Sense and Sensibility

 Lord Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) passes away and, unable to split his vast estate between his two families, his wife and three daughters are ousted from their palatial mansion by their half-brother John (James Fleet) and his vile wife Fanny (Harriet Walter), and are forced to considerably downsize their opulent lifestyles. Hope, it seems, arrives in the forms of Fanny’s reserved brother Edward (Hugh Grant) and the dashing Mr. Willoughby (Greg Wise), who each take a shining to two of the Dashwood sisters (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet).

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The Ice Storm

Joan Allen’s Elena has been married to Kevin Kline’s Ben for 17 years. Ben is sleeping with Sigourney Weaver’s Jane, who is married to James Sheridan’s Jim. Jim and Jane have two sons, the creepy pyromaniac Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd) and Elijah Wood’s more normal Mikey, who is sort-of dating Elena and Ben’s genitalia obsessed daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci) who, it transpires, is also the object of Sandy’s affections. Meanwhile, Wendy’s virginal brother Paul (Tobey Maguire) is desperately in love with his college classmate Libbets (Katie Holmes), and vies for her attentions with his much more confident roommate Francis (David Krumholtz). This ridiculously fractured love-dodecahedron forms the plot of this multi-stranded slow-boiler from Ang Lee, director of Brokeback Mountain and Hulk. Both sides of him are shown here, from his delicate handling of love stories to Maguire’s Paul discussing the depths of the Fantastic Four, and he ably handles all the aspects of the plot. There are many similarities with Todd Solondz’ Happiness, most notably the stellar ensemble cast and hard to watch yet easier to recognise situations the characters find themselves in. The film takes place over a relatively short period of time, with all the aforementioned relationships coming to a head during the particularly heavy ice storm of the title, with consequences both small and disastrous, yet a sense of humour is retained throughout, particularly during the swinging party.
Choose film 7/10

Brokeback Mountain

Another one I’d never seen before, Brokeback Mountain has a reputation to live up to, but of what I didn’t really know. Yes, I was aware it was about two cowboys, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall, and that between these two, something happened in a tent, involving at least one of their man-parts and the other’s posterior, but as to how this would support a feature length picture I did not know. Wisely, director Ang Lee gets past the, ahem, climax early on, spending a greater deal of time depicting the aftermath of the relationship Ledger’s ranch hand Ennis Del Mar and Gyllenhall’s rodeo cowboy Jack Twist form on the time they spend herding goats together. Ledger easily surpasses Gyllenhall on the acting front, mumbling his way through the difficulties that come with having an affair, and Michelle Williams also impresses as his put-upon spouse, realising the truth about her husband yet living in acceptance and despair. The slow pace of the film allowed for some great character interactions too, and I approved of the film only featuring important sections from the central relationship and nothing else, with what some would describe as pivotal events – Twist’s marriage to rodeo girl Anne Hathaway or the birth of Del Mar’s two children – being skipped entirely, as to the main couple these were of secondary importance to the connection the two had with each other.
Choose film 7/10