Friday, November 11, 2005

Pride & Prejudice: A Review

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a "ladies night" screening of the new version of Pride & Prejudice at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood. This is the review I sent out to my mom, sisters, aunt, and cousins, all of whom are big Jane Austen fans. The movie opens today.

Well hellooooooo ladies!
I have seen the new Pride & Prejudice, and I figured if anyone cared about what I thought, it would be this group.

We all know the story, so I'm in no danger of spoiling the plot. As for this adaptation, well? It's different.

I should actually start by saying that I expected to hate it. I'm a BBC fan ALL THE WAY, and I don't think any new adaptation could stop me from feeling the Colin Firth love. Plus Keira Knightly bugs me. Well, Keira Knightly's teeth bug me. They're long, she's got this weird underbite... Anyway, she's the only one I knew was in it, and I was completely annoyed and prepared to hate it.

Until I found out Judi Dench was Lady Catherine. That's when I thought maybe this new version would have some potential.

They did a lot different in this version. It's more rugged than I'd ever pictured, the dress and style and surroundings for the Bennets are far more country-fied and less refined than you've even seen them [My cousin Laura wrote back to tell me that she heard they styled this movie to take place during the time it was written, which was actually several years before it was published. Most adaptations reflect the publishing date]. They moved a lot of really important scenes outdoors, some in the rain, which I found to be way more Bronte than Austen, and I'm not sure if I agree with it.

The cast is a mixed bag. Keira and her teeth were fine. The Eliza in this adaptation is far more casual and sarcastic than she's been in the past. It's not accurate to the book, but it actually kind of works for the movie. Brenda Blethyn is perfectly over-the-top as the ridiculous mother, Donald Sutherland infused Mr. Bennet with more love and realism than I've ever seen before, and Jane Bennet is appropriately sweet AND, I thought, appropriately prettier than Elizabeth. As she should be.

Mr. Bingly is ADORABLE. They made him way dumber than I ever thought he actually was, but I kind of forgave it every time he'd smile. Mr. Collins totally made me squirm and laugh, so well done there. Wickham looked eerily identical the younger brother of a guy I went to high school with, so that tripped me out the whole movie (though he is handsome and, of course, a rake.) And, as you can imagine, Judi Dench as Lady Catherine was completely fabulous.

As for Mr. Darcy, well. I am sorry to report that I didn't like him at ALL at first. I've read that the actor and director agreed on his wooden, unlikeable acting choices for the beginning of the film because they felt it was in character... but I just found his performance in the beginning of the film to be, well, wooden and unlikeable. But then suddenly he NAILED Darcy's first agonizing declaration of love, and I went all shmoopy, forgave him everything, and loved him for the rest of the movie. Now, is that because I am a dork when it comes to this story, think Mr. Darcy is the ultimate romantic ideal and am therefore inclined to like him no matter what? Ummmmmmmm.....Maybe.

Oh, and the actor is pretty cute, too. Which never hurts.

The adaptation of the story is fine. It felt extremely rushed to me, but it's a lot of story to pack into a normal-length film, which is one of the main reasons the BBC version works so much better. That said, if you don't have 6 hours to devote to a little romantic escapism, this version will do.

Some of the dialogue is new and a little cheesy. Mind you, I had this same problem with Sense & Sensibility when I first saw it, thinking they'd updated some of the dialogue too much, and now it's one of my favorites. So it could grow on me. They kept a lot of Jane Austen's original dialogue in, however, and that's really why we see these, isn't it? Every time I'd hear a snippet of that original witty banter, I'd just smile and feel like I was visiting old friends.

Finally, the music is truly divine. It helped give the movie that overall "Bronte" feeling and, again, I'm still not sure I agree with it. But wow, is this soundtrack beautiful.

So, in conclusion, it wasn't perfect, and it certainly wasn't the best version I've ever seen (still BBC). But at the end of the movie I felt like they made this adaptation with a lot of love and respect for the source material, that the end result was dreamy, and I look forward to seeing it again. Because that's the real test, right? Will it stand up to multiple viewings with moms and girlfriends and sisters and aunts and cousins and really big bowls of ice cream? I say, Yes.

Finally, in case you're wondering about the attached photo--they had a party after the screening with mini cupcakes, champagne, gift bags and a cardboard stand-up of Mr. Darcy. So, naturally, I had to take a photo. I SO WISH that you all could have been there so see this with me!! That said, I can't wait to hear what YOU all think of this adaptation. Even if it is to tell me that my take on it is totally and utterly wrong.
Much love,D
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Becca said...

I absolutely adored this version. Different than the BBC, like you said, but totally worth it and enjoyable. I also plan to see it again. And maybe again.

DonnaGryn said...

Saw "P&P" over the holiday weekend, and I agree with most of your review, except I did like Darcy from the beginning. I thought he was a much more shy version of the character than Firth (swoon)'s take on him.

One good thing about Keria's teeth? They aren't movie-star perfect. Isn't that a relief?