Monday, December 12, 2011

Pride and Prejudice 2005 Review

Edit May 16, 2018: For updated and added reviews and content, visit my new website Lit Lovers & Corset Laces

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. 

However, it is where Keira Knightly is concerned that the debate begins to stir up. Physically, I will admit that the anorexic Knightly wasn't my ideal image of Elizabeth Bennet. In my mind I imagined someone (obviously) fuller in figure. However, Knightly's face did have the strong jaw and steely eyes that I had personally imagined in Lizzy. Knightley's portrayal of Lizzy is less seen in her physical appearance and much noticeable in her acting. She pinpointed with perfect acuteness the spirit and wit of Lizzy Bennet in a way that I could scarcely believe possible. The sarcastic tones in her voice and the intriguing flicker in her eyes are indisputably "Lizzy-like" and when she faces up to Darcy during the botched proposal her passion and indignation is both natural and forceful at the same time. She delivers Bronte's language with so much ease that it almost seems like her own colloquial. In the end I wouldn't have chosen another actress to play her, and it helped that she was the exact age of the character when she was playing it. 

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
Soundtrack: It's Dario Marianelli! And this cemented a bond between he and Joe Wright that has existed in every single one of Wright's films. Dario is the god of soundtrack music, particularly when it comes to period movies. I ended up buying a good portion of the soundtrack and putting on my ipod. If you're one of those people into wordless, instrumental soundtracks, I would suggest that you take a peak at this. My favorites (if I had to choose) would be "Liz on Top of the World", "A Post Card to Henry Purcell", "Your Hands are Cold", and "Mrs. Darcy." Yes, it must be that good if I have to list FIVE favorites. 

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. 


  1. By and large, I enjoyed P&P'05 very much. I DO have a number of bugbears, however.
    Darcy was much too nice to begin with. By his own admission, he was proud, conceited, spoilt, selfish, overbearing, and thought meanly of the rest of the world! This was not how Matthew McFadyen played him.
    I didn't much care for Donald Sutherland's portrayal of Mr Bennet - again too nice. And his relationship with Mrs Bennet was all wrong. They are not meant to be a happy couple!
    The other thing that annoyed me was the relegating of Mr Wickham to the sidelines.
    Still, much to enjoy. And, although I'm not a huge fan, Keira was fine as Lizzy.

  2. Ah, we finally find something to disagree over! While I do think P&P05 is a beautiful film, it's not a faithful adaptation at all in my eyes. Keira is nothing like my book Lizzie, both lookswise and behaviour wise. She is way too immature and giggly and her stature is all wrong for Lizzie. I love Jennifer Ehle's version but I think Elizabeth Garvie is closest to my image of Lizzie.

    As for Darcy: I worship at the altar of Colin Firth and he is my quintessential Darcy. Matthew McFadyen, not so much... Wooden if you ask me and not just when he's supposed to be like that.

    Bingley was cute, but way too stupid and bumbling.

    I agree with Supergran that Mr and Mrs Bennet should not be a happy couple.

    And the pigs! The Bennets were not rich, but they definitely didn't have pigs running through their house.

    I love Rosamund Pike's Jane. Finally a Jane who is actually prettier than her sister.

    I do love the cinematography and the music, but as an adaptation of P&P it fails on many levels IMO. The ending in the mist was awful, as was the added scene at Pemberley.

    All of this is just my opinion of course. I do own the DVD and have watched it more than once...

  3. How did your Nanowrimo piece turn out, BTW?

  4. P&P 2005 will always have a special place in my heart - it was the one thing that got me started on reading and loving Austen. But it's probably not the most faithful of adaptations, as robas and Supergran have pointed out.

    Matthew Macfadyen is crazy hot, but his Darcy was built on the basis of shyness and hidden insecurity as opposed to flat out arrogance and conceit, which just isn't right.

    Bingley was so adorable it hurt, but really. He's not that stupid, awkward, or bumbling. I see what they were trying to go for, but it just didn't work, and it was an injustice to book-Bingley as well. I did really like the little scene where he practices his proposal to Jane with Darcy. That was a lovely touch.

    The Bennet sisters, I adored. Casting was perfect there, especially with Rosamund Pike as Jane. That woman is stunning. So is the cinematography, and the soundtrack happens to be one of my all-time faves as well. Flaws aside, I really do love this adaptation with a fiery passion, if only for the fact that's responsible for introducing me to Austen's books.

  5. Ooooh I love seeing all the comments!!

    @Supergran: First off, it's nice to see you back! I was wonder where you'd gone. Darcy's niceness was my main grievance. As for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's relationship, it wasn't really a big point of notice for me, but I understand what you're saying. A big idea in P&P is the idea that Elizabeth wants what her parents don't have.

