Let me preface this article by admitting the awful truth: I am a Pride & Prejudice-loving, Colin Firth-worshipping, total Jane Austen geek. If youre one of those people who hate Jane Austen, and ridicule the silly girls who love Pride & Prejudice, stop reading now. This article is not for you.
Its impossible to talk about this new movie without first at least mentioning what has come beforenotably, the six-part BBC miniseries. Even the most pop cultureinept person would have found it hard to miss the Colin Firth fever that almost swept both sides of the Atlantic from Bridget Joness Diary. It may not be right, but its inevitable that moviegoers compare the two versions, and Im no exception.
For the record, I was not particularly thrilled that a new version was coming out in the first place. Im loyal to the BBCs version, and anyone else playing Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy just seemed wrong. In short, this new version is treading on sacred ground. It would have been so easy for this movie to go terribly, terribly wrong. Im happy to report, however, that it is definitely not a train wreck. Keira Knightly did a great job. She doesnt pose to be admired but perfectly captures the vitality of Lizzy Bennet, bringing some unexpected and much appreciated humor to the character. Knightlys otherwise unknown talent for comedy shines through. Our new Mr. Darcy is an entirely different matter. Mathew MacFadyen delivers his lines as if hes struggling to remember the words, and rushes them out at the expense of emotion and believability. MacFayden improves over the course of the movieDarcys failed marriage proposal is particularly goodbut for the most part he seems concerned with looking moody. At a certain point it just becomes too much. We get it. Youre a brooding kind of guylets move on.
Its the supporting characters in Pride & Prejudice that truly bring it to life. Mrs. Bennet is perfect and, for my money, the best thing about the film. Bingley is transformed into a loveable geek, and Jane is perfect as the reserved and golden-hearted older sister, that is, without a doubt, better than her BBC counterpart. The audience at the theater where I saw the film especially loved Mr. Collins, who, just so you know, sports an entirely appropriate mullet.
If there was one glaringly ridiculous move on the films part, it was the choice of cheesy romantic scenery. There is extremely moody weather and, instead of actually heightening emotion, it just seems silly when important conversations only take place at dawn or dusk. The pacing is also a little off. The tension that should slowly build between Elizabeth and Darcy happens much too fast. They jump straight from arguing to intense looks that seem to say I want to rip your clothes off. Darcy, in particular, lacks a transition from annoyed to enamored, and, really, thats what everyone is there to see. The audience wants to be convinced along with the protagonists themselves, and the movie chooses to work off assumptions rather than earn the ending.
The good news about the new Pride & Prejudice is that you forget about Colin Firthit stands on its own. The bad news is that the film didnt really bring anything new to the canon of prior Pride & Prejudice renditions. Things were generally good, but nothing was really different or spectacular. The directors attempt to experiment with camera angles doesnt amount to a new vision that absolutely must be shared with the world.
Of course, I really liked this movie. Its a good, giddy time, and leaves you with that high, distinctly associated with happy love stories. But Im not so sure how much of that is the movies doing and how much is just the nature of the story. You tell me. At the end of the day theres no way that I can possibly judge this movie. As my friend Roshan said afterwards, In your heart you love ityou know there are things wrong with it, but you love it and you cant help it. Exactly. If you really want to know the truth, ask that snobby movie kid in your dorm. I say, go.