Pride and Prejudice

2006-07-10 18:25


It is late 18th century England and Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) is determined to marry off her five daughters - Elizabeth, or Lizzie (Keira Knightley), Jane (Rosamund Pike), Lydia (Jena Malone), Mary (Talulah Riley), and Kitty (Carey Mulligan). However, the intelligent Elizabeth does not consider finding a husband to be a major priority, and her father (Donald Sutherland) agrees.

Mrs. Bennet's prayers are answered when a wealthy bachelor, Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), moves into the area and becomes smitten with the shy and beautiful Jane. A host of young military officers also arrives, providing many a good 'catch' for the Bennet sisters. Meanwhile Mr. Bingley's friend, the gorgeous but snobbish Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), makes a less than favourable impression on Lizzie. Yet despite this, there is a mutual attraction every time they meet.

But when the sweet Mr. Bingley suddenly leaves, it saddens Jane and angers Lizzie, who holds Mr. Darcy responsible. Then a potential scandal involving youngest sister Lydia makes Lizzie's realise there is more to Mr. Darcy than she thought.


Be warned: If you loved Jane Austen's novel or have seen the highly praised BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, then this film will be unavoidably disappointing.

Not that there's anything outwardly wrong with it. The cinematography is exquisite, the costumes are impeccable and the performances are entertaining. But these well-rendered aspects disguise the fact that this adaptation only skates along the surface, never realising the novel's complexity. Only Elizabeth and Darcy's romance is explored in any depth, and even that is simplified. No wonder American audiences loved it - this is Jane Austen lite.

That said, there still is a lot of charm and pleasure in director Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice. Keira Knightley has infused the calm and clever Elizabeth Bennet with a refreshing girlishness, which unexpectedly works quite well. Matthew MacFayden is stiff upper-lipped and gorgeously brooding as Mr. Darcy. Inevitably, comparisons will be made with that quintessential Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth (from the BBC mini-series), but MacFayden more than holds his own - most of us would happily let him declare his undying love in the pouring rain.

Unfortunately, such high points are juxtaposed with glaring faults. Elizabeth's prejudices seem irrational and baseless, especially since her flirtation with Wickham is barely touched on. The most apparent reason she dislikes Darcy is because he insulted her looks. At the same time, Darcy's pride is made into a mere affectation to be overcome, when it is actually a vital part of who he is as a gentlemen. They are made into star-cross'd lovers - one poor, one wealthy - who inevitably defy the odds to be together. It's a great yarn, but it's hardly original. The fascinating texture of the society they live in is a mere backdrop to this romance when it should be the driver.

To be fair, a lot happens in the novel. Making a reasonably timed film version that doesn't skimp on the details is challenging. However, it is possible to communicate Jane Austen's observations of 18th century English upper-class society without describing every incident. Emma Thompson did it superbly in her script for Sense & Sensibility, and you can't help wondering what this film might have been if she had written it. There is plenty of witty banter, but it lacks a lightness of touch. Often it is the unspoken words that convey the most meaning and humour, which is what Jane Austen did so well.

Occasionally the supporting performances are outrageously over-the-top. Yes, Mrs. Bennet (a disappointing Brenda Blethyn) and her two younger daughters are incredibly silly and giggly, but here they are made into shrieking banshees. On the other hand, Tom Hollander's Mr. Collins is delightfully obsequious and cringe-worthy, especially when he proposes to poor Lizzie. Dame Judi Dench turns in a pitch-perfect cameo as Lady Katherine De Burgh and Donald Sutherland is a surprising pleasure as the phlegmatic and long-suffering Mr. Bennet, particularly in his marvellous final scene.

Despite a lack of depth and not fulfilling the novel's potential, Pride and Prejudice is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon with your darling, especially since there is an electric chemistry between the two leads. Once again, it is subtle gestures that have the most impact. The climactic scene where they meet in the morning, half-dressed and flustered, is too overwrought. Rather, it is an earlier moment in the film - Darcy's hand touches Elizabeth's and you can almost feel the flush of heat on their skins - that is the most erotic.

This interpretation would have been far more intriguing if it had shown such restraint throughout. But as a romantic piece of entertainment, it is worth its weight in Valentine's Day chocolates. Just don't expect to learn anything about Jane Austen.

- Amanda Whitehouse

This Oscar nominated period drama is the perfect Valentines date movie - romantic, charming, and light as a feather.

GILL SAGAR 2006/02/10 11:03 AM
Great ABSOLUTELY SUPERB absolutely
G Silverstone 2006/02/10 4:02 PM
Pride and Prejudice Massacred Pride and Prejudice – one jaundiced eye I went along expecting, at the very least, something that would make yet another remake of this Jane Austin classic worthwhile. It is not too long – 1996 - since the last which starred the excellent and delectable Colin Firth as the miserable but enigmatic Mr Darcy, with Jennifer Ehle in the role of Elizabeth Bennett. I didn't think that version could be bettered but I now know that it can't. I shall probably have eggs pelted at me for my opinion, for it flies in the face of critical acclaim. The illustrious cast – including (sorry blokes) the much raved-about Keira Knightley – just did not do it for me. The only convincing performance came from Donald Sutherland as the father whose forbearance in the face of a family of one-tracked half-wits (but not our heroine Elizabeth) merited sainthood. If I see Judy Dench – whom I have always adored - in one more typecast role as a haughty, cantankerous old bat, I shall demand she be stripped Not if you really know your classical onions
G Silverstone 2006/02/10 4:12 PM
Prejudice against the Odds Earlier review cut to an odd point so this is it in a nutshell. If beauty won Oscars and got reviews, then Keira Knightley and her rabbit nose twitches every time she grins might stand a chance. The story was, frankly, massacred and reduced this sad version to mere superficiality. Sad that Judy Dench has been stereotyped as classy fishwife yet again. Nothing at all as good as any of its predecessors....unless its for people who don't care what happens to the classics. Sweet if absolutely devoid of its entire purpose.
Grant 2006/02/13 5:39 PM
Mr The movie was great but the cinema it was shown in damaged the delivery. It was so loud that few people could hear what was be said at times . Particularly the beginning. It is scandelous that a really good film could be so badly damaged. This was clearly the general feeling of the audience. Yes, but not at bedfordfordview Nu Metro
James MCculloch 2006/02/17 8:23 PM
pride and pedjudice a good movie but it just took a little long and it was not completely following the story it is a nice movie to watch
John Beaver 2006/02/21 8:22 PM
good it was a good movie but it was not following the story by jane austen it is a good movie to watch
Hester 2008/07/04 3:27 PM
Pride and Prejudice by Americans The cultural setting in which Jane Austen's characters are placed is the most important influence in their lives. In this unfortunate attempt at portraying a story by one of the most subtle and intelligent of authors, the director clearly failed to understand the customs and conduct of the era. Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, he jarred and toppled everything and eventually presented us with a neat pile of attractively shattered fragments. The detritus of a treasure destroyed by ignorance. Those who nominated this movie for the Oscars should be banned from ever working on a British period piece.
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