on November 25, 2005
When I heard that there was a new version of "Pride and Prejudice" to be made, I was far from pleased. In fact, I was fairly annoyed: A&E's version with Colin Firth has been a staple of my DVD collection for an incredibly long time, and I couldn't imagine anyone tampering with perfection. Why mess with genius?
Happily, I was wrong in my estimation of the movie. Perhaps it's only appropriate, given the subject matter: the whole story of "Pride and Prejudice" is wrapped up in wrong estimations of character, miscommunications, and partial understandings. The Focus Features version of "Pride and Prejudice" is more of a classic Romance, set earlier in period and filmed against more stunning backdrops than the A&E version: there were no grand cliffs or windswept heaths in that one, but they work here.
The performances are universally excellent: I was appropriately annoyed by Brenda Blethyn's ludicrously inappropriate Mrs. Bennet, and Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is one of the most delicious strokes of casting genius...ever. Donald Sutherland as the bemused patriarch Mr. Bennet holds his own in a largely British cast, and was suitably affectionately distracted in his fatherly role. Simon Woods is amiable and open-faced as Mr. Bingley, and properly deserves Rosamund Pike's delicate Jane.
The movie belongs, however, to Matthew McFadyen and Keira Knightley, as it rightly should. The book, however involved its subplots, focused mainly on their sparring, and the film wisely excises a lot of the extraneous matter, tightening its focus and condensing some scenes. Matthew McFadyen is, possibly, an even better Mr. Darcy than Colin Firth (though that pains me to say): his Darcy is sensitive, prone to moodiness and shows of the Stiff Upper Lip, but his eyes don't always manage to keep up the mask, and it is this that makes him amazing. When his eyes do light up, it is stunning, because we have learned not to expect it. He positively smolders with passion, even soaking wet with pleading in his eyes. Or perhaps especially soaking wet. In any case, he smolders. Bosoms will heave, corsets or not, when he's onscreen.
Watching Keira Knightley as Lizzie Bennet I was irresistibly reminded of another fiercely intelligent, wide-eyed brunette bookworm: Winona Ryder's Jo March, in 1994's exquisite "Little Women." Knightley conveys the same compelling blend of delicacy and strength as Ryder managed, no easy feat in this world of one-note romance, and one I wasn't sure she could manage, as I've never been a fan. Knightley does a good job, however: her Lizzie is a "fearsome creature," to quote herself, both fiercely loyal and heartily passionate for life, yet always with just a trace of vulnerability; one wonders, at times, if her passionate demeanour isn't as much a disguise as Darcy's cool mask. Perhaps that is what makes their inevitable but much-delayed romance so alluring: here are two people who absolutely should be in love with each other, but manage to think themselves out of it for a very long time.
The world of the film is more realistically rural than other adaptations: the ladies' hems are dirty, their dresses are frequently wrinkled, and pigs traipse through the Bennet house as often as visitors do. There are some lovely little touches to the filmmaking as well, such as one scene featuring a distracted Mr. Darcy being circled, predator-like, by Lizzie and the coolly condescending Caroline Bingley; one absolutely feels sorry for the man. I particularly liked the dancing scenes: there is always something going on with someone familiar in the corner of the frame, lending the scenes a pleasant intimacy that suits the material nicely.
Ultimately, I love this story so much because its romantic heroes deserve one another, even though they do not always realize it. Theirs is a relationship built not only on passion - although in this version, even more so than the seminal A&E version, it is decidedly present, particularly in a post-wedding scene at Pemberley featuring (sigh!) a barefoot Mr. Darcy - but on mutual interests and a hearty respect for one another. When Lizzie and Darcy finally marry (as we know they must, long before they do) it is, to steal from Shakespeare (and another Jane Austen movie) a "marriage of true minds." And after all, what could be more romantic than a smart, handsome man in a cravat and a long, windblown coat?
on January 11, 2006
Okay, I am a rabid Frith and BBC fan of the miniseries, but I was very impressed with this adaption and found it refershing in it's grounded, youthful take on the story.
