Some of these modern film versions are so badly acted or so dumbed down that they feel insulting to watch. Though I can’t imagine this one winning any awards, my mom and I enjoyed watching this 2011 interpretation in which Mr. Dashwood goes to prison (a 75-year sentence seemed extreme; don’t murderers get less than that?) for his role in a Ponzi scheme, leaving his wife and three daughters to fend for themselves.
Oldest daughters Elinor and Marianne try to find work to help pay for medicine for Margaret, who has a treatable form of leukemia that costs 3000 dollars a month after health insurance. (Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret go to stay with Aunt Charlotte.) Elinor can’t get a job because of her last name, and Marianne because she has no experience doing anything (she just graduated from college with a degree in English :-). In a desperate moment, Elinor applies to work as a “custodial technician” for a spa, and a self-interested girl named Lucy persuades the mean boss (Fran) to give her a chance. Marianne gets a much more comfortable job (making photocopies) by lying about her last name.
Elinor, true to her practical nature, sells their flat screen to buy a truck so they can get to their jobs after the FBI confiscates the family cars. Marianne, true to her trusting romantic nature, believes her scuzzy boyfriend John (Willoughby) when, after her father’s scandal, he says he’s going to Switzerland for work. She finds solace in making fragrant lotions from flowers and in correcting grammar errors (because she appreciates the written word).
Marianne meets Brandon when he saves her from messing up her first copy job. He’s kind of a jerk about an editing mistake she tried to correct, but he quickly apologizes and turns out to be the nice guy we expect. This Marianne is more together than her prototype, accepting the betrayal of the man she loves and doing her best to move on. Lawyer Edward is Fran’s sister. He meets Elinor when she’s singing while scrubbing a bathroom. On their second meeting, they agree not to hold each other responsible for their families. (Both heroes take a cue from Mr. Darcy, I think, Brandon in the value of a second or a third impression and Edward in not assuming a man is arrogant because a louder member of his family is.)
As you would expect from the opening sequence and the title, the lotion plays an important role when clients at the spa ask Elinor for more and more of her sister’s healing potions (Mrs. Jennings, a gossip, spreads the word about the lotions), when Elinor’s boss sends her on horrible errands so Lucy can steal the lotion, when the lotion theft doesn’t yield the results Fran wants, and when Fran blackmails John to get the secret of the lotion or she will reveal what happened with Eliza Williams to his family, who will disinherit him.
From there, a series of betrayals and recoveries conveys the film’s theme that human decency requires taking personal responsibility. Our four protagonists do that in several ways, even, in a delightful scene, all working together to secure the future of the Dashwood women. It is fun to watch.