Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a rich man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. What is it about? If you said it was a romance about a proud man and a prejudiced woman you wouldn't be wrong... just missing out on a few points. If you said that, I would assume that you had only watched this 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, and liked it. And while I really can't say you're "wrong" for liking it, I can say, as before, you would be missing out.

But today I am not here to tell you about all the wonderful things you are missing if I say "Elizabeth Bennet" and you see Keira Knightley. I'm simply going to review, analyze and nit-pick this film until I am satisfied, and hope that the end result gives you a fair idea of what exactly I think of it. I think you may have a fair idea already.

If not, however, I hope that trailer set it a bit straighter for you. Yes, a deep-voiced announcer said "in a era" at the beginning. I can hardly believe it myself. But my favorite part has to be how they try to make you think Miss Darcy is Miss De Bourgh. Ha.

This film starts out very well. Beautiful cinematography paired with some equally fine music goes on pleasantly for a good while, and all is well until Knightley's poor posture and odd hair makes a bold appearance and ruins the serenity. And the nagging feeling of there being something terribly wrong never goes away. Five minutes in I get a horrible desperate feeling that the movie is going by way too fast.

Savor moments that look like this.

I'm afraid that there is very little middle ground here for me. I either think a part is surprisingly good, or intolerably bad -- and I really mean intolerably. Director Joe "Anything-But" Wright makes a large number of changes and additions. Some are blatantly disrespectful of Austen's novel, and appear to have only been made for the sole purpose of making his film obviously different from the source. Some are just plain stupid, and ALL are unnecessary.

An example, because I can't resist: After Mr. Darcy proposes to Lizzy the first time... in the rain... and they've just finished insulting each other, he steps in closer... and they nearly kiss. (Excuse me for moment whilst I give back my breakfast.) I will not insult anyone's intelligence by explaining why that is... is... inconceivably ridiculous. If you can't understand, go read the book.

You've GOT to be kidding me.

Joe Wright obviously has zero respect for Jane Austen. I could go on with this for hours, but I would only succeed in annoying myself. And, unfortunately, I have to give him some good credits too. Cinematography is his forte -- and his takes liberties in the story to show case it -- but if I judge it without bias, I can honestly say it's beautiful. And while he totally messed up casting the two leads (and skinny model and a "hunk") the supporting cast is impressive and very interesting.

Pictured from right to left: One girl soon to be famous, one amazing actress before she was famous, one girl I would not miss if she quit acting, one of the most beautiful women in the world, and one girl who is not actually ugly at all.

Fun facts time! Jena Malone has been cast as Johanna Mason in Catching Fire, which will probably get her a lot of attention. This was Carey Mulligan's first movie, and has since catapulted herself into fame, and I'm confident she will continue to grow rapidly. And do you recognize Mary? Talulah Riley may not be a very big actress, but I doubt she escaped your notice in Inception.

Talulah Riley played a blonde, played by Eames, played by Tom Hardy. A role within a role within a role!

These three girls barely got enough screen time to insure that fans would be able to tell them apart, but there are some really good and funny details to their characters that I love to see. Kitty (Mulligan) eying Mr. Wickham after he's married to Lydia; Mary, through expression, making it obvious that she would have married Mr. Collins; and Lydia's (Malone) "war of the wine glass" with Lizzy. (Inaccurate, but funny)

Rosamund Pike got a fair amount of screen time, and made the most of it by being lovely and sweet, and a very good Jane. Her suitor, Mr. Bingley, played by Simon Woods, was unfortunately ruined by script and direction. His best scene, and the only one where he doesn't act awkward or stupid, was apparently improvised. To really enjoy the actor, I recommend watching Cranford.

Another fun fact: The two actors dated before this movie. Maybe that explains Bingley's awkwardness.

I shouldn't put it off any longer. Lizzy and Darcy -- Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen -- the foundation of the story and therefore, the reason I don't like this version. I suppose it's a credit to their acting... that they're so awful... they obviously did exactly what Wright wanted them to do.

Look at them -- stopped in the middle of the set to stare each other down! Such passion.

All the wonderful complexities of these characters don't even come close to making an appearance. The only thing MacFadyen has going for him is his ability to look serious and proud, and his deep voice; Knightley's is her ability to say all the old-fashioned lines and make them (more or less) sound like they come from her head. Neither look the part, but Knightley is by far the worst of the two. She's way to skinny, way too modern and way too glamorous -- which makes her much better suited for the roles she later took in Wright films, in Atonement and Anna Karenina. (Two movie better suited to his style as well, I believe.)

I always smile in this scene, when Darcy says "you are conscious that your figures appear to best advantage when walking" because Elizabeth's figure is so pathetic compared to Miss Bingley's. The moment takes on a whole new meaning!