For starters, there is a very grounded nature to the presentation of the story. Some Austenites got their knickers into a twist because they thought it made the family and their circumstances too drab looking. But I loved it! The Meryton Assembly basically sets the stage for this grounded approach-the dancing looks a little heavy footed, the girls look sweaty, and you can't help but think that someone needs to open a window cause it looks awfully sweaty! But at the same time,it made the story come alive, like you were a fly on the wall, peeking in on Lizzy and Darcy and the rest of the gang.
Lastly, I loved the youthful take on the story. I LOVE Firth and Ehle as the '95 leads. They had this chemistry and sensual tension that was electric! But their take was definitely from a mature standpoint-like the way I'd act now as a 33 year old woman. Whereas Macfadyen and Knightley? Theirs is a more youthful, innocent, first love take that I just took to. Great chemistry, Lizzy's a little less cocksure, Darcy's a bit more unbalanced by this attraction, and it felt right in terms of age and stage of development with the actual characters in the book.
Great adaption, brisk storytelling, and a wonderfully irreverent tone by a fun director who knew it was a good idea to knock the pedestal off from under our Lizzy and Darcy, and let them be seen in a more grounded light. And ps-I thought Macfadyen, even though he doesn't have that big of a part, was a great Darcy!
on November 23, 2005
I saw an advanced screening of this film in Boston and was very pleased, it is intelligent in its handle of the material and its fluency in cinematic crafting. Goodbye to dusty, "precious" interpretations of Jane Austen. This cheeky, poetic, even dark new film makes the story youthful with down-to-earth vibrancy and worship of emotion. Here are young people making the mistakes and dreaming the dreams of the young (when it was written it wasn't antiquity, it was life). Lizzie is not a smirking omniscient but a quick witted independent; hotheaded and fiercely loyal to her sister. She is wary of an unfair world and uses her wits to survive. Darcy is not an impenetrable stoic but a shy sensitive soul with high unwieldy social pretensions fending off the outside world. And they are both lonely and have big yearning hearts, so the filmmakers made one great decision -- they let them fall in love the first moment they lock eyes. In a shot we see hearts behind fortified personalities and an instant chemistry that takes a movie's worth of battling with each other and themselves to right itself. It's an earthy move that sets the tone for a film about the people and world behind the antiquated manners, a world not so different from ours.
Now set in 1797, when Austen wrote the first draft of the book, the filmmakers committed to main plot points and themes, and astutely represent the Romantic Age and Austen's characters. The love between Jane and Lizzie is supreme and fuels a desire in Lizzie to tear at Darcy when he separates Jane from Mr. Bingley. She's hurt, she reciprocates the pain, and it is bitter. Pride and prejudices are drawn clearly: Lizzie searches hard to find fault with Darcy, and Darcy cannot bring himself to let down his guard. Both have their reasons justified, but they foil their own chances at love constantly until they see how wrong they are and are too heartsick to keep going. Class conflict is suddenly personally injurious and vicious. When Charlotte Lucas marries for security, it's a grave matter and she must bitingly sober up a disdainful Lizzie on the realities of their world. The Bennets are too eccentric and improper for their own good. Lady Catherine (Dame Judi Dench, who is downright fearsome) is not just a cold figure for Lizzie to spar with, but someone capable of deeply hurting others. The filmmakers are savvy in their understanding of history. Setting it back 20 years is a remarkable move, because we accept more diversions and variation with the 18th century than the 19th and it presents Austen as a Romantic, which automatically requires the story to be interpreted from a different, very legitimate, perspective. The ideals of the Romantic Age are ingeniously, subtly played here: human equality, gritty realism married with beauty for the sake of beauty, but a beauty which is never elitist or decadent, always grounded, simple, and universal: nature, the human being, emotion.
