choice to play Gilbert’s Brazilian lover, Felipe, although his casting has been criticized because he is a Spanish actor.  Bardem, while certainly easy on the eyes, did an excellent job of portraying the emotionally caring and sensitive Felipe. 

Richard Jenkins, also an excellent actor, was also a bit of a casting disappointment for me as well.  In the book, I had imagined the “Richard from Texas” as Sam Elliot-type of character, albeit a 250-pound Sam Elliot type.  Also, in the book, I had a sense that the banter between Gilbert and “Richard from Texas” was more of a teasing and playful kind, rather than the aggressive and confrontational type portrayed between Roberts and Jenkins in the film.  Granted, Gilbert was often exasperated by her relationship with “Richard from Texas” in the book, but again, in the book I felt their relationship warmer, kinder, and more playful.

The film is certainly luscious in its landscapes: the film is, after all, set in beautiful, exotic locations full of Balinese rice paddies and beach scenes to the ancient art and architecture of Italy and the mystique of India.  The film is also beautifully scored and the song selections are spot-on:  I will own this soundtrack.

As previously mentioned, in the book, the reader has a better sense of Ms. Gilbert’s journey as spiritual in nature.  However, in the film, her quest seems to be more about seeking pleasure and new love, although admittedly, it is certainly a more intriguing cinematic adventure to be searching for romance and pleasure than spiritual fulfillment.  In the book and in the film, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness at the end: I was hoping her spiritual quest would provide a different ending for her story; however, instead, both in the book and in the film, we find her embarking upon the same familiar path yet again.

Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, 2009

Movie poster courtesy of Spyglass Entertainment, Revelations Entertainment, Malpaso Productions, and Warner Bros. Pictures

I’m not a fan of westerns, war movies, or sports dramas, but in the last decade or so, Clint Eastwood has become one of my favorite actors and directors.   He won my heart forever with his 1995 film, The Bridges of Madison County (Well, ok, I’m a sucker for tragic love stories!) and I was practically bowled over with his 2004 film, Million Dollar Baby.   I eagerly await new films from Eastwood because I want to be awed at what he does next.  Eastwood doesn’t flinch from the grim realities of life and because he also forces us to see these grim realities, his films are sometimes difficult to watch, but always compelling!

In 2009, he made a film about Nelson Mandela’s campaign to win the World Cup Rugby match in 1995.  I was particularly interested in this film, because at the time I was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa.  As a new volunteer, I was deeply interested in South African history and of course was interested in all things Nelson Mandela.  Furthermore, South Africa was in the midst of another World Cup frenzy, as the nation would be hosting the World Cup Soccer Match in 2010.

I couldn’t wait to see Invictus and read the book on which the film is based in the meantime, John Carlin's Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation.

Nelson Mandela was and is a brilliant political strategist and he attempted to heal the racial tensions remaining in the newly-established, post-apartheid South African democracy by rallying the nation to support the predominantly white South African rugby team, the Springboks, in their bid for the Rugby World Cup in 1995.  For Mandela, this attempt at unifying his country in this fashion was extremely controversial: the Springboks had, for many years, represented the brutality of the apartheid government.  Most of Mandela’s South Africa—black South Africans—where shocked and angered at Mandela’s request for his nation—black South Africans--to rally for this team they had historically despised.

Eastwood’s film attempts to capture the drama of this historical event and showcases the talent of actor Morgan Freeman, who plays Nelson Mandela.  Freeman, in addition to starring in the film, also produced it.

I enjoyed Morgan Freeman’s performance of  Nelson Mandela very much and truthfully can’t imagine anyone else handling the role.  Freeman beautifully captures Mandela’s strength and determination at unifying his nation by insisting that the “forgiveness begins here” –within his  administration and among his staff.  Freeman also had me laughing out loud at several gentle comedic moments in the film.

