LA update of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility finds sisters “Nora” (Camilla Belle) & “Mary” (Alexa Vega) forced out of their Beverly Hills mansion after their widowed father suddenly dies bankrupt. Where to go? “Tia Aurelia” (Adriana Barraza), their mother’s sister, offers a new home in the bario, and hillarious consquences ensue.
Since we all know the basic plot (if not from Austen herself, then from the splendid Oscar-winning remake Emma Thompson did in 1995 with Ang Lee), all the charm must come from tiny details–and it does.
As Nora (Austen’s Elinor), Belle is studious & practical, totally clumsy in the kitchen, but honestly embarrassed & sweetly self-deprecating in her attempts to do better. Once again, “Edward Ferris” (Nicholas D’Agosto) is her brother-in-law, but this time he’s a corporate lawyer. Hating the way his sister “Olivia” (April Bowlby) lords it over the orphans, he hires Nora as an intern in his firm & the relationship builds from there.
Meanwhile Vega as Mary (Austen’s Marianne) tries to hide her sudden poverty & loss of social status from college friends, looking down her nose on everyone in her new neighborhood & falling hard for her dazzling new Lit professor “Rodrigo” (Kuno Becker).
Director Angel Gracia has his screenwriting team (Fina Torres with Luis Alfara & Craig Fernandez) chop off most of Austen’s auxilliary characters in order to focus on the sisters’ growing awareness of their Latina heritage, with Wilmer Valderrama slowly emerging as “Bruno,” the local hero destined to win Mary’s love & respect.
The plot is time-tested, the colors are vibrant, the music is bouncy, & all the actors are fully committed to winning our hearts, so just relax & enjoy. Alas, news shows about the “real” world will still be on well after the credits roll.