Preamble:I remember stepping into the wonderful world of pride and prejudice the summer before sixth grade. I was, I will admittedly say, obsessed with it. My mom and dad thought it was just another passing phase, and I don't believe any of us would have thought at that moment that I would forever be an English lit fanatic. Therefore, my parents approached my effusive boasting of the book with a kind of disregarding apathy. Though I had formed this amazing bond with Pride and Prejudice, it never occurred to me that there were these lovely things called adaptations that brought novels to life on screen. I was therefore both surprised and excited as I came upon the movie while lounging lazily on the couch flipping through the channels of Direct TV.
The 2005 version was, in fact, the first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice I had ever seen. The 1995 PBS version coincidentally came a week after that. A few years later I found the 1940 before finally coming in touch with the 1980. I became a keen observer of all, comparing them and weighing them as I do with Jane Eyre adaptations today. Since that time the 2005 has been irrevocably established as my favorite, which might astound any of the die-hard fans of the 1995 (and all things Colin Firth).
This, however, is a review and so I don't seek to compare the 2005 to the 1995. I'm merely presenting my review on the one I intimated above. The review might be very helter-skelter, but bear with me please, because my thoughts aren't the most organized things today. For some reason, I've decided to revert back to my old reviewing style: the one I used when writing my first review for this blog. <--Fond memory, by the way.
I will start by saying that the first characters we see--those of the Bennet family--are all perfectly casted. Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet was a stroke of sheer genius, and even the aging Donald Sutherland contributed something new to his part that I did not find unappealing. Mary, Kitty, and Lydia are matched to perfection and the girls who played them (particularly Kitty and Mary) all grew up to become celebrated actors. Cary Mulligan has appeared in her fair share of highly praised movies since her appearance here, and Talulah Riley and Jenna Malone are always a pleasure to watch. Jane Bennet could not have been casted better, with Rosamund Pike possessing all the soft, sensual, and elegant beauty that I had imagined in the gorgeous eldest daughter. I don't believe that many people will argue the casting of the Bennet family even though some will mistakenly venture to say that Pike was miscast.
Opposite her, Matthew McFadyen is the man chosen to play Darcy, and this is where certain complexities begin to come in. Once again, I would not have chosen Matthew as Darcy by merely looking at him. Though Matthew is decidedly attractive (I've ranked him as on of my favorite foreign hotties), he's not attractive in the conventional and clean-cut way I would have imagined for Darcy. When thinking of Darcy, I think of dark eyes, fair skin, and nearly black curls. I see a strong, masculine, and square jaw with a pointed chin and lips set in a smirk. I don't see Matthew McFadyen. McFadyen, however, had the chance do what Keira Knightley did and win me over with his acting. Yet, he left me just as puzzled there as he did with his appearances. This isn't to say that Matthew was bad, because he most certainly wasn't. In fact, he was very good. His shaken passion during both proposals and the sense of boyish shyness is beautiful and works miraculously. The problem was that as lovely and ardent as he is, he is not Darcy. I have a hard time believing that Darcy was ever proud to begin with in this adaptation. I merely receive the impression that he's shy, quiet, and socially awkward. Darcy is, of course, all these things, but the main point of his character is that the shyness, quietness, and social awkwardness is all projected as vanity and pride on the surface. More of that, and McFadyen would have been fine. As it was, he was a bit wanting.
Once again, Dame Judi Dench knocks her role out of the park. She's so versatile and she's also one of the only actors I've known who has ultimately defined two roles. She nailed her later performance in Jane Eyre, earning her the title of the "ultimate Mrs. Fairfax" in my mind. However, she also defined Lady Catherine here. Lady Catherine is not so clingy and annoying in this adaptation, but rather demanding and controlling. She is not some bothered old lady with nothing to do, she is stately, elevated, and used to having her way. Dench was perfect. She cut down the annoyance, upped the dosage of strength, and ultimately gave us the complete Lady Catherine. As for other casting choices such as Charlotte and Mr. Collins: priceless. Collins was especially comic in this adaptation. The only person I could really call horribly miscast was Colonel Fitzwilliam, but he's not around enough for anyone to notice.
The screenplay took its liberties, and that was or will be a great downside to many P&P Puritans (that alliteration has a nice ring to it). However, I personally found this newer and slightly more modern take on the language refreshing and it even made the film better in some cases. I would not cut Matthew McFadyen saying, "You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you" for the world, even if it wasn't in the novel! Deborah Moggach (the screenwriter) added a little something extra to give the adaptation a twist, to define it's originality. I don't blame her for doing it. All the important parts of the text are preserved beautifully when you get to their core. The changes were either unimportant or beneficial. For example, the fact that there isn't another Bingley sister is pretty excusable and even a bit relieving; the fact that the proposal was done in the rain instead of in a stuffy drawing room was perfect.
Cinematography: Beautiful. No other word to describe it. Joe Wright and Roman Osin collaborated to make the novel visually sensual. Everything about the filming was complete perfection. That sweeping landscape picturing Lizzy on the edge of the world was flawless enough to bring tears to my eyes for no reason. Sometimes indisputable beauty is just enough to make one cry.
|I love this picture of Lizzy and Darcy|
The one thing I love about Pride and Prejudice is that it gives the costume designer a lot of work and a chance to really bring out creativity. The Netherfield ball is a haven of costume splendor. If I were you, I would take some notice of that when I watch it.
I really can't think of many except for that it was short. I'll say it time and time again: it's the hardest thing in the world to condense a novel into a box-office movie timeframe. The movie was already a good two hours long and it did a great job of condensing in my opinion. The only things of weight that was missing was the little party at Lucas Lodge (when Darcy's offer to dance is rejected) and the conversation that includes Darcy and Elizabeth's "propensity to hate everyone" and their tendency to "willfully misunderstand them." Other than that, everything escaped in tact.
This was an incredibly long review. I'm fully aware that I've typed your eyes out, so in order to finish, I'll hastily conclude that this version was GREAT. There might be some grievances, but they aren't controversial ones and they certainly aren't enough to make anyone dislike the movie.
Grade: A...4.5 out of 5 stars.