Sunday, December 04, 2005

This Weekend's Movie: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

As I mentioned Friday, I caught up with the film Friday night and thoroughly enjoyed it, though I had numerous quibbles with some of the filmmakers' choices.

The quibbles were part of the fun; it was fascinating dissecting the attempt to give a fresh spin or voice to a familiar story. The film's "revisionist" tone reminded me of the Winona Ryder version of LITTLE WOMEN, as each film attempted a grittier, more "realistic" depiction of its story -- though P&P was mercifully without the feminist overtones of the LITTLE WOMEN remake. (And is it just me, or did Keira Knightley look and act just a bit as Ryder did in LITTLE WOMEN?)

On the whole I found it a worthy entry among the filmed versions of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. They did a fairly good job condensing the plot, although I didn't enjoy the "spinning" seasonal changes, which made me dizzy (grin). I find Wickham a tiresome character and didn't mind seeing so little of him in the film. I found it refreshing that Mr. Collins wasn't portrayed as quite the buffoon he has been portrayed as in the past (although he's still pretty silly!). I particularly liked the re-thinking of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett's relationship in this version; in the Firth version in particular the parents barely tolerated each other, and I enjoyed seeing their marriage portrayed with more affection and good humor. I also liked seeing genuine tender emotion from Mrs. Bennet (i.e., when Lydia left).

As Missy has pointed out, some of the attempts at "realism" did not come off so well. The pig?! Puh-lease. The dance coming to a screeching halt when Bingley and Darcy entered? It just seemed silly. And Lady Catherine "calling" in what appeared to be the middle of the night?! The Bennett dinner table scenes seemed to me to be overdone in their messiness, but they were also visually fascinating. And I thought Chatsworth too famous a site to use as Pemberley; it took me out of the movie's reality, but maybe that's just because I've been there. ("Oh, look, there's the hill with the waterfall we climbed!")

I'm of two minds about the (in)famous ending; I rather liked being treated to a little more "romance" than we're used to with Austen, but I think it could have been handled somehow in a more Austen-like way. (The, er, hand on the leg? Not Austen!)

But enough of the question marks. The cinematography was dazzling, particularly the sequence where the camera moved through room after room at the ball. Matthew MacFadyen grew on me over the course of the film, and I found his Mr. Darcy rather touching. Keira Knightley aquitted herself well as Elizabeth, and the rest of the cast were all quite good. Donald Sutherland in particular was very touching in his last scene.

A well-made, diverting film which I'll certainly be adding to my DVD library in due course.


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