Speaking of Miss Bingley, I've decided that she is my favorite part of the film. So fashionable, so haughty, so jealous, and her character is not only played well by the lovely Kelly Reilly, but played as it should be. Right, not Wright. Oh, and the way she holds her mouth as they leave Netherfield is perfection.

Obviously, the director is the reason I don't like/respect/acknowledge this film as a Jane Austen adaptation. But I'm conflicted, because this is a beautifully shot film, that has some great and some practically brilliant intricacies and moments -- also the directors work. So what can I say, but that some of this movie makes me sick, and some makes me laugh out loud? I wish I could say one or the other -- be free to hate or love this movie in peace -- but, sadly, I cannot.

Now I will attempt to give a star rating to this confusing, conflicting film. It boils down to this: as a adaptation of Austen's novel, it's inaccuracies, and disrespectful changes, 1 star would be generous; disregarding all that, just as a film, I could give it 4 with no problem. So here is my compromise...

-- 3 stars.

Review #1 of this challenge!


  1. I have to say, I clicked on this review from Old-Fashioned Charm, hoping that it would be criticized. Because I always like to see it so. *cough*
    Anyways. A lot of what you said made me feel pleased and nod along, so I am satisfied. ;) If this wasn't supposed to have anything to do with Jane Austen, I might SORT of like it, but it would still have to be excluding a few things. But when it's supposed to be P&P... um, no. It makes me mad. And I hate it that people judge P&P or even Jane Austen altogether, by this movie. UGH.

    Haha. ;)

    1. Haha! I'm glad I satisfied you. :) I agree, and I think that's probably a pretty common opinion amongst Jane Austen fans!

    2. Ha, well, unfortunately there is 'the other side'. (Though it's my personal opinion that most people who prefer this version aren't real Jane Austen fans. *looks around and ducks*)

    3. Yes, that's true, and everyone is allowed their opinions I suppose... even if we think they're missing out. :P

  2. Wow. I completely disagree with about 90% of what you said. I'm about 3/4 through rewatching this version, and will be posting my own review for this challenge soon, so I won't go into it a lot here and now, but I'd welcome a dialog about it when I've got my review up too.

    1. Haha well that's alright. ;) I'll keep an eye out for your review, and I look forward to reading it!

    2. I've posted it this morning. And it's not that I dislike the 1995, cuz I like that one too. It's just that I find a lot to like in the 2005 as well.

  3. I didn't like this version either. Honestly! I was rather grumpy and uniimpressed with certain aspects. 1995 version all the way! (or was it '94...?) ;D

    1. Definitely! The 95 (95 is right) could be the only version ever made and I would be be perfectly happy! :D

  4. I LOVE THIS 2005 version of P&P because it's so romantic. The 1995 version was ok too but it failed me. It didn't put me at the edge of my seat, it didn't excite me at all. If it isn't so great then why thousands of people love it? Why did it leave so many women day dreaming of Matthew Macfadyen? If you don't want it to be called P&P, with its story & script, wouldn't it be more disappointing if they had named it differently with that particular story?.. I think the problem with you is that u know too much. Why don't u try to "empty your cup" first then try to watch it again. I'm sure you'll fall in love this time!

    1. I'm afraid that I've already fallen in love with Jane Austen's P&P and can't help being loyal to it. If I have to forget my adoration for her original novel in order to enjoy this version, why in the world would that be something that I should do? The 95 version is the film I see the most romance in. I'm sorry it didn't work for you, but honestly if you were expecting to be excited, and put on the edge of your seat, maybe you should've been watching an action-thriller. I'm glad you love this version, and I understand that it's your opinion that it's good. It's my opinion that it's a bunch of sugarcoated junk. Lots of people love Twilight too, but I'm not about to be pressured into jumping on that bandwagon either. If I wanted to daydream about Matthew Macfadyen, I would happily watch Little Dorrit. I think he's great, and with the right script and director could make a very nice Mr. Darcy... which just amplifies the disappointment of the Mr. Darcy he was here. The sugarcoating ruined him for me. I don't mind that it's called P&P. All my disappointment comes from that I can see how this version could've actually been really good, but was instead... what it is. For the most part it was wonderfully cast, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. But those things that you think are romantic to me is just watered-down, re-used, Hollywood-ized sentimental fluff. And I like that sort of stuff well enough, but it has it's place, and elegant and refined Austen adaptations is not it's place. This version is okay in it's own right -- if it were the only version to exist, book or film, maybe I would think better of it, but as it is, with those other versions existing, I can't. It lacks what I love most about the story! And I'm not about to change my mind about what I love about P&P just so I can enjoy this version as well as everyone else does.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts so honestly, and as I said, I am glad you enjoy the film. :)

      If you're interested in understanding better the things I love about P&P, you should read my review of the 95 version:
      It's really too complicated to explain in a comment. :)