Matt Damon was cast as the Springbok’s team captain at that time,Francoise Pienaar. Damon’s casting choice has been criticized and I admit, he doesn’t seem quite right for the role, but I can’t imagine anyone else better to play him.  Perhaps a beefy Brad Pitt?  I thought Damon had the quiet strength and determination that Pienaar surely exhibited in leading his team in 1995.  What is most obvious in the film is Damon’s physique in comparison to his rugby-playing teammates: Damon is an American actor while true South African rugby players were cast as his teammates.  Rugby players, in every sense of the word, are giants and Damon does seem remarkably smaller in size when standing beside these guys.

I’m not a sports fan (sorry!) and most of the movie highlights the actual World Cup Rugby match.  I thought Eastwood did a great job of capturing the drama and excitement of the game—especially with the tense moments at the end of the game--when all of the rugby players were exhausted yet unrelenting in their final bids for the win.  Eastwood’s direction also captures what it must feel like to be inside the “scrum” of a rugby match.

However, in the end, I was ultimately disappointed in the film.  It came off a bit flat for me.  Perhaps my expectations of it were too high.  I noted too, that much of what Mandela did politically to posture the Springboks for the win was very controversial and politically brilliant, but the film does not quite portray the weight of Mandela’s gestures.  For example, we know from reading the book how significant it was for Mandela to wear the jersey and cap of the Springbok team at the final match and in front of the nation and the world, but in the film, this significance is lost.

An interesting note:  Watch for Eastwood’s son, cast  as a Springbok team member.  The family resemblance is amazing and it is fun to spot him.

Also, Eastwood closes his film with actual photographs of the Springbok team playing in 1995, so as a viewer, you see the actual players.  It was a touching way to close the film and fun to see the actual players.

The soundtrack for the film and music selections has been criticized but I thought the music captured the mood of the time and the historical significance of events quite nicely.  

The film is certainly worth seeing, if only for Freeman’s performance as Mandela.  Both Freeman and Damon were nominated for Academy Awards, for best actor and best supporting actor, respectively.  And, although a bit flat, Eastwood does deliver another fine film. 

Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right, 2010

Movie poster courtesy of Alliance Films/Focus Features

When The Kids Are All Right was released in July, 2010,  I was curious and excited about the movie because a) it was about a lesbian couple raising a family together and b) the film starred some A-list actors including Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.  Because well-made, main-stream films about alternative families are rare and because of the actors involved with the project, I felt sure the film would be spectacular. There was quite a bit of buzz about Annette Bening’s performance in particular.

The film would go on to be nominated for Academy Awards and won Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Actress for Benning.  I was sure I would love the movie and couldn’t wait to see it.

Well, I’ve seen it and am disheartened to report I didn’t like  it.  I’ve been brooding a bit for a few days trying to pinpoint why I didn’t like it, because I felt so sure I would.  The film is categorized as a comedy-drama, but I found little to laugh about in this film.

The film revolves around an upper-middle class lesbian couple and their children, one of who will be soon leaving for college.  We see straight away that the family is successful, the children well-adjusted, and the marriage between the women strong.  The film highlights how this family dynamic is affected when the daughter contacts the previously-anonymous “father” of the children: the man who contributed to the conception of both children by donating sperm years prior.  In the story, both women conceived a child each from the same man’s donation. 

The mothers are rattled by the betrayal of the children at contacting the man who contributed the sperm, “Why didn’t you tell us?”  This initial family betrayal sets the stage for the rest of the story.

Annette Bening plays Nic, the professional-half of the lesbian couple who supports the family as an obstetrician.  Nic is somewhat straight-laced and uptight.  Julianne Moore plays Jules, the other mother, a freer spirit who struggles with Nic’s high expectations of her.  The women’s relationship is challenged when Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo, the sperm donor  and therefore biological father of the children, is invited into the family fold at the request of the daughter played by Mia Wasikowska.

The film is meant to be a sympathetic portrayal of a “normal” family headed by a lesbian couple and the challenges they face as a family.  For the most part, I think the film beautifully showcases the “normality” of an alternative family arrangement.  However, I was somewhat put off by things I perceived as stereotypes about lesbian women; in particular, I was put off by the wardrobe choices for the Jules character and the depiction of lesbian sex between the women.  Also, I was uncomfortable observing the evolution of difficult relationship between the son of the family and a trouble-prone neighborhood boy.  Furthermore, I was uncomfortable watching one of the character’s indulge too heavily on alcohol.

