Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

There have been many attempts at sequels to Jane Austen's wonderful novels. I have a very low opinion of almost everyone who thinks they have any right to try to add on to her works, but for some reason, I was silly enough to watch Death Comes to Pemberley, in spite of expecting it to be horrible from the beginning. Perhaps mixing murder and Jane Austen is better than mixing in some excessively steamy romance (which is just my vague impression of some of these "sequels," as I've never actually read any) and I certainly think a murder mystery component is a better choice than zombies or sea monsters. But seriously folks, I know all Jane Austen fans wish there were more... but there isn't. And there never will be. This is NOT Austen. This was torture.

 First of all, the characters are pretty awful. Darcy and Lizzie's relationship and personal characters were mutilated in a most infuriating fashion. Darcy was loud and irritable, even Matthew McFadyen's pouty portrayal of Darcy in the 2005 P&P was more tolerable. Lizzie was boring and flat, none of that sparkle, wit and vivacity that she should have. Their relationship was terrible, more about that later. Georgiana's relationship with her brother was also contorted and strained, completely unfaithful to Pride and Prejudice. Colonel Fitzwilliam was cold, mysterious and weird, also unlike he's supposed to be. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were sadly bland, the first not sarcastic and dry enough, the second not silly and irritating enough. Wickham, Denny and Lydia were pretty good, but only in comparison to the awfulness of the others. Lady Catherine makes a pointless appearance, unless you think appearing just to complete the thorough ruination of all the characters has a point... she was completely unlike Lady Catherine, and much more like Aunt Augusta from The Importance of Being Earnest. It was very disorienting.

Thankfully, one bright spot was the lovely costuming. When everything else was irritating me, I'd just zone out and admire one of Lizzie's dresses. Even though the actress was much too old, and had eyes that were nearly the opposite of "fine eyes," at least her dresses were pretty and authentic (so far as I know). Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the scenery, the woods around Pemberley were made out to be scary and mysterious most of the time, and they used the same mansion as the atrocious 2005 P&P for Pemberley, which has that stupid, contrived man-made lake in the front that seems to go RIGHT UP TO THE HOUSE. It never ceases to make me groan.

And that fountain! What?!?
The mystery plot was not very good at all, either. I'm afraid that's what happens when you try to mix two things that aren't meant to be mixed... you ruin both of them! The mystery was quite unsatisfactory to me, as a fan of good mysteries like Sherlock, Miss Marple and Poirot. It was lacking in clues, lacking in sleuthing, lacking in intrigue and definitely lacking in suspense. The mystery was terribly boring, except when it was being annoying by injustice in the courtroom.

Perhaps to make up for the pathetic mystery, or perhaps just to annoy me further, the story added flashbacks in which they further tainted the true, beautiful original Pride and Prejudice by showing us the scene with Lizzie and Wickham when he tells his lies about Darcy, the worst mutilation yet of Darcy's first proposal scene (yes, we believe it was worse than the 2005 P&P first proposal scene in the rain, where they almost kiss. Hard to believe something could be worse than than that, but there it is!) and a scene where Darcy pays Wickham to marry Lydia in a twisted, weird way.

Also, the story added unnecessary and irritating drama between Darcy and Lizzie in their present time, with Lizzie thinking that Darcy regretted marrying her because of the connection to Lydia and Wickham, and if I understood correctly (I may have been hallucinating or something) Darcy insinuating to her that he was actually feeling that way about her in a most unpleasant conversation! 

Georgiana had a little love triangle; she and a nice young lawyer were in love, and Colonel Fitzwilliam also wanted to marry her. For the sake of duty she was going to marry Colonel Fitzwilliam, and that was one of the points of the obnoxious conflict between Lizzie and Darcy, as Lizzie wanted Georgiana to marry for love, and Darcy wanted her to marry Fitzwilliam for security, and the horrible conversation ends with him saying something about how it's better to marry for security and honor than to marry on a sentimental whim! Oh my goodness, I could write a whole blog post on that one quote, and all the terrible, infuriating, ridiculous ways that is so wrong, and NOT AT ALL Mr. Darcy! Does P. D. James think he changed for the WORSE after their marriage instead of for the better? Did she even READ Pride and Prejudice?!? Okay, okay, calming... deep breaths...

