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.