Friday, December 2, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

A wonderful two hour and seven minute version of Jane Austin’s classic novel of the plight of landed gentry women in reduced circumstances is in theaters now – and it is worth the price of the ticket.


I think everyone knows the story by now; it’s a matter of highlighting why this version of a young woman and young man, who take an immediate dislike to each other when they meet, harbor a secret interest in one another, and then end up married (depending on which film or television version you see), is worth seeing.


Kiera Knightly (Bend it like Beckham; Pirates of the Caribbean) plays second daughter Elizabeth with sweet energy; Donald Sutherland is a surprise as the pained Mr. Bennett, drowning in females; and Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies) is perfect as the panicked, screechy Mrs. Bennett. Matthew MacFadyen has been in movies and on television since 1998, but this is the first time I’ve seen him in anything. At first I could only compare him to Colin Firth from the 1995 mini-series, but after a while, he becomes acceptable in the role. Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg is, an always, perfect. My sister didn’t care for the younger sisters; overly loud and giggly.


The writer, Deborah Moggach, and director Joe Wright (both new to me), have managed to create Jane Austin’s rural English universe in a credible way. Visually, it’s beautiful, but very rustic and “brown”. The characters in all the dancing scenes seem compressed; perhaps the ballrooms were that small. And perhaps geese and other livestock did live in muddy yards outside the kitchen doors of the mansions. So while the “feel” or texture of this version of Pride and Prejudice is different from the mini-series, it still manages to draw us in andmake us care about the characters (except for Cousin Mr. Colllins, played to annoying perfection by Tom Hollander) – and the outcome of this tension between pride and prejudice. 


Now if only Deborah Moggach and Joe Wright can create a two hour and seven minute version of Jane Eyre (the one by Zefferelli doesn’t count; I didn’t like it), I will die happy.

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