The ensemble and mis-en-scene are electric. The camera spryly edges in and out of rooms and conversations instead of sitting arthritically in a corner. The dance scenes are less about ballet, now rollicking and spirited as characters send signals, flirt, deflect and analyze one another. In true Romantic form (worthy of filling Wordsworth with pride) the aesthetic unabashedly revels in beauty, but always the simple joys of our world: sunrises, dewy landscapes in wide shots, colors everywhere. It has a lovely score, period inspired and without any pomp and circumastance. Simple blocking is caffeinated and given substance, something is always going on in the background. Lively, layered interactions between characters make rich scenes, neither wasting space nor time. Consider a scene with Mr. Collins, played by the magnificent Tom Hollander (a standout here, so delightfully weird. When he jaggedly squirms his way up to someone you want to shriek). He wants to speak to Lizzie, alone, and a bolt of fear strikes through her as she pleads in vain not to be abandoned. The sisters are merciless, Mrs. Bennet delighted, Mr. Bennet at a loss, and Collins prepares. It's all silent and it's hysterical.
Suggesting variation to revered characters is a frightful task, but here it's a revelation. The entire cast is brilliant, but the two leads are transcendent in their roles. Keira Knightley is charismatic, random, wonderfully young, intuitive to the bone -- she inhabits Lizzie. Matt MacFadyen is deep, remarkably subtle, but mostly he is soulful. I've long held him as a sympathetic actor, but he shines in this. The two instill an unexpected exuberance of feeling in their performances. Neither ever acknowledge the camera exists and make the most of every second they have on screen to project their characters. When you throw them together you get a love story full of emotional subtext, double meaning, and gloriously heavy moments.
Because so much dialogue was cut, simple lines have impact and much of the exposition is visual. Epic little moments linger and rain, revealing souls. The thoughts and intentions behind the actors' eyes and words are visible at all times. This movie understands the power of a shot or glance. Lizzie comes to understand Darcy in how he embraces his sister or smiles (a momentous occasion, indeed). When she talks about love it's stirring because it's finally spilled into the open after we've seen it near the edge many times with half said sentiments and stifled tears. Usually "I love you" comes with extra explanatory prose, but here sincerity kills cliché: parties are fun, a misty field is breathtaking, the dawning of love a revelation, the heartbreak is throbbing.
It's a brilliant film. There is something breathless and luminous about it, from its youth and the break from propriety, to the beauty and spontaneity of life and romance, pain and joy, which provide the color.
on January 14, 2006
First, to all of the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth lovers (of which, I am one), we will always have that remarkable masterpiece. Therefore, we should be able to judge any new versions freely. Having said that, this version is great!
This movie is quite shorter than what we're used to for P&P adaptations and at first it seemed to me that the dialogue was rushed, but after the first 15 minutes it either slowed down or I ceased to notice it, until Darcy's proposal scene anyway, but it worked quite well there.
This film is also much more of a comedy than the two BBC versions. There were minor changes with dialogue but none of the changes lessened any of the characters or the spirit of the story. Instead, it probably enhanced the feelings the audience shared with the characters. In fact, I think that everything left out of the two previous BBC versions were added to this one so you still get something new from the same story.
One major change is the loss of Mr. and Mrs. Hurst. In a two-hour movie there just isn't enough time to do their characters justice. The rest of the cast is so marvelous though that we barely notice they're missing and it makes the movie flow more naturally.
The actors chosen are wonderful in their parts. I didn't think I'd be able to accept Keira Knightley as Elizabeth but after the first five minutes I was completely taken in by her. She pulls off Elizabeths witty dialogue like, well... Elizabeth and just as Jennifer Ehle added some distinctive traits to Lizzie, so does Keira. She wonderfully manages to show us Lizzie's love of a good laugh without making it seem as though she was a giggling loony and every time she smiles, we smile with her.
I won't critique all the performances but I have to add that Donald Sutherland really does a spectacular job as the head of a household of silly women. The last scene with him and Lizzie had me in tears.
Not to say that this movie was perfect, what adaptation can be without some faults or silly alterations? None are too serious though. The first is at the Meryton ball, when Darcy, Bingley and Caroline walk in, everything stops. The music, the dancing, all conversation and the crowd parts to offer them a path. I thought for a second the crowd had mistaken Mr. Bingley for royalty. It just seemed a bit over the top. But it passed quickly enough. The other was actually Darcy's proposal scene which was done in the rain. I thought it silly that he would follow her outside in such weather to propose, but one can accept that in view of the other changes that turned out so well.
