A little something different on the blog today. As you know, or not, I’m doing the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. Here is the original post from Austenprose. The deal is to set yourself a goal of reading/watching so many Pride and Prejudice sequels, re-tellings (ie: books) or movies/miniseries and then to review them. I have gone all out and will be posting one review a month – mostly books, but this month I’ve chosen to review the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightely as Elizabeth Benton and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy. Here is the link to IMDB.
I think this adaptation is as close to perfect as a movie can get. There. I said it. This is always in my Desert Island list. I have watched an endless string of DVD commentaries and almost every director mentions the old adage about casting being 90% of the work. I think when it’s a book that is well loved this is an especially difficult task. I know I pay a lot more attention to the cast when I feel I already “know” the characters. And Joe Wright had 90% of his work done for him. I could go on and on about Matthew MacFadyen, but I think you would all ask me to stop. I know Colin Firth is the one and only Darcy for many of you, but I saw Matthew first. I thought he was imposing, handsome, carried himself like an aristocrat…. and was also shy, out of his element where Elizabeth is concerned and somewhat adork-able. But I wasn’t going to go on about him. Instead, I’ll go on about Keira Knightley. Saying an actress is “radiant” in a role is a boring cliche…but it’s what comes to mind when I think of her. Joe Wright claims he didn’t think she would make a good Elizabeth, that she was “too pretty,” but when he met her, he changed his mind. She can be willowy and graceful, that long neck doesn’t hurt, but she can also use her height, her long limbs, to be tomboyish. I care little for tomboyishness, but she there is something in Keira’s face, her look, that makes you believe she is intelligent…and a little sassy. Two things that must be present in anyone daring to take on the mantle of Miss Eliza Bennet. And the two have chemistry. The famous and ill-fated proposal takes place in the rain, outdoors, under this sort of Grecian thing. They manage to be incredibly angry and insulted by one another’s words and behavior, and at the end of it, you know they want to just grab each other and start kissing in a most improper fashion. They don’t…. it’s not that kinda movie… but who didn’t want them to?!
This is period drama. There are costumes. There are fabulous old homes. But there is also a simplicity in the way this period drama is styled. I think Groombridge Place, the location of Longbourne, must have been very hot. Cheeks are always slightly rosy, skin glowing with perspiration, and collars and flounces tend to be a little limp. But it looks real. Of course, there are wigs, on men and women, but they don’t have the perfect, canned appearance of some PBS miniseries, where it looks like all the characters have been unpacked from mothballs. I think the public ball at Meryton where the Bennet and Bingly/Darcy introduction occurs is a fabulous example. Hair is not perfectly coiffed (remember, they didn’t have Wen hair products, let alone hair spray in 1797, when Joe Wright says he placed his adaptation). There are errant curls, frizzy wigs on extras, the cravats are a little crushed. These are regular folks, wearing their best, of course, but their best is not what would be expected in Grosvenor Square or even Emma’s dinner parties at Hartfield. These are country folk, engaging in the modern day equivalent of a football game at the local high school, only with more dancing and less pigskin. And they look like it. They also look like they’re having a great time. I think this movie was the first time I’d seen a dance in a period drama portrayed like a party, rather than a bunch of stiff-necked extras moving in circles. Modern adaptations have taken a note from Pride and Prejudice’s success. I don’t think we would have had that lovely dance in Emma between Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller without it.
The last bit of gush I will give this movie is the score. It is lush and gorgeous. I got the fancy boxed version of the movie that came with the soundtrack, and it’s one of my favorites. “Dawn” is just about the most beautiful piece of piano music I have ever heard.
So that is my take. I would love to hear your opinions on the movie, or your arguments for Colin Firth, in the comments.