Let me just say, almost the entire movie Darcy and Lizzie are at odds - this is not how I want to see one of my favorite Austen couples in a sequel after they're married! Finally, near the end of the movie, their relationship is mended and then this horrible mutilation of Austen flops the other direction with a scene where Lizzie and Darcy begin to take each others clothes off! Amid much shrieking, hiding of eyes and exclamations of "No, no, no, no, no, no!" we managed to fast forward. Ugh!

Georgiana agrees to marry Fitzwilliam, but that's put to right at the very end, and her young lawyer comes riding up on a horse in a very 2005-esque manner... it might not be early on a foggy morning, but he's improperly clothed (what do these film makers have against cravats, anyway?) and they're standing in a field. At least there are no incredibly stupid lines, there, he just asks her to marry him, and she says yes and then they kiss passionately. (Which, of course, doesn't seem very authentic, but at least is less that offensive than that OTHER scene...)

This is the beginning of the mystery... Lydia is hysterical and everyone gathers around.
Thankfully, in spite of much boring mysteriousness, the "murder" case is finally solved by a pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat sort of trick, and Lizzie rushes up onto the gallows at the last second with a signed confession from the guy who didn't even murder anyone. After being mistaken for Wickham, and non-fatally whacked on the head by the brother of the woman Wickham seduced, who then realized the mistake and did no more damage, Denny just fell down a hill and managed to fatally hit his head on this random gravestone of a Darcy that shamed and disgraced the family, almost lost the estate, turned into a hermit, built a cottage in the woods, killed himself and was buried way out there as a symbol for future generations. What, was that confusing?  What about the ghost of the woman whose very young boy was hanged for poaching off of Pemberley land when years ago when Darcy was a boy, so she then hanged herself in the woods of Pemberley and is rumored to appear whenever anything bad is getting ready to happen at Pemberley? I wish I was making this up. I feel like I'm forgetting some of the ridiculous things, but I don't want to waste any more time ranting.

Like my dad said, they make these things just to trap Austen fans. They know we can't resist, just because it claims to be Austenish, so once they hook us with that, they don't even have to try to write a good story, or even satisfy the craving that they tempted. This is completely unsatisfactory as a murder mystery; more than terribly frustrating as a sequel to P&P with the issues about Darcy and Lizzie. They never would have fought like that, and Austen never would have given us a glimpse behind their bedroom doors... neither extreme was at all enjoyable. Perhaps fans of 2005 P&P would like it, but I recommend everyone else stay away. It's not worth it just to satisfy your curiosity, you'll be wasting 3 hours of your life. There, your curiosity is now satisfied.

If you're trying to decide, don't watch it, seriously. It was like hoping for chocolate and biting into carob instead. Or when someone accidentally puts salt instead of sugar into the cake, you know, that kind of disappointing. Just look at these pictures of pretty dresses and tell yourself that you got the best part of this movie without all of the torture. You're welcome.


  1. Bummer. So sorry this wasn't your kind of series, but I understand Austen purists not liking this. :)

    1. I don't consider myself an Austen purist, really... if I were, I should have just refused to watch it in the first place! I'm just extremely disappointed with how much she twisted Lizzie and Darcy's relationship from what Austen set up at the end of the book, and the destruction of Darcy's character - he wasn't even like his old, prideful, cold self from early P&P, he just wasn't Darcy at all. Badly done, P. D. James, very badly done indeed. ;)

  2. I watched it too and honestly can't remember a thing about it except that I couldn't stand the actress who played Elizabeth. Although I must wonder if the adaptation of the novel was simply a bad adaptation. It's happened before where books are absolutely dreadful when filmed, so that could be it, not that I plan to read the book to find out.

    Also, hi! It's so lovely to be on your blog again after I vanished for months with my new job and a crazy, hectic life! :)

  3. Yes, it is pretty forgettable, isn't it? (Thank goodness!) I like Anna Maxwell Martin in North and South, Bleakhouse, and Becoming Jane just fine, but she really didn't make a good Elizabeth. You're right that it could just be a bad adaptation, but I don't have any intention of reading the book to find out either.

    Hi!! It is good to hear from you! I was gone over the summer too, although I don't have a new job to blame for my busyness. I hope you're enjoying it! =D