Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I've never read...... hmm, yet another blog post starting off with an admission of not having read a famous or acclaimed book. In this case though, reading Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' was never that high on my 'to-read' list because it always struck me as a chick-book, but if this film adaptation is anything to go by, I was wrong. I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this period drama.

'Pride and Prejudice' takes place in turn of the 19th century England and tells the story of an intelligent, witty, and romantic young woman, Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley), and events that take place around her that all relate to love and marriage. Elizabeth belongs to a fairly well off family that comprises her father (Donald Sutherland), mother (Brenda Blethyn), and her four sisters. The parents are intent on securing their daughters' futures by getting them married as soon as possible, in part because the family's assets will be inherited by Mr. Bennet's nephew Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) and not by any of the girls. When a wealthy young man, Charles Bingley (Simon Woods), moves in to a nearby estate the Bennett's attempt to arrange for their eldest daughter Jane (Rosamund Pike) to marry him. During the course of various social events and visits, Elizabeth meets Mr. Bingley's very wealthy but sullen and unfriendly friend Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden); the two are initially directly at odds, but it is evident from the outset that each also finds the other fascinating. Events subsequently occur that upset the delicate balance of Elizabeth's family and social circles, and that cause her to both loathe and be drawn to Darcy.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out where this story leads, but as they say its the journey that makes it worthwhile. Given the period setting and cultural norms of the time, this doesn't play out like a contemporary romantic comedy, and it hasn't been in any way modernized. The 'courtships', such as they are, take place in a very stiff and formal manner, with much of the interaction between Elizabeth and Darcy being limited to sharp, witty exchanges and a few subtle but intense moments. In some ways their relationship develops when the two of them aren't together, by way of events occurring off-screen and conversations with other characters. I found the whole thing to be a fascinating window into a time when the whole marriage dance was performed in such a ritualistic and contrived manner (in the Western world, that is. It's still done that way in plenty of other places). The film is full of formal and often verbose dialogue that again befits the setting (or at least, the perception of the setting), and this combined with the production design, lovely English countryside visuals, and music all create a believable period atmosphere.

Keira Knightley, being at the centre of the story, needed to deliver in order to really sell the film. I've always thought she was a good actress but I haven't particularly liked her in any of her films. So colour me surprised, I was impressed by her performance and really enjoyed her work in this; she channels her vivaciousness perfectly while also managing to convey her affections for Darcy and her conflicted feelings with subtlety. Matthew Macfayden isn't particularly great as Darcy, but his scenes with Knightley are, so overall he acquits himself well. Judi Dench appears as Lady Catherine, and once again demonstrates that she's really good at playing pompous, arrogant, and bitchy women in positions of power (that's not a criticism, it's true!). The rest of the cast are quite good, with Brenda Blethyn and Tom Hollander being great in the comic relief (ish) roles of Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins respectively.

'Pride and Prejudice' is a wonderful film; it's very well made and features a terrific and endearing performance by Keira Knightley. I don't know how good of an adaptation the film is, but on its own terms it's an entertaining and charming romantic story that's well worth watching. I'll have to now read the book to see how they compare...


only everything said...

Ok, I was going to stop commenting until I saw you reviewed this version of P&P, which is my favorite adaptation compared to all of its predecessors. It is short in comparison to the 6? 9? hour BBC version (and some people swear by that one), as well as the book; the director took liberties with some historic/costume conventions and pieces of the plot, but on the whole the 2005 version embodied the spirit of Austen's novel.

I wasn't blown away by Knightly in her works prior to this one, but for some reason her personality really worked here. Almost everyone did a fantastic job with his/her character; I especially liked Mrs. Bennett's frazzledness and Caroline Bingley's bitchiness. Wickham could've been just a tad sleazier and evil.

P&P happens to be one of my all-time favorite books and has been for a long time. You must read it. :) I also own a copy of this DVD and probably watched it no less than 10 times already...

Antimatter said...

10 times eh? Fangirl! :p

I'm still surprised I liked this film! I'm more interested in reading the book than watching another adaptation, although from what I've read some fans didn't like this version. And yeah, Knightley seems a natural for the character.

You don't need to tell me, I intend to read it! :) As always, I'll post my thoughts on it here when I'm done!

only everything said...

I was first and foremost a fan of the book, which was why I saw this version and sought out the BBC version, which tons of people seem to love. If you ever feel like watching that one, let me give my opinion even if you didn't ask for it - it's way long, and while full of details, the acting was exaggerated for the most part, and the age of actors/actresses they casted made it all wrong. Despite some claiming it to be "true" to the book, the director also took many liberties, most of them with Colin Firth's Darcy.

Yes, I'm a bit biased, even if Colin Firth is delicious. :>

But, why should you be surprised that you liked this movie? It's not your average chick flick, the story has substance, the acting was great from everyone, and the cinematography was breath-taking. Oohh...I think I need to watch it again within the next couple of days!

Antimatter said...

I'll listen to the opinion of a P&P fanatic and skip the Beeb's version then! :D

I think the film's really well made, the quality isn't necessarily a deciding factor in whether I like it or not (Scorsese's films are exceptionally well made but I don't care much for most of them, for instance).

The subject matter is not really something I normally find appealing, which is why I'm surprised. Possibly because as you say, it has substance and is decidedly atypical! :)