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Pride and Prejudice

It's been years since I've read the book, and I've never seen the t.v. mini-series which everyone swears by. And frankly - it's just as well I didn't have that baggage to bring to this movie. I didn't enjoy the Lord of the Rings, Howl's Moving Castle, or Harry Potter movies as much the first time through as I did the second; the first time through, I was too busy working through mental comparisons between book and movie. With the new Pride and Prejudice movie, I could enjoy the whole thing the first time through. We went to a free preview showing, alerted to it thanks to siusaidh. The movie opens more generally, at least in the UK, later this week.

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.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC)
Hmm. It might wind up being an advantage that I've seen more than one adaptation of P&P, then. So long as this movie is better than the one with Laurence Olivier as Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth, I don't ask too much.
Sep. 12th, 2005 10:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that! I was worried about Matthew MacFadden (sp?) as well as Keira Knightly, partially because of having seen Spooks/MI5. He just doesn't seem to do 'arrogant and a bit clueless' as well as Colin Firth. I may have to see it after all, I suppose. And anything has to be better than the Olivier version.
Sep. 12th, 2005 11:02 pm (UTC)
MacFadyen. I'll fix my spelling, now that I've looked it up.

He's good at the arrogant, but I'd say he was more "slightly confused", especially by Elizabeth, than "a bit clueless", although I suppose it results in much the same behaviour in the end. I haven't seen the Olivier version either; again, just as well, if for other reasons than the mini-series.
Sep. 12th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)
I for some reason was overcome by a P&P compulsion this summer. I listened to the audiobook twice (read the book years ago) and watched the A&E and BBC miniseries. Your review of the film makes me most anxious to see it. I love this story and think it has room for all manner of screen adaptation.

Must wait until November...
Sep. 12th, 2005 11:19 pm (UTC)
I've never read the book or really seen any film version. Geni has told me about the story though. I'd go see it but I really really don't like Keira Knightly
Sep. 13th, 2005 01:28 am (UTC)
Ooh, very interesting to hear your thoughts on this one, and so positive. I'd been hearing a lot of scepticism about it, and I was a little sceptical about whey they'd make it when the A&E miniseries is so well known for P&P.
Sep. 13th, 2005 08:23 am (UTC)
I'm quite glad to hear a positive review too. I'm a huge fan of the miniseries...what I'm hoping for with this new film is to be able to get my P&P "hit" off a 2 hour film rather than a 5 hour film. I'm wary of Kiera's ability to play Elizabeth but I'm willing to let her surprise me. Ooh...can't wait to go see it now!
Sep. 13th, 2005 08:40 am (UTC)
I do want to go and see it, but, like you, I tend to suffer from comparing books to films, and therefore not enjoying film as much. If it comes the other way round, I don't seem to get that problem. (I saw The Stand before I read the book, as an example). However, I haven't read the book in ages, so I think I'll go see the film first :-)
Sep. 13th, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC)
Heh. Baggage.
P&P was the first book I ever read where I had to get the cliff-notes just to get through it. I have quite a bit of animosity towards Jane Austin.. and really anything based off of her works since then.

Sad really.
Sep. 13th, 2005 01:47 pm (UTC)
"I have trouble imagining Colin Firth ever playing Mr. Darcy."

SACRILEGE!! Colin Firth is the God of all Mr. Darcys. I can't imagine anyone else playing him!

I'm glad that someone who hasn't seen the miniseries was able to review the movie for me, though. Having seen the miniseries about 100 times, no doubt I'll have too much baggage to fully enjoy the movie, but I'm still looking forward to it.
Sep. 14th, 2005 04:42 am (UTC)
You must see the David Rintoul version. As much as I adore Colin Firth, I'm not sure the earlier DR isn't at least as good, if not better. I think the big difference is that CF is sexy, but Darcy really isn't all that sexy in the book, so the DR may be truer.
Oct. 4th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC)
Your review was really useful, as I live in Poland where P&P will be released in January (:/) and I really wanted to know whether it's good or not. Could you please tell me if there's a wedding scene in the end of the movie? *gets excited*
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )