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Customer Review

506 of 539 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming and intelligent, November 25, 2005
This review is from: Pride & Prejudice (Theatrical Release)
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?
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 10, 2007 11:03:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 10, 2007 11:12:29 AM PST
Sonetto says:
I keep wondering why the seller posts about CDs of the latest version of Pride & Prejudice fail to mention Matthew MacFayden alongside Keira Knightley, but feature minor players. He was the co-star of the picture and it would have been nothing if he had failed to deliver his very fine interpretation of Darcy. Without Darcy there is no Lizzie.

Posted on Jan 10, 2008 11:52:02 AM PST
Be Fine says:
Well done! You made some very good points.

Posted on Jul 16, 2008 2:43:35 PM PDT
I too found Knightley's Elizabeth reminiscent of Winona Ryder's Jo March -- a character I like rather better in novel form. I have always found the Elizabeth Bennet "between the pages" a bit, well stuffy from time to time. I'm sure it's my modern sensibilities and ignorance of proper behavior of the time and place Miss Austen captured, but she seems not to have the slightest bit of compassion or forbearance for the less well-mannered.

I also found Mr. MacFadyen absolutely enchanting. I'm very susceptible to men with beautiful speaking voices, and the subtleties of his performance just make this film.

Posted on Sep 21, 2008 11:06:03 PM PDT
shoop says:
A masterpiece of a review Ms Megan. Well done! You've covered all that makes this movie brilliant!

Posted on Aug 28, 2013 12:05:52 PM PDT
Josie T. says:
Dang woman, you nailed it to oh so many "Ts", especially about Matthew McFadyen and Keira Knightley. I agree with you on all of it. Macfadyen's eyes, the windblown coat, how it pains me to say that possibly his is a better Mr. Darcy, (it still pains me as I write this but it is true, tough I keep going back and forth on it, I can't really decide!). I thought Simon Woods was great as Mr. Bingley, I felt like I could just drown in his eyes! The lady who did Mrs. Bennet was great, at times I felt like punching her just to shut her mouth (now that is good acting), and let's not even speak of Judi Dench, she is amazing! The last post-wedding scene was a very nice touch and the "last" scene where Darcy comes by in the morning fog and Elizabeth looks at him from a distance, oh dear, I could faint! This version is perfect too!

Posted on Oct 14, 2013 3:25:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 14, 2013 3:28:54 PM PDT
dave king says:
I too was worried about another version of this film after loving the A&E version for many years. But I must say this one more than deserves similar adulation. The Kira Knightly version plays her as a much more fiesty and brave herione. Her sarcastic comments have a bite that I doubt few women of that era would dare. I watch this film over and over when I need a lift or escape from the everyday world and want to smile. I now use my DVD arrow keys to skip over some of the lesser important senes and relish the especially juicy ones. My favorites include the moment Darcy takes her hand to help her to get into a coach. After doing so his hand trembles as if it were on fire and she is clearly confused by his effect on her. I love the discussion where he speaks of the "truly accomplished woman" and her reaction saying "I have never seen such a woman. She would be a fearsom creature indeed". Of course there is the scene in the rain swept garden shelter where he declairs his love "against his better judgement" and the late night confrontation when Lady Catherine arrives to make Lizzie swear to not pursue Darcy. She will not dignify her question and throws her out of the house. Then we come to the scene where Darcy comes walking across the misty moor (In a hight gown?) to propose again ( ridiculous but ever so romantic). Finally to cry along as Lizzy tells her father how much she loves Darcy "We are so alike...I was nonsencical" And Donald Sutherlands tearful "I could not give you up to a lesser man".
It is simply a delicious bit of romantic fantasy.

Posted on May 11, 2014 8:57:54 AM PDT
Sakuteiki says:
Pride and Prejudice (BBC Miniseries) Elizabeth Garvie is a 1980 version, longer, more detailed and with excellent writing which deeply explores the characters particularly Elizabeth's observations on her beloved father's denigration of Mrs Bennet and their marriage. If you appreciate parody Lost in Austen with Jemima Roper freely borrows from book, all Pride and Prejudice versions, other Austen writings, and even Jane Eyre. It is hilarious with an intellectual tingle since the words are familiar but out of place having been freely lifted, cut and pasted from other well known literary and video works. The writing is tight, layered, interwoven, the acting superb, each actor playing as if they were truly their character especially Mr Wickham who is a nefarious womanizer yet has honor and heart and knows someone who can sew stitches, Mrs Bennet who discovers her spunk, Georgiana who is a lying sneak, and Miss Bingley who asserts that she will marry Darcy as it is right and expected by God even. These other versions may offer further understanding of the characters for you. Enjoy

Posted on Jul 18, 2014 6:49:25 AM PDT
Emmy Lou says:
Excellent review! I loved the book and watched both of the TV versions, as well as the original with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson and I have to say that Matthew McFadyen was amazing! I could watch this movie over and over again.

Posted on Jun 13, 2015 7:10:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2015 7:11:15 PM PDT
80s Fan says:
Megan, I agree that this version is my favorite over the A&E version. I saw this one first but a friend of mine kept saying the A&E version was much better (it is longer with a more explanatory scenes). As much as I like Colin Firth in The King's Speech and Bridget Jones, Matthew McFadyen is much more brooding and mysterious as Darcy and more appealing here; his eyes say volumes. Judy Dench is wonderful and I much prefer Simon Woods' Mr. Bingley and Rosamund Pike's Jane to the A&E version. The casting is delightful. I don't know if I would have felt differently if I had seen the A&E version first. I do know that I now own this version and did not buy the A&E version after watching my friend's copy. Excellent review Megan.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2016 2:53:36 PM PDT
A. Customer says:
80s Fan, I saw the A&E version before I saw this movie. I think that version is delightful. I think this movie is downright addictive. While Jennifer Ehle was a good Elizabeth, Keira Knightly was pretty much exactly how I had imagined her to be from reading the book. Colin Firth was great as Darcy. Matthew MacFadyen hit it out of the ballpark. He was the movie. Due to the time constraints of the movie as opposed to the A&E series, there was much less time to develope Darcy's character. So MacFadyen had much less to work with than Firth. Yet he managed to deliver a deeper, more complicated, more sympathetic character. Rosamund Pike was perfect as Jane, and Simon Woods was delightful as Mr. Bingley. As a matter of fact, I think the only character that was better portrayed in the A&E version was Lydia. But then, this movie really didn't give her much screen time, and it surprises me that Jenna Malone got billing over Simon Woods. Anyhow, the point I'm trying to make is that I did see the other version first, but this version is my favorite, and I, too, own this one and not the A&E one.
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