I give this movie 5 stars because I wouldn't want to miss it and I don't think any P&P fan should.
All in all, if you have a good sense of humor and aren't afraid to laugh, like Elizabeth, you will just enjoy the story as it is played out. Remember, afterwards you can always put Jennifer and Colin Firth back in the DVD player.
on January 15, 2006
I've always loved Pride and Prejudice. More so, when I discovered the BBC version, most fondly known as the Colin Firth version. I have nothing but praised for that mini-series, and I have fallen in love with the story even more. I love how repressed and snooty Darcy is, how charmingly snarky Lizzie can be. There was also a sense of maturity in the mini-series, and most probably, it was influenced by the casting of older actors that resulted in that. It worked well for them. All in all, the numerous times that I have watched it in entirety is a testament to my love for it. And then I hear there's a new version coming out with Keira Knightley as Lizzie and some guy as Darcy. How dare they attempt to remake it, when possibly the definitive version has already been done?!
I have heard that many Austen purists are in uproar over this and I can see why. It's not your mother's Jane Austen, for one thing -- while some may think that's an insult, I mean it as a compliment. This new version is less polite, less genteel; it's also less repressed and more in-your-face, well, as in-your-face one can be in breeches and cravats. Whereas the BBC version used its 6 hours to meet and match and flirt and separate the characters, the movie has less of that luxury so it makes up for it by being more fiery and earthier, more emotional and even more confrontational. It's also very young,in the best sense of the word. It's fresh and new, and I would have love to see this version fleshed out to its full width and breadth, rather than just the abbrieviated version that I watched. But even then, the experience is wonderfully involving. Here, emotions are always on the verge of breaking through the surface, making the passions more heightened and the anguish more excuciating. And love is felt in all its giddy, painful, confusing glory. A lot has to be said for Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen taking on roles that have been done (and brilliantly before). Yet I actually like their new takes on the characters: Knightley's Lizzie is less polished but equally as witty and charming, while MacFadyen's Darcy is less self-possesed and more vulnerable but equally as snooty (and later adorably, meltingly romantic).
I love the touches that made this movie fresh:
1) The characters of Jane and Bingley are more defined, and that's something that is better than the mini-series. There, she comes out as bland while he seems almost retarded while here, Jane's more animated and self-possessed while Bingley is charmingly nervous, adorably shy and sweet-tempered.
2) During the dance, when they were arguing and suddenly, only the two of them are left dancing and sniping at each other -- this is a very imaginative take on the whole cliche of having eyes for only one person, even in the midst of a dance and in the middle of an argument.
3) The almost kiss after Lizzie rejected Darcy. The look on his face was so wonderful, seeing as we can view how much it was hurting him to turn away while she was surprised at her seeming to want him to kiss her. *sigh* They are so attracted to one another depite hating each other's guts. Lovely...and soooo hot. (p.s. I so wanted to hug and kiss him for that little boy lost look when he realzied that she said no to him).
I thought I would never see anyone else fill Darcy's shoes but Colin Firth but in this version, Matthew MacFadyen acquits himself wonderfully and so deos Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett.
on January 13, 2006
OK, I'll admit it: I've gone to the theater to see this 6 or 7 times already--I've lost count; I'm thrilled that the DVD is coming out sooner rather than later.
No, this is not the much-loved 1995 multi-hour A&E version. And no, MacFaydan is not Firth, and Knightly is not Ehle. And some liberties were taken with the original storyline (sometimes a bit disconcerting like Lady Catherine's night time visit?? and Bingley entering Jane's sickroom, even before knocking?? "simply not done" in those days!).
But I very much agree with the positive reviewers below --this version is MOST enjoyable on its own. The scenery, photography, and music are gorgeous (you must buy the CD!). Darcy and Elizabeth are still wonderfully Darcy and Elizabeth. It was a little disconcerting at first to see so much mud, livestock, and plain gowns--but you get past that fairly quickly. And it seems maybe a bit more realistic for country gentry.
