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Pride & Prejudice (A Movie Review)


Starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Tom Hollander, Rosamund Pike and Judi Dench.

Screenplay by Deborah Moggach.

Directed by Joe Wright.

Distributed by Focus Features. 129 minutes. Rated PG.

It seems quite incredible that Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice has been filmed as many times as it has been. There is the famous movie version in the 1940s. In the mid-90s the BBC made it into a mini-series which is still considered to be the high-water mark of Austen adaptations. Other TV adaptations included miniseries in 1952 and 1980 and TV movie adaptations in 1938, 1958 and 1967. In more recent years it has been tweaked several times; as a Bollywood musical (Bride and Prejudice), a campus love story (Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy), even a modern workplace romance (Bridget Jones's Diary).

Even more incredible than the fact that the book has been filmed so often is the fact that I have never seen any of the above versions – unless you count the modern variation of Bridget Jones's Diary, which is a very, very loose adaptation. Also, in the interest of fair disclosure, I have also never read Austen's novel.

So, I come into the new version of Pride and Prejudice with no expectations or emotional baggage. I have a tendency to not particularly like these period pieces of simmering but repressed longing. However, I went into it with an open mind and was totally rewarded.

Pride and Prejudice is, quite simply, a wonderful, lovely film.

Keira Knightley does a quite incredible job as Lizzie Bennet, one of five daughters in a poor British family. Her mother (Brenda Blethyn) is obsessive about marrying her girls into good families. Her father (Donald Sutherland) simply wants his daughters to be happy.

Lizzie was a relatively modern woman – she had thoughts and beliefs and stood up for herself – in a time when women were expected to be subservient. Because in the era marriage was a matter of status and class rather than love, the Bennet women seem to have little to offer other than their looks. The house is thrown into an uproar when two noblemen come to town, a rich playboy named Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), his repressed best friend.

While Mr. Bingley courts Lizzie's sister Jane (Rosamund Pike), Lizzie and Mr. Darcy feel an instant dislike. However, the two meet over the years and their feelings change, first Mr. Darcy's – who very awkwardly proposes to Lizzy only to be turned down flat – then Lizzie who comes to realize that he is a good man as he systematically sets about fixing the wrongs that he has caused her family.

I won't get into the specifics of everything that happens to lead to this mutual love – as much because most people already know as anything. From what I hear, the film has had to trim many of the subplots and incidents which were so vitally important in the novel, but this streamlined version of the story works decidedly well. There are some slow moments towards the middle, but once the movie hits its stride it is amazingly involving.

Much more than most modern romantic stories, when Lizzie and Mr. Darcy do finally come together it is a striking moment of joy for the audience – just because we know all that they have experienced to arrive at this place. Maybe there was something to the old-fashioned mating courtships after all. (11/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2006 All rights reserved. Posted: February 17, 2006.


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