The acting in this film is superb and Bening, as promised, more than delivers.  However, I was much more impressed with Bening’s performance in Sam Mendes’ 1999 film, American Beauty.  Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo are spot on, and I was impressed with the performance of Mia Wasikowska, an Australian actress that plays Joni, the daughter.  Perhaps another lesbian stereotype that irritated me was that the mothers would name their daughter in honor of Joni Mitchell.

The script co-written by Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko, who also directed. The story is  well-written and tight, but I couldn’t help feel a wanting at the end, that the story wasn’t quite resolved satisfactorily.

And perhaps this is why I didn’t care for the film: the story wasn’t tied up nicely in a pretty package, all nicely resolved at the end.  And perhaps the emotion in the film was a bit too raw and made me feel too  uncomfortable;  perhaps the reality of the film was a bit to gritty for my comfort-level; and perhaps the events facing the family a bit too close to home for me to enjoy.

However, I do recommend seeing this film because some of the most powerful films we ever see will be the ones that make us feel the most uncomfortable.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, 2010

Movie poster courtesy of See-Saw Films/Bedlam Productions
I’ve only now seen the 2010 British historical drama, The King’s Speech, and enjoyed it so much I watched it twice—and paid a fortune to do so!  Of course, it’s old news to you guys, as earlier this year the film won four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director for Tom Hooper, Best Actor for Colin Firth, and Best Screenplay for  David Seidler.

This film features the enormously talented Colin Firth, who deservedly won the
Academy Award for Best Actor,  but I have only this to say about the film: Geoffry Rush, Geoffry Rush, and Geoffry Rush!

I was introduced to Geoffry Rush’s enormously talented acting in his 1996 film, Shine, and have been a devoted fan since, but I delighted in every moment of Rush’s performance in The King’s Speech.  Rush’s acting in this film is simply flawless and The King’s Speech showcases his talents brilliantly.  Rush’s performance absolutely steals the show!

The King’s Speech dramatizes the story of  King George VI of England’s ascension to the throne after his brother Edward VIII abdicated his rule prior to the beginning of World War II.  Although based on historical facts, the film dramatizes the relationship that developed between the reluctant king, George VI, played by  Firth, and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Rush, hired to help the King overcome his embarrassing and un-king-like stammer.  The acting of both Firth and Rush is a delight to watch in the seeming sparring match as the men build a tenuous-at-first but ultimately a rich, lifelong relationship between a common man and a royal.

As with the 2006 film, The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, which depicts the lives of the royals in the wake of the tragedy of the death of Princess Diana, The King’s Speech beautifully allows us entry and an insider’s view into the lives of the royal family and what challenges they face as human beings, even though they are  under enormous pressure to rise above the thoughts, feelings, and reactions to events as contrasted to those of “the common man.”  Stories such as these make the families of the British monarchy more accessible to us all residing in the realm of the “common man.”

Also, since I’ve lived in the time of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it was great fun to see her portrayed as a child along with her sister, Princess Margaret, under the care of their royal parents.  And it was fun too, to see a more playful, witty side of the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, in her younger years played by the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter.

The story is based on true events but the historical facts are altered to increase the dramatic effect of the film.  In particular, the film has been criticized for the portrayal of Winston Churchill’s part in the abdication crisis.  In history, Churchill urged King Edward the VII to resist abdicating the throne, but in the film he supports the abdication.  It is also said the characters of King Edward and King George V were made more antagonistic than they actually were to increase the dramatic effects of the film as well.

I was delighted in the casting of this film: the roles seem tailor-made for every actor.  I can’t imagine anyone better to play the Queen Mother, Helena Bonham Carter, another fabulous actress and a favorite of mine, and Guy Pearce’s performance of King Edward VIII is delightfully wicked.  The casting choice of Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill has been criticized, but I found him fine in the role.  The more I see of Michael Gambon the more I like and he was a perfect choice to play the superbly strong but ultimately ailing King George V.

