Pride & Prejudice (2005) (PG)
There is a simplistic beauty to Joe Wright's "Pride & Prejudice", an unexpected and not totally wanted remake of the Jane Austen classic. Most die-hard fans of the book will tell you that either no movie rendition of the novel has done it justice, or that the 1995 BBC mini-series with Colin Firth reigns supreme.
Indeed, the mini-series has a huge following in the group of Austen fans that dote upon the famed author's works. (On a side note: Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility" is one of the finest examples of Austen's novels converting to screen).
In the trailers for the upcoming movie "Austenland" (which looks intolerably boring), a woman is obsessed with Jane Austen and finding her own Mr. Darcy. She has a cardboard cut-out of the character, and who is it? None other than Colin Firth. This cements the fact that the mini-series is widely considered to be the best adaptation.
But Joe Wright tried to make the book more accessible to audiences and I really appreciate that. Instead of the monumental task of wading through what felt like six hours of British drama, Wright made "Pride & Prejudice" a little over two hours long which isn't that much of a hassle.
The story has been told time and time again: Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) is one of five daughters in the Bennet household. Her mother is a busybody who is keen on getting all of her daughter's married. For marriage is an important right of passage that Mrs. Bennet is determined all of her daughters will partake in. She's conniving and clever, letting her oldest daughter Jane (Rosamund Pike) ride out to a suitor on horseback instead of using the carriage. Mrs. Bennet knows it will rain, which is does, and Jane is trapped at the suitor's mansion for several days—success!
Romance is something that is portrayed differently in "Pride & Prejudice"...there is little wooing and much to do with social classes. Courting takes place after only few meetings and marriage, few more meetings after that.
Elizabeth is convinced that romance will find her, perhaps she's a dreamer. Her path crosses with the incredibly rich Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen)—let's just say, it's not a good first impression.
I had always thought that the book's title referred to the two main characters: Elizabeth was Prejudice and Mr. Darcy was Pride. Yet the movie implies that pride and prejudice are the two strongest vices that both protagonists possess. Elizabeth is certainly prideful and Mr. Darcy has moments of shocking prejudice.
Elizabeth Bennet is a woman lost, but she has a clear direction that she wants to go. With her despair mingled with her rigid mind set, Elizabeth is a curiously savage character. Keira Knightly is quite good as Elizabeth (she earned an Oscar nomination for the film), and I think she breathes new life into a character that has been played many, many times.
By Joe Wright or Deborah Moggach's (the screenwriter) hand, the movie has curious sexual overtones. It might be easy to overlook, but for a film that only has one on-screen kiss, "Pride & Prejudice" has delightful scenes that stand up to heavy analysis.
Roman Osin's cinematography is spectacular...it draws the viewer in with impressive tracking shots and beautiful landscapes. This is accompanied with Dario Marianelli's incredible music, which has since become one of the most played soundtracks. Simple piano music ushers in the beginning of the day as Elizabeth takes a morning walk.
Both Knightly and Macfayden are not true to the BBC version, they enforce their own versions of the fictional couple. The cast that surrounds them are their equals, Wright gets his actors to create strong characters that are unforgettable.
The best parts of the movie come from the supporting cast like Donald Sutherland as the quiet, henpecked Mr. Bennet and Tom Hollander as the unsuspecting Mr. Collins.
Judy Dench, Carey Mulligan, and Claudie Blakley all give worthy turns and each is as unique as the next.
It's not a film about effects—it's about characters and story. The workings of the society give way to an intimate romance that has become as revered as Romeo and Juliet. With this in mind, Joe Wright made a risk that paid off quite well.
"Pride & Prejudice" is a film that lasts long after the screen is black.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones