Pride & Prejudice Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/11/2005
Keira Knightley has been the “it” girl for the last couple of years. Her latest few movies (this year’s excellent The Jacket and Domino) have flopped, but she is still one of the better young actresses working today. Most other critics really liked this movie, Pride & Prejudice, but I will have to disagree respectfully as a critic who just wanted to be entertained.
Sometime near the end of the 18th century, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn) have found themselves with five beautiful daughters, but no son to take over their house and property once they die (only a male can be an heir for some weird reason.) The Bennet girls, Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth, a.k.a. Lizzy (Knightley), Mary (Talulah Riley), Catherine, a.k.a. Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Lydia (Jena Malone), are all single, which worries their mother (their father just wants them to be happy.) Mrs. Bennet constantly acts like a matchmaker so that they can find a male heir and have a man take care of them financially. Prosperous bachelor Mr. Charles Bingley (Simon Woods) has leased a mansion near to the Bennets’ estate with his sister Caroline (Kelly Reilly) and good (and even more wealthy) friend Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen.) Both Caroline and Darcy look down upon the Bennets and their society because it isn’t up to their standards. Jane has taken a shine to Bingley though, and he likes her. With the assumed coupling of Jane and Bingley a lock, Mrs. Bennet sets her sights on Lizzy. She tries to set Lizzy up with Mr. William Collins (Tom Hollander), her distant and uninteresting clergyman cousin who will inherit Lizzy’s estate if a male heir isn’t found, since he is the closest male relative. Collins is looking for a wife, but Lizzy isn’t interested in him (why is it that no one mentions the fact that they are cousins?) She likes a military man named Mr. George Wickham (Rupert Friend), who doesn’t like Darcy because of something in their past. Speaking of Darcy, Lizzy doesn’t like him either…mainly because he considers her too plain and common for the likes of him. It doesn’t matter though, because his affluent aunt and Collins’ patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourg (Judi Dench), looks down on Lizzy as well. Catherine would rather see Darcy marry her daughter Anne (Rosamund Stephen; okay…what is up with all of this cousin-marrying stuff?) Since Lizzy has rejected Collins, the cousin decides to marry Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakley), Lizzy’s best friend, who marries him because she is afraid of being a spinster. This highly upsets Mrs. Bennet though. She is further stressed when Bingley dumps Jane and Wickham marries Lydia (Wickham isn’t quite rich enough for Mrs. Bennet’s tastes.) As time passes, Lizzy and Darcy get to know one another better, and they start to fall in love.
So why wasn’t I entertained when apparently everyone else (or at least every critic) was? It was boring! I’ve liked several Jane Austen adaptations, including the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility and the 1996 movie Emma, plus the modern adaptations, 1995’s Clueless and 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, but this version of the often told story was long and dry. First-time movie director Joe Wright helmed the movie (using a screenplay by Deborah Moggach, also a first-timer for the silver screen, with some uncredited dialogue written by Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for adapting Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.) It was faithful to the novel (or so I’ve been told…I’ve never read it), and the scenery and costumes were beautiful, but I really need much more than that to entertain me. For just superficial reasons as a guy, I would have liked to have seen attractive-looking women in those 18th Century dresses that show off a lot of cleavage. Alas, this movie was rated PG, so that was not the case, and all we had to go on was the stuffy dialogue.
This version of the story is the second adaptation of it that has been in theaters in 65 years (aside from a modern-day indie Mormon version from 2003, subtitled A Latter-Day Comedy, and a Bollywood version called Bride & Prejudice from last year.) It has been adapted several times for television though, with the most referenced version being the 1995 A&E/BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (which inspired Helen Fielding to include Firth as a character in her 1999 novel Bridget Jones’s Diary and cast the actor himself to play the part of Mark Darcy, Bridget’s true love.) The miniseries was recently featured in an episode of UPN’s “Veronica Mars,” but based on their reactions to it, they found it boring as well (though they acknowledged how good Firth looked.)
The acting was fine, but the literal translation of the story made me feel like I was watching a movie required for an English class in high school. Knightley was beautiful and spirited, as she should be. MacFadyen, whom I like from A&E’s “MI-5,” is okay (he shows the emotional range that he is good at displaying in that spy show, but it would have been cool if he had guns or something here. Kidding…) Blethyn and Sutherland are probably the more entertaining ones in the movie, because they are essentially the only comic relief in a movie devoid of too many laughs. Malone is just annoying, and I usually like her.
I had a female friend email me and ask me what I thought of Pride & Prejudice, since she was forcing her husband to take her to see it this weekend. I felt bad for her husband, because he will feel like chewing his leg off out of boredom while watching this movie, which runs slightly over two hours. I don’t have a girlfriend at the moment, so my pride and prejudice over not seeing this film again won’t be affected. I’ll wait to see Knightley again in a corset in next year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
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