Saturday, March 17, 2012

Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility

Emma Thompson received another (her third) Oscar nomination for playing another woman destined to become a spinster, this time in the adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, Sense and Sensibility. Emma's chances of winning are the hardest to speculate about. She was a sure thing in Best Adapted Screenplay but in Best Actress, I suppose nobody had a chance of winning. People decided to vote for Emma in Adapted Screenplay, therefore I don't think they picked her in Actress. However, the fact that Emma's movie was the only Best Picture contender might have given her the edge over Meryl.

Although Sense and Sensibility is not the best movie ever made (not even the best from that year), it's so beautifully made in every possible way. First of all, it had a wonderful, flawless adaptation for which Emma Thompson much deservedly won the Oscar: it's so full of subtle emotions and humor, the dialogues, the scenes are so brilliantly written that it's extremely hard to believe that it was Emma's first time as a screenwriter for a feature film. Moreover, Ang Lee's direction is just as excellent and it was robbed of the nomination (his movies are so underrated by the Academy in terms of wins). And I haven't even mentioned the wonderful technical part and the excellent performances (including Wonder Woman Winslet who deserved an Oscar for this work of hers).

I don't know if I have told you this but I so love everything about Emma Thompson: her subtle acting style, her wonderful, terrific, killer sense of humor (her Golden Globe speech for this movie is the best I've ever heard, no contest). Although her performances may not cover a truly wide range, I always enjoy them and I feel sympathy for the characters she plays wheter they be depressed writers, depressed and/or hopeless spinsters or the angel of America. 

Elinor Dashwood is the spinster of the Dashwood family. She's composed, responsible, kind and extremely repressed. She's typically the one who suffers because of the others but has to keep a straight face for the sake of them. It's important to notice this time that Emma also served as a screewriter in this film since it truly influenced the way this woman was portrayed. Most actors writing their parts always write the most most spectacular and showy roles for themselves (if they play the lead), however, Emma (very much like Great Glenn in Albert Nobbs) cared about remaining faithful to the concept of the character instead of writing herself a true showcase as an actress. For this, I'll forever admire her but in the end, this loyalty is the thing that prevents her from giving a truly knockout performance. 

Not that I'm implying that Emma is not great in this movie - she is indeed great in every possible way. She's doing her usual stuff and uses the same tricks all over again and yet her work remains just as fresh and impressive as her previous efforts. Moreover, despite being quite an unshowy part, Elinor Dashwood is far and away the most interesting character for me from the movie. In the stories with three sisters, it's always the oldest sister, the "spinster" whose fate truly captivates me: we can mention Diane Keaton's Lenny from Crimes of the Heart or Chekhov's heroine Olga from Three Sisters (Hannah and her Sisters is the odd one out, I guess, never you mind LOL). Although that extremely tragic edge of those characters is not emphasised by Emma as much as I would like it, she still wonderfully shows this aspect of Elinor. 

I was impressed by the way Emma portrayed Elinor's dignity and how she showed her in the scenes with the girl, Lucy who's secretly engaged to Elinor's true love. I really wish that Elinor had just bitch-slapped the girl (though this is not a soap from the 1980s, it's a soap romantic story from the Victorian era) but Emma wonderfully suggests that it's not Elinor's style. 

Hugh Grants's Edward is quite probably the lamest, clumsiest and most boring guy that's ever been fallen in love with in any story but Emma makes us understand why Elinor fell for her so much. Their chemistry (or is it more proper to say lack of chemistry in the case of these two characters?) is just excellent. I'm not suggesting that their tempestuous love affair sets the screen on fire but they look just fine together. 

With such a character, you would expect to see her break out of her shell and even though that doesn't happen here in a traditional sense, I can see the development in Elinor. She gradually learns how to care more about herself and be little bit more selfish, while she also remains loyal to her old life. Her most memorable scene (for me) came when she was taking care of her ill sister and was crying by the bed. That scene was as moving as it gets and I give nothing but praise for it.

But there are points when her emotions come to the surface and even then, Emma is able to remain as subtle as she was previously. Although we get an insight to Elinor's pain, suffering and bitterness, I wish Emma had done a little bit more. I approve of subtlety but Emma could have moved one step forward to being even more emotional and yet remaining just as subtle. That one step, which cleary would have made her truly amazing here, was clearly missing from this performance eventually and I couldn't help feeling bitter in the end. 

Still, I was quite impressed by Emma Thompson's work and I feel she richly deserved the Oscar - for writing. Her contributions to the movie as a screenwriter are much significant than what she gave here as an actress. However, it would be clearly unfair from me not to emphasise how much I liked her acting as well and how connected I felt to her character. She didn't get the showiest part, that's for sure, but her talent shines even with such circumstances. She's moving and effective without a doubt and for this she gets

What do you think? Stay tuned for The Final Conclusion (which won't be that much of a nailbiter, I'm sure). 


Anonymous said...

I think that Emma, Alan Rickman, and Kate Winslet were great in Sense and Sensibility.


dinasztie said...

Yes, Rickman was quite great.

JC said...

Very nice review of her work.

Movie was indeed a classic. Thompson was very good, not great, but is so appropriate to the movie. In a 5-satr rating, I'd give her a 3.

BTW, I can't seem to find Meryl's profile. =)