    @Robas: Aww man, we were on a roll! However, we still have our points of agreement. Elizabeth Garvie is my ideal lizzy as well, only a little darker haired. Colin Firth is also the epitome of Darcy. Even though I enjoyed McFadyen's performance, I would never call him the true Darcy. I think people were a little hard on him. I wouldn't call him wooden at all, I merely think that he is very reserved but that his emotions shine through his subtleties. I LOVED the mist scene despite its unfaithfulness and the Pemberly scene afterwards was breathtaking to me. This is so sad...we actually DO disagree. :( Nanowrimo ended well by the way. I didn't win (which I wasn't really expecting to) but I got VERY close. Right now I'm going back through the novel and doing a lot of nipping, tucking, revising, etc. and then I'm hoping to release it peace by peace on the blog as soon as I finish the copyright research.

    @Bloody Awful Poetry: Bingley was a character that I forgot to analyze. I'm sorry everyone! I like the fact that they ventured out with the redhead, but I too think that he was a little TOO jumpy. Perhaps I too am biased because, like you, this movie holds a special place in my heart. It was the first adaptation of literature I ever saw, so in a way it impacted me on a very large scale. The idea that a book i loved could be taken and translated on screen so that the images weren't all imaginary anymore was breathtaking, and it was movies like these that made me realize that my aspiration is to be a screenwriter.

  6. I did like the mist scenecinematically, but not in an adaptation of P&P! It was so unlikely and inappropriate for the time period.

    I felt the Pemberley end scene was just too sugary for an Austen film and quite unneccesary if they had left in some of the excellent dialogue during and after the second proposal.

    I can't wait to read your Rochester piece. I'm sure it's amazing. What copyright issues are you worried about? Jane Eyre is in the Public Domain, so you don't have to worry about the Bronte heirs (I almost typed Eyres ;)).

  7. Bonnie, I HAVE tried to post in the past and was unsuccessful - I don't know what happened, and why my comment went through this time. Oh, well!

    One of my favourite Lizzys was Greer Garson. She was much too old, of course, but was great fun.

    Btw, I saw Jane Eyre 2011! I will try and post my opinion later.

  8. @Supergran: That's strange. But I'm glad you're back either way. I can't WAIT to read your thoughts on the newest Jane Eyre. A lot of people have come back to give their opinions and they say that my reviews were so optimistic that they were let down. :( If that was also the case with you, I'm very very sorry. Greer Garson was a great Lizzy. The 1940 was actually well cast for the time period. I enjoyed seeing one of my favorites (Laurence Olivier) in the role.

    @Robas: Yes, the scene is rather out of place with the time period. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't common for men to be walking about through the mist with slightly unbuttoned shirts. But the world of cinema does have to up the dosage of sex appeal to get some crowds, so I could excuse that.

    The copyright issues aren't so much about taking Bronte quotes. I actually researched that before I started the novel just to be sure. The problem is that I've heard that blogger has had a slight problem with "reblogging" things that aren't linked, sourced, etc. and I (selfishly) wouldn't want someone to by chance take my work. I'm just making sure that I'm protected. It seems as though I am, however. Everything on blogger is immediately under copyright according to my research. The only thing that delays me now is the nipping/tucking. I wrote the novel in a month, which gave me a sense of urgency just to get through it. Basically, what I wrote was a pretty haphazard rough draft. I now have the task of going back through to fine tune.

  9. Haha, well, I am perhaps what you would call a "die-hard fan" of the 1995 version; but definitely NOT all things Colin Firth. He made a very good Mr. Darcy; but that's all I can say for him. :P

  10. YAY! I have several of his soundtracks on my ipod, now I feel less weird since I've found someone else who loves Dario Marianelli as much as me, as well as literature!

  11. The first time I saw this version, I didn't care for Matthew M as Darcy at all until the botched proposal scene. Then suddenly I loved him unequivocally, and have ever since.

    And I completely agree that the other Bennett sisters are perfection itself -- I can't think of a single actress I would switch any of them out for. I'm also a Keira K fan, and I really loved her sparkle as Lizzy. One of my favorite things about this film, weirdly enough, is how she wears what is obviously one of her father's old coats when she's tramping about. It makes me smile.

  12. Have to admit that I disagree with you on loving this one...the 1995 version is (and probably always will be) my favorite. I did a post comparing the 1995 and 2005 P&P can read it here: I'd love to hear your thoughts! :) :)

    1. I will definitely look into that :) Thanks for the comment.

  13. Amazing review. This was actually the first p&p adaption I saw also.. I think I was 17.. And, I watched this movie every morning for a year.. strange I know (lol).

    Geez, that proposal scene was ahhh amazing.. simply beautiful... I think right there I said, "Oh yeah I have to have this novel". After that, I think I carried "Pride & Prejudice" in my purse for two years .. Geez, I'm one strange cookie. lol j.k

    Yet, I do agree with you. Keira Knightly did not depict Elizabeth Bennet physical appearance as Jane Austen described her. Although, in personality she nailed it.

    I also agree that Matthew McFadyen wild appearance was a little off, but i'll admit I kind of liked it ;)

    And, the soundtrack... ah amazing...
    Nailah D'arcy

    1. Thank you very much :) I definitely understand your obsession. Whenever I find a good adaption of a book I obsessively watch it. I think it's just the excitement you feel when some of things you've imagined are actually translated on screen. It feel so personal. :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed the review!