Be aware that this is the Original Script, not to be confused with the Shooting Script. This should be clear as soon as you beginning reading, because originally Thompson had the scene shifting back and forth between Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor/John and Fanny Dashwood (credit for this revision must go, I believe, to Film Editor Tim Squyres, who recut the scene so that we get all of one side and then the other instead of alternating back and forth as in the original script). Overall the strengths of Thompson's script are in two main directions. First, she manages to convey the scope of the novel in a two-hour screenplay, no mean task. Second, the little details she adds to Austen's story are simply marvelous. For example, her use of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 ("Let me not the marriage of true minds"), which Marianne and Willoughby share to their great mutual delight and which Marianne repeats standing in the rain looking at Willoughby's new estate. In fact, Thompson revised the first scene to make it even better, having Willoughby misquote a key word in an elegant bit of foreshadowing. Thompson also makes one nice little change at the end. While Austen has Elinor bolt from the room to cry outside during the happy ending. Thompson creates a wonderful moment by having her stay in the room and having the rest of her family flee. There are not too many scenes where you are crying and laughing at the same time, but Thompson certainly created one (and has the added virtue of relying on herself as an actress to nail the performance as well). All of these are marvelous examples of playing to the strength of the cinema to bring Austen's novel to the screen.
But we get much more than just the screenplay in this volume, because Thompson includes excerpts from her diaries kept during both the writing of the screenplay and the actual production of the film. It would be nice if there was more insight into what she was thinking when writing the screenplay as I am always interested in how decisions were made and where inspiration comes from, but Thompson makes up for that with her little tales of working with director Ang Lee and the rest of the cast in making the film. Finally, in the Appendices, there is a very choice little treat, namely Imogen Stubbs' Prize-Winning Letter, written to Elinor from Lucy. Do not worry; by the time you read it you will understand why it is so hysterical. There is also a list of the fine homes and estates where "Sense and Sensibility" was filmed if you happen to be roaming around England and are interested in looking for such things.
Fortunately for the rest of the world, Ms. Doran changed her mind, and some twenty-five years after that first erroneous conclusion, has brought us this wonderfully witty, and extremely faithful film version of this first novel by Austen. As producer of the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson film, DEAD AGAIN, she became acquainted with the woman who was not only a phenomenal actress, but also a gifted writer-one with a sense of humor and a strong romantic bent. These two qualities had proven to be the stumbling block over nearly ten years of searching for the right scriptwriter for Sense and Sensibility.
It took nearly seven years to come up with something close to a shooting script, sandwiched as it had to be between Thompson's many award-winning acting chores. Serendipity was obviously at work, however, and eventually, a budget was established, and casting accomplished.
Many of the actors Emma had envisioned in various roles had participated in a read-through the year prior to the filming; they were all in the film, in those same roles.
While the Dashwood ladies are all suitable beautiful, it is the men who are truly gorgeous. ("Repellently so," writes Ms. Thompson in the diary portion, referring to Hugh Grant. "He's much prettier than I am.") With his look-alike Richard Lumsden, they are the brothers Ferrar, Edward and Richard, with Greg Wise as the fickle Willoughby. Alan Rickman (be still my heart!) brings maturity and virility to the role of Colonel Brandon. The sets and costumes are sumptuous.
Interspersed with the actual shooting script and the diaries are some 50 photographs, 36 of them in luscious color. One script looks pretty much like another, but this one allows Ms. Thompson's wry wit to shine, especially in some of the non-spoken words. Of course, not every scene from the book could be included; the movie would have been more than six hours had they been. But the essentials are here, along with all the major characters. Providing testimony to just how perspicacious was the choice of writer is the number of awards garnered by Thompson for this, her first film script.
The diaries portion begin with a production meeting on January 15, 1995 and continue through July 9 of that year. A very small mention is made of Hugh Grant's visit to California, where he'd gone for his next film project after the completion of filming his scenes in England. A final two pages describes the 'location' houses chosen to represent those lived in by the families in the novel.
It may come as somewhat of a surprise to some readers to discover rather explicit language in the diaries. In addition to an apparent fascination with the alimentary process, our Emma has a bit of a potty-mouth, as do some of the gentleman involved, and their words are recorded, one presumes unhappily, all too accurately. They seem curiously jarring and out of place in a book otherwise devoted to the pristine words of Jane Austen.
Nevertheless, this is a lovely, hefty book; one which will bring the reader back to it time and again. There is always a new and enjoyable nugget to be mined from its various depths.