Basically, it's like this: Lizzy (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Darcy (Matthew Rhys) have been happily married for about six years now, and are in the midst of planning their annual ball when a murder on their estate throws a minor kink in the plans. But even worse is that the only suspect is the the bane (or one of many bane's) of Lizzy and Darcy's existence: George Wickham (Matthew Goode). Is the scoundrel Mr. Wickham at least innocent of murder, or will this fanfic by P. D. James take Austen's beloved tale and pull it to pieces for the sake of a dramatic plot? You'll have to see for yourself on the first count, but the second? Absolutely.
|Turns out mixing Austen with a courtroom drama only sounds better than mixing Austen with, say, zombies. And at least with zombies there's no chance of taking it seriously...|
I admit my curiosity is what pulled me into this. I've seen the fiction of Austen fans played out on screen before, and anything in them that has anything to do with Austen or her stories never, ever fails to make me at least annoyed. But for some reason, with the next one, I feel the curiosity again. Fortunately, I've never felt curiosity over Austen fan novels -- there are so many more of those to choose from!
My curiosity was piqued by two things. First I wondered at how the story would portray Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's married life. In this my disappointment was the most severe. Remember two paragraphs ago when I said "Lizzy and Darcy have been happily married"? Well, I may have used slightly the wrong word there. In fact I should have maybe used the exact opposite word. Even before the murder the two are on edge with each other, but after... good grief. Darcy is mad at Lizzy for trying to use sense around him (apparently) and Lizzy gets it in her head that Darcy regrets marrying her at all, and it seemed true. They yell at each other, and don't listen, then storm off to do rash things in their anger, and Darcy gets the worst of it -- at one point he childishly won't let her hold his hand -- he becomes like he was at the beginning of P&P, except worse because this characterization of him is way off base.
|Am I wrong in assuming that these two were supposed to have a happily-ever-after? Or at least they they wouldn't digress back into the flaws of which they had cured each other?|
Everything was so off, in fact, that there was no need to worry about the possibility of these characters and this story seep into my imagination of what happens after the last words written in Pride and Prejudice. While the fact that P. D. James wrote fan fiction seems to be great evidence for her being an Austen fan, I still have a hard time believing it with how botched all the characters were. The only two worth a mention of commendation are Lydia (Doctor Who's Jenna Coleman) and Wickham, and those I think must be mostly due to lucky casting.
The second point of my curiosity was the mystery; I wanted to find out if Wickham was a murderer or not (in the mind of P. D. James anyway). And rest assured that this point got its due disappointment as well. The mystery was... not engaging. Unspectacular. I've recently been watching and reading a lot of Agatha Christie, and it's hard to hold a candle to The Queen of Murder, but really, there are many mysteries better than this one -- and readily available in places other than Botched Up Austen Ave.
|The talented cast share a hearty laugh -- in spite, or because of being involved in this unfortunate production?|
I thought at first I disliked it because of my loyalty to Austen's work, but then I immediately realized that even if it was totally original, it would still be full of contrived drama and unfulfilled mystery. It did have the rare enjoyable moment though, usually in places where I could forget about its connection with Austen. I suppose now I should balance the trashing: The costuming was very nice; everyone looked great, (except in some cases if you were to look at their face) and I particularly liked Lizzy's gowns. The location and scenery were both fine and pretty; the cinematography also. Nothing was special, but was all quality.
But, unless you want to see this whole thing just for a glance at some dresses and a beautiful house, or unless cheap Austen-esque murder mysteries is exactly what you have a hankering for, do yourself a favor and save yourself a wasted three hours -- find some spoilers on the internet! I will even provide them upon request. You don't have to fall for it like I did.
I tried to keep it short; I really did.