Ever since seeing A&E’s masterful miniseries Pride & Prejudice as a young girl, I was lost to all things Austen. Since then, I’ve bought or seen nearly all of the movies, and even read some books inspired by or on Miss Austen. Likely the only adaptations left unseen are some spaghetti-type films – whether it is a Bollywood inspired flick or a time-twisting version of Pride & Prejudice, I’ve seen my fair share. This – a Latina version is just the most recent based off the sister-driven story Sense & Sensibility, is cute, but obviously not religiously true to the novel. Here, the story goes something like this…
Working has never entered Mary Dominguez’s mind – the mere thought of it makes her cringe. Instead she’s a party-girl shopaholic whose father owns a business empire to provide his children with a comfortable Beverly Hills lifestyle – that includes unlimited funds to feed Mary’s hobbies and a beautiful home. Mary (Alexa Vega) demands the best of everything while her studious elder sister Nora (Camilla Belle) is seriously pursuing law school. When their father suddenly dies, he leaves the girls without the means that they’ve been accustomed too… and shocked to discover that they have a half-brother Gabriel (Pablo Cruz) who is being “controlled” by his opinionated girlfriend, Olivia. Forced to move in with their estranged aunt (Adrianna Jimenez) in East L.A., it doesn’t take Nora long to realize that they are in for a rude awakening.
Neither of the girls speaks Spanish in the heavily Hispanic-populated area, creating further tension. Nora decides to give up her ambitious studies in order to instead find lucrative employment while Mary mopes about having to sell her fancy luxury vehicle. The more practical sister, Nora determines that Mary will finish school but recognizes that their former lifestyle must drastically change. When Nora meets the wealthy Edward (Nicholas D’ Agasto) – who is coincidentally a lawyer and brother to Olivia, something is finally clicking in her life. But between keeping her sister grounded – and away from a bad-boy jerk, her own “rule” against relationships prevents Nora from risking her heart.
Everyone has some set ideas of how they think something is going to play out, for this mine didn’t particularly lean one way or the other. Having the name Jane Austen attached was really all I needed to know to compel a rental. Turns out it wasn’t nearly as flippant to the original material as it could have been and instead was more mindful than one would assume. Adapting a classic to modern times isn’t the easiest thing because filmmakers and their writers have more leniency than what regency era novelists had. Pleasantly, it was nice to see how well writers connected everything and the parallels they made to its source – it was both respectful of the story on which it is based and marches to its own beat. Its most obvious change is its setting. Another viewer’s thoughts felt the pursuit to constantly remind of the culture was prejudiced. I didn’t get that. Yes, the culture was depicted heavier than your average movie but I got more amusement out of it than anything. Mary was so against the new circumstances in her life that she flatly refused to be known as anything but “American” (or maybe “American-Mexican”) and at one point when feeling threatened she meekly calls out “I’m Mexican…” For me in that moment, there was nothing but genuine laughs, but if it is something that may have potential to bother you, then, maybe this film won’t be your idea of good entertainment.
Some of the choices made by Mary have no depicted consequences. So it is a shame that the movie isn’t more wholesome, because I really liked it and for admirers of Sense & Sensibility but who are more modern movie buffs, this would be the perfect choice. Mary’s behavior could have been handled differently, even though I “get” why they let some of her choices go as far as they did, because that was the direction Marianne and Willoughby’s relationship was headed and in fact, is blatantly obvious in BBC’s recent miniseries; had Willoughby not had the slightest ounce of respect for Marianne’s reputation he likely would have taken advantage of their being alone. Writers’ deserve kudos for their comparisons as reflections of the original characters come through well; from their modernized names to personalities, it was deep-rooted. Credit should also go to the cast. A grown-up Alexa Vega does an admirable job as the careless Mary, Camilla was entertaining; enough naïvety radiated on-screen to make her a creditable Elinor yet she had smarts while the actor who plays Willoughby's counterpart makes a decent roguish cad. The girls have a nice rapport and make the iconic sisters likable. Sense & Sensibility is really a story about the joys and trials of sisterhood, so in that way, the movie imparts lessons. This was a fun movie and I’ll look forward to seeing it again, plus the adorable ending paid homage to its source material – an ending just as Jane intended.
(Basically as PG13 flicks go, this one doesn’t abuse its rating. Some suggestive sexual connotations are used, while Mary isn’t shy with her body and wears many form-fitting dresses or plunging necklines. Carried away by a man’s charm, Mary falls head-over-heels for him and does wind up sleeping with him [the camera pans the path of their strewn-everywhere clothing before the lens finds them sleeping, sheets covering them]. Later Nora calls her sister a “slut,” feeling her motivation isn’t strictly for love. Mary is said to use drugs and appears at dinner once under the influence; everyone drinks and Nora once drinks herself into a stupor – something that backfires on her. A car crashes into the side of another’s [impact unseen]. Mary lies about her life.)