(This is the first of my reviews for the Period Drama Challenge.)
I had already read the book and seen the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (1995) more than once when Pride & Prejudice (2005) came out in movie theaters. Unfortunately, at the naive age of 14, it did not then occur to me to worry that they might not do justice to Jane Austen's beloved classic. I went into the movie theater with the highest of eager expectations, and left somewhat confused and let down.
In general I think the script is lacking in wit and crispness. Deborah Moggach originally tried to be faithful to Austen's dialogue, but the director, Joe Wright, didn't want to be "too reverential." I beg your pardon? You cannot be "too reverential" of Jane Austen! The few direct quote lines that were left in did not make up for all the ridiculous, modern-sounding lines that held all the spark of any trashy, American chick flick. I am a devoted Jane Austen fan, so I feel like there isn't much more to be said about this film. However, I will continue with a thorough review, but I must give a fair warning that I have quite an aversion to this movie.
Wright supposedly has a dislike for the empire waists of the Regency era, so they set the film back into the late 18th century, and did whatever they wished with the costumes. Setting it earlier, around the time that Jane was purported to have begun her first draft, I must begrudgingly admit makes some sense, although I am partial to Regency fashion myself. The hair and costumes were intentionally less historically accurate so as to appeal to a modern audience.
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen do not all suit Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in my estimation. Matthew Macfadyen could possibly have done well if they had given him some decent lines and done something tolerable with his hair. Also, he supposedly did NOT read the book, preferring to be guided by the script only! No wonder his attempt at Mr. Darcy fell flat. Keira Knightley was probably hopeless from the beginning, but they could have tried giving her some decent lines and more polished hair too.
Behold the awful hair. Also, this picture of Mr. Darcy reminds me of the sulky, pouty look Macfadyen tends to express through the whole movie, and this shot is from the scene featuring one of his most groan-worth lines: "...If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on." I could also rant for a significant amount of time about many aspects this scene. Neither of them are properly dressed, early in the morning. They just happen to meet in a field? And Keira Knightley responds to his sappy declaration with something like "well, then.... your hands are cold." Okay...? Is that supposed to mean "yes"? But I am getting ahead of myself.
The other Bennet girls aren't nearly as bad, Rosamund Pike is lovely as Jane, and Carey Mulligan does a nice job with the few lines Kitty is given. Talulah Riley and Jena Malone satisfactorily fulfill their roles as Mary and Lydia. Malone isn't quite as wild and silly as I imagine Lydia, but she is a fabulous flirt. The scene where Lydia throws her handkerchief amongst the marching officers is quite amusing.
I generally like Simon Woods, but due to the unfortunate script, he plays Mr. Bingley as an absolute buffoon. A loveable buffoon, but still quite painfully idiotic at points, and just not at all like Mr. Bingley is supposed to be. I can't appreciate the character at all.
My patience and enthusiasm fails me to go through all the characters, I must just mention Kelly Reilly who played Miss Bingley very well, with wonderful polish and refinement and perfectly detestable pride. I also love her hair color, and in general she was favored with acceptable hair styles. She was also fortunate enough to be dressed in Regency fashion, since she was rich enough to afford the newest fashions.
The music by Dario Marianelli is beautiful. I have the sheet music, and I love to play it. It doesn't sound much like authentic music, but as I've mentioned already, the filmmakers intentionally threw out authenticity, so no surprise there. The scenery is also beautiful, although I was struck during the most recent viewing that Pemberley looked very contrived.
(Austen describes the body of water in front of the house as being "a stream .... without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned." These are the kind of nit-picky things that bother me.) Longbourn was not a farm as several shots seem to insinuate, again, for the sake of a modern audience, they wished to over-emphasize the difference in social status between the Bennets and their richer acquaintances.
The two most vital scenes to Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship were ruined in an attempt to make the story more sensually romantic, ever catering to the modern audience. Darcy's first proposal being changed from an emotionally charged and impassioned discussion in Hunsford parsonage to a silly scene with them both dripping wet in the middle of a rainstorm after church. After their stilted and angry discussion, they seem to almost kiss before Darcy leaves.
|What is that?!?!?|
Over the years since I first viewed this movie, I have tried to appreciate what I've come to call "the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice" as simply a different adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but I have been unsuccessful. Each viewing only leaves me wondering "why did I just watch that?" with the intense desire to cleanse my mind with the wonderfully accurate BBC miniseries, or the book itself. I have finally come to the irreversible opinion that this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is a feminized and Hollywood-style mutilated version of a classic. They simply can't take a story and let historical authenticity and simplicity speak for itself, they must inject their secular values into everything, and turn a wonderful story into nothing more than a plastic modern romance full of sensuality rather than intellect and wit. Since that is what the film-makers apparently intended to do, I have no qualms with rejecting it as not worthy of being considered a Jane Austen adaptation and regarding it as rubbish.
If you want a cheap romance like Bridget Jones' Diary or actually happen to like Keira Knightley, by all means, indulge away. Just don't look for Jane Austen's wonderful novel, you'll only find tatters and shreds that would reduce a true Jane Austen fan to tears of agony.