(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
I have to say right off the bat that Pride & Prejudice is a wonderful movie and everyone should go out and see it. I really can't say when I've enjoyed a movie more. Of course, anyone who knows me, knows that I am a trifle romantic, and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are the very icons of romance. And just to add a little atmosphere, I saw the film in a theatre on Leicester Square in London after having a pub lunch of bangers and mash washed down with a pint of Bitter.
Anyway, as anyone who ever took an english class should know, Pride & Prejudice is the classic novel written by Jane Austen in 1813. It is the story of the Bennets. They are a loving family but poor, and so it is of great importance and with great difficulty that the parents (Donald Sutherland & Brenda Blethyn) must get their 5 daughters (Keira Knightly, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Talulah Riley & Carey Mulligan) married off. The daughters are beautiful yet less desirable because of their lowly station. Nevertheless, the oldest daughter, Jane (Pike), meets and falls in love with a nice rich guy, Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) who gets cold feet when his sister (Kelly Reilly) intervenes. Meanwhile, the 3rd oldest sister, Lydia (Malone) elopes with a ner'-do-well, Mr. Wickham (Rupert Friend), and a short, nerdy clergyman, Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) puts the moves on the 2nd oldest, Elizabeth (Knightly). Mr. Collins is beholden to and dependant on his patron, Lady Catherine de Bourg (Judi Dench). Orbiting on the periphery of all these subplots is the mysterious Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen). The rest of Pride & Prejudice resolves all these subplots as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet slowly fall in love. They are drawn to each other in spite of themselves which as Elizabeth says, "... would be most inconvenient since I swore to loathe him for all eternity."
Pride & Prejudice has been brought to the screen, TV or movie, many times, most recently in the TV mini-series that shot Colin Firth to fame and fortune. The existence of that successful version so fresh in people's minds was a source of some concern. Could the new film measure up, and, in particular, could MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy hope to measure up to Colin Firth? Well, the concerns were for naught.MacFadyen is really great. He doesn't have the beauty of Firth but, in my mind at least, he projects the very essence of the glowering, intimidating yet irresistible Mr. Darcy. For this all to work, Elizabeth Bennet has to stand up to him and give as good as she gets, and Keira Knightly is more than up to the task. Knightly is only 20 years old but already has a nice resume (Bend it Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Actually). MacFadyen was unknown to me but is a revelation. The supporting cast is a joy. Donald Sutherland, one of the few non-british actors in this film (He's Canadian), shows what an old pro can do, as does Blethyn. Judi Dench plays the small but important role of Lady Catherine de Bourg which she was born to play. Jena Malone, like Knightly, is only 21 but seems to have been around forever. Two of her films, Contact, and Life as a House make me cry every time I see them. Rosamund Pike, very old at 26, is best known for Die Another Day where she played a bad girl which means she got to have sex with Bond but then had to die.
Besides having a great cast, Pride & Prejudice looks beautiful on the screen. The director, Joe Wright, who hasn't done much up to now, makes every scene of the English countryside look scrumptious. It's hard to wreck this story but Wright does it right. This is a good movie to see on the big screen. One funny thing is that the ending of the film is different in the versions being shown in England and North America. The English version ends in true Austen fashion with no kissing and Donald Sutherland gets the last line. For North American audiences, who apparently felt cheated by this, they have tacked on a very un-Austen ending with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy cooing and kissing. Strangely enough, I saw the American ending in England. Go figure. Anyway, whichever ending you see, this is the best movie I've seen this year. Go see it and get some romance into your life.