This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It made me happy. I went with M.M. who loves the mini-series dearly, and who still ranks it higher than the movie; but she liked the movie too. She reports that the best strength of the the movie is how effectively social strata are presented, the difference in status between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, the importance of the girls' marrying. M.M. thought that the mini-series was wittier, but that this was quite funny too. It was very funny.
One of the things I liked most about the movie is how densely layered some of the scenes were, especially when presenting the Bennett family interactions, how much happened at once at home and at densely-crowded dances, but how effectively it communicated nevertheless. I liked the verisimilitude of people talking over each other and mouthing words to each other, the effectiveness of body language. Each of the daughters had a plot arc, well-paced. Mr. Darcy's sister was delightful. I hadn't realized that Judi Dench was in this movie, albeit in a rather predictable casting. Mr. Collins was brilliantly acted; I loved the potato scene.
I'm deeply certain that this movie isn't purely true to the plot details of the book, but it's probably just as well, because the movie succeeded in achieving strong narrative flow, something often lacking in movies too true to their source material, simply because book and movie are different media.
And how were the lead actors? Right now, fresh from this version, I have trouble imagining Colin Firth ever playing Mr. Darcy. Matthew MacFadyen was incongruously serious at first, but the expression grew on me, and emphasized the extreme rareness - once - of his smile. For me, the biggest problem with his casting is that he was distractingly tall, towering over the rest of the cast.
I went in feeling very cautious about Keira Knightley, after everyone else's uncertainties on the subject. She's a bit of an outsider within her own family, so in the opening sequence she felt less-well integrated into the lively family dynamic. But she grew on me and does indeed have the depth and subtlety for the role. I loved the confused awkwardness in their scene after Elizabeth accidently catches Mr. Darcy at home with his sister - probably the best scene in the movie.
Strangely, one of the things I found most awkward about the movie was its use of great houses. You know how some movies film up close to each actors' face, so that you almost never see their bodies, the kind of claustrophobia that results from that? This movie didn't make that mistake - but it did much the same thing with the great houses used in the filming. Sure, there was plenty of other scenery - but I felt as if I was looking at the houses from a very narrow angle indeed.
P.S. Howl's Moving Castle opens on September 23rd here in the UK.