The APAHM Project Day 24: Sense and Sensibility
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Film: Sense and Sensibility
Director: Ang Lee
Where to watch: Available to rent or buy on all major platforms.
Why it made the list:
It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen this film, way before I was passionate about feminism or filmmaking. Never knowing it was directed by Lee, I decided to include it in the list as an unexpected treat that, instead of focusing on Asian American actors or characters, followed charming sisters in an English-based period piece. The result is a very entertaining and fun watch, with a great cast and superb acting and directing.
I am really thankful I thought to revisit this movie. Now older, I feel like I, one, followed the movie a lot better, and two, understood its themes better too. Emma Thompson’s screenplay (which was her first and made her the only person to win an acting and writing Oscar), feels relatable and modern for a 1995 film and even still 25 years later. It’s also extremely comedic, I think period pieces get a reputation for being stuffy and dramatic but Thompson’s is really refreshing and even though it deals with some outdated ways of thinking (marrying a man for his financial status and title) it did so with a kind of humor to it. In the South, it’s really common for people to get married at a relatively young age. In fact if you’re still unmarried by your mid-twenties, some might consider you an “old maid.” But in “Sense and Sensibility”, all these women want is to get married to impressive gentlemen to save them from destitution, but it doesn’t come off as some sort of princess just waiting around for their princes to come. It reminds us that love comes when you least expect it, it can overcome obstacles in ways you didn’t even think. And that you can love someone at any age, whether young like Marianne or older like Elinor.
This was also Ang Lee’s first film outside of Asia. According to my buddy Wiki, there was a bit of culture clash between him and the cast and crew. However, his methods seem really interesting, such as encouraging Thompson and Winslet to live together to grow a sister bond, and doing group tai chi. Just reading about how Lee handled the script and the decisions he made as a director, especially admitting to not knowing much about Jane Austen or England, really sparked some ideas on how I as a director can help get the best performances out of a cast and knowing what best serves the story.
The whole tale of how this film came to be was really inspiring. I highly suggest reading the Wiki page in its entirety for this one. I think that it’s one that I will want to revisit more now that I have seen it again with a fresh pair of eyes. It also makes me want to rewatch the 2019 adaptation of “Little Women.” I couldn’t help but see similarities in the girls’ personalities and also the way the movie was filmed. Lee and Gerwig both use interesting one-shot takes and both stories are so character driven.
Does it deserve to stay on this list?
I think the film’s success shows how great of a director Lee is and how great of a writer Thompson is. Although Lee had to find his footing in a new environment and where the film industry differs, he did a fantastic job and found compromise. He was snubbed for a Best Director Oscar nom, which critics took as a racist move towards Asians and Asian film. Of course we know Lee goes on to win quite a few Oscars, but I think this nomination would had been well-deserved. He didn’t let the snub or the culture clash get in the way of him expanding into more non-Asian films. Although this film was a surprise for the list, I feel like it’s still a great film to watch.