BTW--if you're a P&P addict like me, don't miss Pamela Aiden's Darcy trilogy--it tells the entire story from Darcy's viewpoint and fills in a lot of what I think is missing. Also, if you have wondered what might have happened after the wedding and like a "spicier" novel, read Linda Berdoll's "Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife" (Austen meets Bronte and Sandra Brown).
on March 1, 2006
In this latest version of Pride and Prejudice, Director Joe Wright uses impressive visuals and sumptuous period locales to create an exquisite wide-screen spectacle, filling it with details that illustrate important sociological information about its central family, the Bennets. From the movie's mist-filled and dream-like opening moments to its marvelous ball sequence and the predictable but nonetheless glorious ending, Pride & Prejudice is an absolutely sumptuous evocation of Jane Austen's milieu, and is a captivatingly youthful spin without compromising the novel's late-eighteenth-century manners; it also deserves to be remembered as one of the very best screen adaptations of this book so far.
Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) is fraught with worry. The mother of five daughters has proved to be a little bit much for her and if they don't start marrying soon, the family will be ruined. The father (Donald Sutherland) stays out of the way, hoping his daughters somehow overcome societal prejudice against their gender and make something of their minds. Headstrong Elizabeth (Kira Knightley) has done just that. Smart, feisty, and fiercely independent, Lizzie promises herself that she won't be one to settle.
When Lizzie's older sister, Jane (Rosamund Pike), meets the wealthy Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) at a dance, their future as a couple seems predetermined. But when Lizzie is introduced to the gloomy and standoffish Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), an instant dislike is established. Lizzie and Mr. Darcy must overcome quite a few obstacles before they can transcend their dislike of each other, not the least of which is unsuitable suitor Mr. Collins (a wonderfully comic Tom Hollander) and Darcy's formidable aunt Lady Catherine (Dame Judi Dench) who tells Lizzie that she is of an "inferior class." Of course, Lizzie's frosty rejection of Darcy eventually thaws when he confesses his passion for her one evening on a misty moor.
Pride and Prejudice really works because of the marvelously impassioned performances from its two sexy leads. As the strong-willed Elizabeth, Knightley is tantalizing and seductive, so perfectly fitting into her 19th century Austen surroundings; she catches Elizabeth's essential skittishness and youthful braggadocio, making her final conversion with Darcy all the more moving. Macfadyen as Darcy is a more conflicted, softer figure than Colin Firth's indelibly etched performance, but Macfadyen is much earthier and sexier, and his portrayal is one that fits the movie's more realistic mood.
Pride and Prejudice benefits from Wright's intensely visual approach that manages to meld realism with romance in a canny balance. The movie has a youthful essence, as well as providing a richly detailed setting. Scenes barely sketched in Austen's dialogue-heavy, description-light prose leap fully detailed onto the screen, thanks to Sarah Greenwood's terrific production design and Jacqueline Durran's textured costumes. This is a unique, gorgeously evocative, and quite accomplished film, which should satisfy even the most rabid Austen-ophiles - just lovely. Mike Leonard March 06.
on November 14, 2007
Yet another re-release DVD, promising more special features when any regular fan, like myself, already has the first DVD release.
About this DVD:
1st Disc: Is the exact DVD released prior to this one. It has the widescreen movie version and all the same features on the previous DVD release.
2nd Disc: This is the new disc with "extra" special features including...
-Fullscreen movie version.
-"The Politics of Dating" - A short feature with cast, crew, and director talking about modern vs. P&P time dating (i.e. dancing, the 'touch', etc). Most of the interview clips are recycled from what we've previously seen on the first disc special features. And brought little to nothing new to the table and lasted around 7 minutes.
-"Galleries of the 19th Century" - Interactive photo gallery. Fun.
-"The Stately Homes of Pride and Prejudice" - A small handful of about 5 minute interviews with cast, crew, and director talking about the different locations they worked at. New stuff, but nothing exceptionally interesting that lasts for long.
-"Pride and Prejudice Family Tree" - A DVD menu telling us how the characters in the movie are related. It is pointless and useless, nothing interesting or new.
-And that's IT.
It's absolutely gorgeous. I think all the money was spent on the box rather than putting together a decent 2nd disc. The package is made to look and open like a book. It's a great, beautifully designed set that is hard to resist if you saw it in stores.
