Joe Wright could not have had an easier directorial debut than Jane Austen"s Pride and Prejudice. He could simply have sat back and made the expected film, featuring some big stars to divert attention away from any niggling "it"s my first time" mistakes he made. Unfortunately, rather than taking the opportunity to settle in to the craft of film making, learning how it differs from the TV dramas he is used to and then developing from a solid base, he seems determined to run before he can walk.
The most immediately obvious problem with the film is the acting of the two leads. Had Wright managed to evince even mediocre performances from Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen the film would have been raised immeasurably in overall quality. Alas this was not to be, as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet seem thoroughly bored throughout. Their acting in general is not particularly good but when they are together, the time when they should be at their best, they seem even less competent. Worse still, their speech is broken and stumbling as they struggle with their words, making the most heartfelt expressions of love appear confused, and lacking in any emotion save a desire to complete their lines quickly and be done with them.
Fortunately some of the more minor characters give excellent performances throughout, with Donald Sutherland a brilliant Mr. Bennet. He blends the love he feels for his daughter with the restraint that society demanded exceptionally well, creating a sympathetic character with whom the audience can identify. Sutherland"s English accent should also get a mention as it is consistently very good, with only a couple of pronunciations indicating that he is in fact Canadian. Brenda Blethyn plays the hysterical Mrs Bennet well, but Judi Dench, potentially the best actor in the film, lets herself down by putting in an unexceptional performance.
The director"s choice of shots is also highly questionable. An over-abundance of shallow focus shots force the viewer to look at what the director wants them to at all times. This is extremely annoying in very busy scenes where there is a lot of movement and interest on a large scale, which the director does not allow us to see. Even in the final scenes between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, where there is an empty, natural green background, Wright focuses solely on Knightley"s face, making her head, already enormous in comparison with her minuscule body, appear even larger.
In an attempt to make the film seem "dark" and "gritty" Wright also uses a large number of fast zooms. Unfortunately this only serves to make the film seem like it has been shot by a ten year old who has been given their parent"s video-camera and just found the zoom button. In one scene the camera moves in so fast on Matthew MacFadyen it is surprising he does not dive out of the way in an attempt to avoid a horrific facial injury. It almost seems Wright is attempting to make a documentary about a romance. The subject demands long, still shots or sweeping motions, not the kind of "wobbly-cam" work used so liberally by the makers of television documentaries about the ways in which the police suppress football hooliganism. It is possible, I suppose, that the documentary style could have worked to make Pride and Prejudice an example of social realism, but the acting styles, particularly the caricature-like Mr. Bingley, emphasise the unreality of the film. Of course unrealistic acting is an acceptable technique but the jarring mishmash of styles on display here serves to emphasise Joe Wright"s inexperience.
Despite its flaws, the film did do fairly well, and with some good reasons. It is worth seeing for the performance put in by Sutherland; Tom Hollander is also excellent as the slimy Mr Collins. Just don"t be upset if you end up feeling a little seasick.
It"s hard to remake a classic, harder still to be as good as what many consider a definitive adaptation, and almost impossible to do it twice, but where others have failed; Keira Knightley succeeds. Not only did she make the role of Lara Antipova her own in "Dr Zhivago" (2003), but now takes on Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright"s enjoyable adaptation of Jane Austin"s literary masterpiece.
For over a decade now, "Pride & Prejudice" has been the unofficial preserve of ladies; proudly lauded as the ultimate chick flick (even though the BBC miniseries ran over six weeks) with Colin Firth"s Mr Darcy praised as a man amongst men. Darcy"s soaked-to-the-breeches lake scene, became somewhat of a cultural phenomenon before being immortalised in "Bridget Jones"s Diary", the first book to put into words, what girls had been going on about since 1995.
But does all this mean its lost on men? Not at all, for "Pride & Prejudice" is for everyone: the series was excellent and this slightly rushed, but nonetheless accomplished, film will appeal to anyone who appreciates a good story, strong characters and witty dialogue.
Keira was excellent (as was Jennifer Ehle in the series) she nails Lizzie"s character down to a tee: sober, but far from humourless, reserved but friendly. Matthew Macfadyen"s Darcy on the other hand, isn"t quite as good as Colin Firth"s portrayal of Austin"s coolly aloof anti-hero. There are some good extras on the DVD, the best of which is a laughable, alternative ending that was used for the U.S. theatrical release.
"Pride & Prejudice" will sit quite comfortably in my collection, sandwiched in between "Platoon" and "Pulp Fiction". Though not nearly as good as the book, and a few shades shy of the miniseries, this movie is still a worthy effort in itself, and a good way to introduce audiences to the wonderful world of Jane Austin: Not just for girls.
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 (Europe) or region Free DVD Player in order to play. A romance ahead of its time... The five Bennet sisters - Elizabeth, or Lizzie (Keira Knightley), Jane (Rosamund Pike), Lydia (Jena Malone), Mary (Talulah Riley) and Kitty (Carey Mulligan) - have been raised well aware of their mother's (Brenda Blethyn) fixation on finding them husbands and securing set futures. The spirited and intelligent Elizabeth, however, strives to live her life with a broader perspective, as encouraged by her doting father (Donald Sutherland). When wealthy bachelor Mr. Bingley takes up residence in a nearby mansion, the Bennets are abuzz. Amongst the man's sophisticated circle of London friends and the influx of young military officers, surely there will be no shortage of suitors for the Bennet sisters. Eldest daughter Jane, serene and beautiful, seems poised to win Mr. Bingley's heart. For her part, Lizzie meets with the handsome and, it would seem, snobbish Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), and the battle of the sexes is joined. Their encounters are frequent and spirited yet far from encouraging. Lizzie finds herself even less inclined to accept a marriage proposal from a distant cousin, Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) and, supported by her father, stuns her mother and Mr. Collins by declining. When the previously good-natured Mr. Bingley abruptly departs for London leaving a devastated Jane, Lizzie holds Mr. Darcy culpable for contributing to the heartbreak. But a crisis involving youngest sister Lydia soon opens Lizzie's eyes to the true nature of her relationship with Mr. Darcy... Actors Keira Knightley, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Pip Torrens, Matthew MacFadyen, Judi Dench, Tom Hollander, Samantha Bloom, Peter Wight & Jay Simpson Director Joe Wright Certificate Universal Suitable for All Year 2005 Screen Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Languages English - Dolby Digital (5.1) Subtitles English for the hearing impaired ; Bulgarian ; Croatian ; Danish ; Dutch ; Finnish ; Hebrew ; Norwegian ; Portuguese ; Swedish ; Turkish ; Icelandic ; Russian ; Slovenian Duration 2 hours and 1 minute (approx)
Adaptation of the classic novel by Jane Austen starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. When wealthy Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) and his friend, the dashing Mr Darcy (Macfadyen), arrive in a small Hertfordshire town, Mrs Bennett (Brenda Blethyn) sees it as the perfect opportunity to marry off her eligible daughters. But when Elizabeth Bennett (Knightley) meets Mr Darcy, their equally headstrong natures get in the way of true love.