Emma Thompson is dazzling as the quietly struggling Elinor (one of my favorite Austen characters played by one of my favorite actresses), and her screenplay does use a lot of Austen's own lush language to her advantage. Even though her screenplay is limited by the time allowance for the feature film format, she gives great characterization to all the characters. Kate Winslet is excellent as Marianne, very young, which is perfect for the character. There are also some moments where she seems a little bratty, especially toward Elinor, but that fits well and helps create and interesting dynamic between the sisters. Gemma Jones is also admirable in the role of Mrs. Dashwood. She is, as the book describes her, very similar to Marianne in many ways and seems almost half in love with Willoughby herself.
As far as the menfolk go (oh no, I'm getting to the shallow part of my review quicker than I had intended...), Greg Wise is believably dashing as Willoughby and very likable. There are slight hints of his hiding something, but for the most part it is very unexpected in the film when his previous indiscretions come to light. Hugh Grant is classically awkward, but it works very well for the character of Edward Ferrers and his bumbling attempts at communication with Elinor are very sweet and endearing. Alan Rickman is by far the most fabulous of the men in this film. He is passionate, long suffering, and so darn honorable. His facial expressions tell so much emotion, though he is reserved. He is also very pretty, in a totally manly way.
The supporting cast was also very strong. Hugh Laurie makes a brief, but humorous appearance as Mr. Palmer and Imelda Staunton plays his ever chatting wife, Charlotte. Imogen Stubbs as Lucy Steele comes across as calculating and slightly evil- I like this interpretation. Her little chick fight with Fanny, played by Harriet Walter is highly amusing. James Fleet is a good fit as John Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne's hen-pecked half brother. However, I will always prefer Mark Gatiss in the role. Perhaps it is because I like gingers, perhaps it is because I like Mark Gatiss. Who can tell?
Overall, a good adaptation, even if it is a little too condensed. There are some very lush outdoor scenes and some nice interiors as well for those that enjoy historical buildings and furnishings. The only thing it lacked that I so enjoyed in the 2008 version is a sense of darkness and bleakness in the visuals in the beginning. The atmosphere of uncertainty wasn't as obvious, nor was the desperation of the Dashwoods' financial situation. Still, it was enjoyable and is definitely worth the watching, especially if you don't have the time to dedicate to the 2008 mini-series.
However- I must say that in the movie poster Kate Winslet's hair looks like a weird curl helmet, it's much prettier than that in the movie.