A booklet was included in this set with some new, unseen photographs and talk about costumes, characters, and music. It's basically like a scrapbook of images and tidbits of various cast and crew's thoughts.
The soundtrack is included in a paper sleeve along with a ticket for director Joe Wright's upcoming film Atonement.
Conclusion: If you were hoping for new interviews with the cast and director, unseen behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, or anything worth shelling out more money to buy another DVD for, then you will be severely disappointed. If you're like me, and already own both the movie and soundtrack this really isn't worth the $28 buy. Because ultimately you're just getting just a pretty box, another copy of the DVD you already own, and a throwaway extra disc. But if you don't have the DVD or soundtrack yet, then I say go for this set because it will be worth the extra money to get both the movie and soundtrack, and flashy box.
I give it 2 stars for the pitiful attempt at "exclusive all-new features"
Aah, Jane Austen. The "Harry Potter" of the independent theater chains. Always reliable to pack the theaters. And you can count on a new film based on one of her books every few years.
Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) is in a state, her family of five daughters is living on borrowed time. She and her husband Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) live on their current estate as the guests of family members, and it has seen better days. With five growing daughters, she feels it imperative to begin marrying them off, hopefully to rich suitors who can then help provide for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and the unwed daughters. When word arrives that a nearby estate has been rented by Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), a rich man from London, she becomes anxious that he meet her eldest daughter, Jane (Rosamunde Pike), scheming for them to spend every available moment together. At the local ball, Jane meets Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), the second oldest of the Bennet children, meets Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen), Mr. Bingley's friend and guest. Just as Jane and Bingley seem to be headed to the altar, Mr. Bingley leaves the estate causing Jane to become distraught. Elizabeth learns that Darcy may have been responsible and her hatred grows. Yet, every time they meet, Elizabeth finds herself more and more attracted to Darcy. But is the feeling mutual?
Just when it seems another film based on a Jane Austen book, especially one already made into a film or miniseries at least six times, not counting the numerous other takes on the same material ("Bride and Prejudice", a recent example), could be excessive, this version of "Pride" pushes the envelope, offering something new.
One of the best things this film does is cast more authentic looking people in the lead roles. From Knightley on down, all of the actors have a rougher appearance, which seems entirely appropriate for the time. Some previous film adaptations of Austen's work have cast the most beautiful American (Aaaah- Gwyneth Paltrow - choo!) or British actors in the roles. Every time they appeared on screen, it looked like they just walked out of their make-up trailer. Sure, they looked beautiful, but it isn't believable. "Pride" strives for and attains a more accurate depiction.
Keira Knightley is very pretty, but she isn't glamorous. Too skinny, which may be the one aspect of her that doesn't fit the period, she otherwise seems like a pretty girl. Her features are not perfect and this helps her seem to be a natural fit for the English countryside. Also, there are many scenes in which she has just come in from a walk, or the girls are laying about reading books, etc., and they don't appear perfectly groomed; hair may be out of place or there may be mud on the hem of their skirt. It works. In one scene, Dame Judi Dench arrives at the Bennet home. Irate, her hair is not perfect, because she has just arrived on horseback. Matthew McFadyen is also very handsome, but he isn't movie star handsome. He isn't as good looking as Colin Firth or Hugh Grant and it seems more appropriate for the role, the setting and the time.
Director Joe Wright also does some interesting things with the camera, which may seem strange or obtrusive on paper, but actually make the experience of watching the film more interesting and enjoyable. In one scene, the camera follows Mrs. Bennet through a ball hosted by Mr. Bingley. She passes certain people throughout the filled rooms. When the camera spots one of the Bennet girls, it stops briefly, allowing us to hear their conversation. After we have heard what we need, it picks up and follows another character, past another conversation. Soon, the camera spots Mrs. Bennet again as she finally reaches the outdoor patio for some fresh air. In another, the camera roves across the windows in the Bennet home picking up pieces of conversation in each of the bedrooms, starting with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. This gives us the feeling we are watching a book come to life, as though we are turning the pages as we read. It is an effective technique, aiding the look and feel of the film.