At first I was put off by the very dark and murky tone of Danny Cohen’s cinematography: the film seems washed in dark gray tones and I felt I was in a depressing cave the whole time viewing the film.  However, such cinematography wonderfully captures the mood and dreariness of nineteenth century England at the beginning of another World War as Hitler and Nazism came to power.  The costume designer Jenny Beaven was spot-on and it was fun to see the royals decked out in their impeccable clothes as contrasted to the attire of Logue and his family’s “commoner’s” fashion.

Again, I delighted in the film and felt a personal connection as I’ve lived in the time of the reign of the current Queen, Elizabeth II.  I loved an insider’s seat to the story of her mother and father and I found myself, a closeted anglophile, running to brush up on my British history as soon as I left the theater.  This film is a definite must-see if you missed it—and Geoffry Rush single-handedly steals the show!

Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Movie poster courtesy Columbia Pictures
Sense and Sensibility was a film released in 1995 starring Emma Thompson, a very young Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman.  The film is directed by Ang Lee and Emma Thompson wrote and won an Academy Award for the screenplay.

I love Ang Lee as a film director.  He is an absolutely amazing filmmaker and he won my heart forever with his Brokeback Mountain.  As a director, he simply adores landscapes and captures  scenery in a way that overwhelms his films with breathtaking beauty.  And as Sense and Sensibility is a period piece based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name, the setting is early nineteenth century England full its dramatic aristocratic residences, dramatic aristocratic gardens, and dramatic aristocratic ladies and gentlemen in their period costumes riding around in lovely horse-drawn carriages.  The film was shot in some of the most historic manors in all of England, including Saltram House, Compton Castle, and Trafalgar House. 

The story follows a family of women who have recently lost their husband/father and his fortune, which then by law falls to the distant son.  As a standard of the times, the women’s lives revolve around pursuing a marriage in the prosperous ranks and all of the worry and disappointments that go along with such a pursuit.  Lee’s drama follows Elinor Dashwood, played by Emma Thompson, and Marianne Dashwood, played by Kate Winslet, in their pursuits of love and marriage.  The sisters represent the “sense” and “sensibilities” of such endeavors: Elinor is the sensible one while Marianne is caught up in passion.  Austen’s novel, as does the film, critiques the inequalities of women’s rights at the time: women weren’t allowed to even earn an income.

For modern day audiences, both now and when the film was originally released in 1995, a period drama showcasing the early nineteenth century lifestyles of English aristocracy, revolving around manners, etiquette, and culture of a time and place we have no relation to, is quite a stretch.  In short, Americans are used to and demand quick paced stories set in current times with high-action and added special effects.  Can one endure two hours of characters bowing politely with lowered eyes before resuming their needle point?

The answer is a resounding yes, but only with Thomson’s top-notch writing and Lee’s superb directing.  Although Thompson herself plays the part of Elinor Dashwood, it is said Thompson wrote the screenplay with a much younger actress in mind—she had intended for Vanessa Redgrave’s’ daughters Natasha and Joely Richardson to play the parts of the sisters—and balked when Lee suggested Thompson play the character of Elinor, on the basis that she, Thompson, was too old.  However, Lee insisted and Thompson was cast, of course, and the rest is history.  Of course, Emma Thompson, the stellar actress that she is, does a wonderful turn with Elinor.  However, I could not help but wish for the casting to have matched Rickman and Thompson as  lovers and Grant and Winslet as a pair instead of the reverse.  Of course, my casting would have proven untrue to Austen’s novel but in Ang Lee’s film, the love interests seemed inauthentic and I feel would have played better with the switch.  Good thing I’m not Ang Lee, eh?

Greg Wise plays a wonderfully dashing scoundrel in John Willoughby that all but ruins Marianne, and it’s great fun to see performances of the  supporting cast including Tom Wilkinson (too-brief an appearance!), Hugh Laurie, and Jemma Jones.  Harriet Walter, as Fanny Ferrars Dashwood, and Elizabeth Spriggs, as Mrs. Jennings, are both a hoot!

The movie is lush valentine to nineteenth century England in landscapes, interiors, and manners and the acting is superb.  Do yourself a turn and seek out Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibilities and be sure to watch out for the “period” sheep!