Pride and Prejudice (PG)
by Amy Diaz
Jane Austenís most modern-film-friendly of all her love-and-manners
novels gets a shiny new coat and two new burning-passion actors with
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden in Pride and Prejudice, a version
that at just a bit over two hours is still less than half as long as the
That version, which came out in the mid-1990s and made its way into the
pop culture universe in part due to Bridget Jones and the characterís
Mr. Darcy/Colin Firth worship, is a favorite largely because of a scene
in which Firth (a big manly hunk of Brit) dives into a pond to cool his
passions. When he gets out, all wet and muscle-revealing due to the
stickiness of his clothes, he is the nearest thing to nerd-girl porn
ever aired on British television and A&E.
That is a pretty big hurdle for any subsequent adaptation to surmount.
This Pride and Prejudice doesnít try, really, and wisely decides that
itís not about the steaminess of the Darcy but the sassiness of the
Lizzy. After all, one of the things that makes Pride and Prejudice such
a beloved book is that its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, is the most
likeable of Austenís eight or so principal girls.
Elizabeth here finds suitably trouble-making eyes and independent spirit
in Knightley. Even though the rest of her sisters seem like wallflowers
comparatively ó technically, older sister Jane (Rosamund Pike) is
supposed to be the looker ó this Elizabeth works tolerably well because
her beauty is not of the Gwyneth Paltrow fragile-flower variety but of a
more active and moxie-having kind.
really, the girls (who get all the lines ó Mr. Darcy mumbles, Mr. Bingly
bumbles and Mr. Bennet raises his eyebrows and sighs a lot) can make
this film tolerable or not. At its bare bones and divorced from Austenís
subversively witty prose, itís a big gooey love story about nice people
in love, wicked people in love and snarky people in love.
nice people are Jane and Bingley (Simon Woods), a gentleman who moves
into the Bennetís neighborhood and is instantly set upon like a wounded
piglet by hungry wolves. The pushiest family is the Bennet family, with
its five daughters to marry off. Luckily, Bingley takes a liking to Jane
and she to him but much mewing and fumbling keeps them from doing much
about it until the filmís last act.
Snarky, at least the polite 19th-century British version of it, comes
from Mr. Darcy, richer than Bingley but snobby enough to keep most women
at bay, and Elizabeth, who is filled with the aforementioned chutzpah.
They also have a bit of a thing, but dance around it in part because
each sees flaws in the other and in part because how else do you keep a
book with an obvious ending going for long enough to get in some social
commentary and a few good scandals?
Peppering the surroundings of our couples are the Bennet parents, the
weary dad (Donald Sutherland) and the flighty mom (Brenda Blethyn);
Bingleyís bitchy sister (Kelly Reilly); the delusionally self-important
Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) and the flighty youngest Bennet girl Lydia
(Jena Malone), a mall-slut in the making who runs off with the player
Mr. Wickham (Rupert Friend).
you are not inclined to like Pride and Prejudice (that is to say, if you
are not a girl or a fan of 19th-century novels) then you wonít like this
version any more or less than any others. But if you cooed at Colin
Firth and his wet shirt and like the restrained heat of a good corset
romance, you wonít be disappointed either.