All of the performances in the film are very good. Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen are very believable as the unrequited lovers. Knightley conveys Elizabeth's intelligence, pride and passion, at turns, throughout the film. She is low key, but very interesting. When she initially meets Darcy, she claims her hatred for him and his attitude. Later, as she tells her father she really loves him, he doesn't understand, yet we do. Matthew MacFadyen conveys Darcy's boredom, growing attraction and passion as well. There are more than a few instances when their attraction to one another is palpable, yet because of their misunderstandings, or misconceptions about one another, are unable to act. It seems as though they take shifts; in one scene Elizabeth is in love with him. In others, he loves her. Throughout, reciprocation is prevented by an outside influence of some sort. The final scene is also very romantic.
All of the supporting characters are equally believable. Brenda Blethyn is a little over the top, but it works to see her running around, insinuating her daughters into the lives of every eligible bachelor within ten miles. Donald Sutherland is great as the father who is much quieter than his wife, yet he exudes a quiet admiration for his partner. He is also the more level headed member of the family providing calm and serenity to his somewhat overbearing wife. Judi Dench is also memorable as a member of the aristocracy who tries to control the lives of some of the people involved.
I don't think we can ask for more in a film adaptation of a book; the characters, their persona, the setting and the feel of the period are all correct creating an engrossing film worthy of any book.
on March 26, 2008
In watching this version of Jane Austen's classic novel of love, marriage, and class distinctions of Regency England, all I could think of was that, while pleasing to the eye, Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen were less playing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet than versions of Heathcliff and Catherine in Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights".
Knightley's Elizabeth struck me as self important, dramatic, and smug rather than intelligent and full of life. Why was she always snarling, smiling, or generally baring her teeth? MacFadyen's Darcy, rather than proud, alternating between shyness and simply looking like he wanted to cry. Where was the pomposity? The disdain for others around him? I saw none of that.
This is not even touching the appalling additions of such things as pigs in the living room and the generally unkempt appearance of the Bennets and their living situation. Mr. Bennet was a bookkeeper, a gentleman. The book states that the Bennets were "not too poor" and still managed to appear well mannered and well groomed despite the lack of funds. So the dirt and the farm animals were unneeded and had no point relevant to the "Pride and Prejudice" I have read. If they were that poor, what would be the point of the fuss made over Lizzie getting her skirt inches in mud on the way to visit Jane? There'd be nothing to remark on, because it would be the norm. And it is not.
But back to "Pride and Prejudice" meets "Wuthering Heights". I get the idea was likely to appeal to the greater masses. But the Harlequinesque declarations and outright lack of propriety shown in the film - the flowing hair, the over the top emotion, the schmaltz - is counterproductive to the novel. I could buy the sap in "Wuthering Heights" because Heathcliff and Catherine were both so dramatic on their own that their romance and doom were highlighted by such actions. Mr. Darcy and Lizzie were more circumspect. No less passionate, but their passion lay in their mannerisms and their verbal sparring, not walking around in bare feet, nightgowns, or half-done shirts. No, no, no. Leave that to Emily Bronte, not Jane Austen.
As for the rest, no way would single men visit sick single women when they are alone. Reputation, as was one point of the novel, meant everything. Such an action would be scandalous back in the day. A woman would NOT be seen with her hair down. Lizzie would not giggle endlessly and lick her fingers and act as silly as Lydia. No way would Mr. Darcy EVER deliver that letter in the way he did. And the first proposal: the book mentioned Charlotte's parlor. It should have been left at that. The rain was, again, more dramatic, but it did not fit for these characters, especially not at that juncture of their acquaintance. And no way would Lady Catherine go to Longbourn in the dead of night to have it out with Lizzie over her intentions for her nephew. It's all wrong.
I am glad for those who enjoy this version, but if the filmmaker wanted over the top romance, he should have left Jane Austen alone and gone with the more lushly romantic aforementioned Emily Bronte. The Bronte-ization of "Pride and Prejudice" left me cold and diluted Jane Austen's observations about love, marriage, society, and money and turned the story into just another romance flick. Give me the A&E miniseries, please.