Sunday, February 3, 2013

Review: Pride & Prejudice (2005)

(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?!?!?
 The second proposal is changed from a serene walk in the afternoon to an improper, nearly undressed morning meeting in a damp field, where more poorly scripted lines abound, as I mentioned earlier. Even if I found the rest of the movie enjoyable, nothing could make up for the insipid degradation these two scenes received. Also, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the completely disgusting end scene. I discovered when researching for this review that we owe the addition of that scene to the insatiable appetite Americans have for sensuous romantic scenes - as if this movie didn't contain enough of that already. It was eventually included in the British version also, and has become an indelible part of the movie. After suffering through that scene once, I could never bring myself to watch it again.

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.



  1. Ironically, I am one who LOVED this version. It has grown on me steadily with every viewing to the point where I like it just as well as the six-hour version now. (I know that sounds bad! LOL. :D)

    Anyway... I wanted to stop by with my thanks for the blog follow, Lizzie! I really appreciate it and hope you enjoy your visits. :)

    1. Oh, I wish it had grown on me! It worked exactly the opposite in my case. I really WISH I liked it, because sometimes I want to watch Pride and Prejudice, but a two-hour version would be so much more convenient than 5. ;)

      Thanks for coming on over! I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  2. Wow, I can't believe how many people truly hate this version! I guess I'm not "a true Jane Austen" fan after all, since I enjoy this version. Poor, deluded me!

    1. I personally can't enjoy this movie at all, but I can imagine how it can be enjoyable as a movie on its own. As a book fan, what I can't understand is how a Jane Austen fan could see past the many flaws to accept this movie as a true adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But I meant my last paragraph to be funny and sardonic, not offensive, so I'm sorry if you're insulted. =)

    2. Aha! I'm usually good at detecting sarcasm, but I missed that. Not insulted, and no longer sad that you'd think that about people who like it :-)

  3. Well, a hearty applause for you, Lizzie! I agree with every word that you have said. This was the first introduction I had to Jane Austen and P&P, but once I saw the 1995 edition I never looked back. No one plays Lizzie better than Jennifer Ehle and Darcy better than Colin Firth.

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you agree! It's always nice to know someone shares one's opinions. This isn't a bad introduction to JA and her wonderful works! I completely agree that Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth are wonderful in their roles! I'm really looking forward to writing the raving review that I hope to publish for P&P 1995. ;)

  4. This blog really made me laugh... word for word : you captured my thoughts exactly !!

    I made the fatal error of watching this film on TV today (out of boredom) and like you, had the obligatory "why did I just watch that... AGAIN" afterthought! Two more hours of my life I cant get back!!

    I read P&P on a regular basis, and I genuinely believe that Jane would have turned in her grave when this awful mash-up version was released.

    I think at a stretch, you could only enjoy this film if you can completely forget / separate yourself from the actual story, or if you have never read it.

    I am not a big fan of Keira Poutley.... and this film has got to be one of her worst. She says everything in such a hurry that I can barely understand her, and I hate how disheveled she is throughout. She portrays Lizzie in such a horribly sarcastic / childish manner, that she does the character no justice whatsoever.

    The combination of untidy clothing, dragged through a hedge backwards hairstyles, muffled rushed lines (many of which I think require subtitles in places), scruffy sets (particularly at Longbourne), generally poor acting, and the total lack of faithfulness to the original story, in my honest opinion, make it an excruciatingly painful watch.

    I have all the books and virtually every TV and film adaptation on DVD... but I REFUSE to have this one, on principal, and out of respect for Jane!

    1. I'm glad you found it amusing, Bee!

      I know exactly what you mean, those hours I've spent watching this movie are always regretted. I think I've finally suffered through it for the last time, though.

      Same here, the book is just nothing like this movie, and while the story seems to be a romance at first glance, I think Jane meant the her stories to be more of a study of human characters.

      Or if you simply don't have enough respect for Jane Austen's work. ;)

      "Keira Poutley"! Hilarious! That's just great! You're right, the way she rattles off her lines is awful, and "sarcastic and childish" are the perfect words to describe the way Elizabeth's character was mutilated.

      Very apt description, I agree completely!

      I do not own it either, on principle. Thanks for commenting, Bee! =)

  5. Thank you so much for this post! Agree 100%. Also, can we please talk about Lizzies hair?? For some reason this annoys me the most about this movie. They must have been like "so the way women back then ACTUALLY wore their hair is kind of un-sexy, let's just give them sexy beachy messy hair instead so it is more appealing to a modern audience- Who cares about historical accuracy, right?"