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Pride & Prejudice Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
Image"Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen’s best-known novel, is given the cinematic treatment once again with Keira Knightly starring as our heroine Elizabeth Bennett under first-time feature director Joe Wright.

The story is set in the English countryside at the beginning of the 19th century. Elizabeth lives with her family on a modest farm. The girls are all unmarried, a worry to Mrs. Bennett (Brenda Blethyn) because should Mr. Bennett (Donald Sutherland) pass away, his cousin Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) will inherit the farm. Elizabeth has dreams of romantic love.

When word gets out that wealthy bachelor named Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) is moving into the neighborhood, Mrs. Bennett gets motivated. She introduces her daughters to him at a ball where he and Jane (Rosamund Pike) appear to be taken with each other. Elizabeth meets Bingley’s friend, Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), but he’s proud, aloof and standoffish. She asks him to dance and he declines.

Bingley requests a meeting with Jane, so Mrs. Bennett sends her over in the rain. Jane catches a cold and has to stay overnight at Bingley’s mansion Elizabeth goes over to help tend to her sister. She and Darcy engage in a little verbal sparring between, annoying her and intriguing him.
Collins comes for dinner and takes an interest in Jane. Mrs. Bennett is hoping Jane will marry Bingley, so she pushes him toward Elizabeth, who is uninterested. In town, Elizabeth meets a a soldier named Wickham (Rupert Friend). They cross paths with Darcy, who leaves abruptly. Wickham explains he knows Darcy because his father managed Darcy’s father’s estate. Upon his passing, the elder Darcy had bequeathed his rectory to Wickham because of his affection for Wickham, who desired to be a clergyman. Darcy refused the request, causing Elizabeth to grow more resentful of him.

An elaborate ball is held at Bingley’s place, which contains the best direction of the film. There is a comical moment as Collins and Jane attempt to have conversations with Elizabeth as they move through the structured dance. Elizabeth and Darcy have their own conversation and to illustrate they are having a close, personal moment everyone else disappears. The ball scene closes with an elaborate and well-executed tracking shot through the house as we come across many of our characters.

Collins proposes to Elizabeth who refuses, to her mother’s chagrin, but her father accepts the match. Bingley goes back to London, possibly due to his sister’s efforts in keeping Jane away. Jane goes to visit family in London and to try and remain close to him. But Collins proposes to Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte, who accepts due to financial reasons.

Elizabeth accepts an invitation to visit Charlotte and Collins. While there, Collins’ patroness, Lady Catherine (Judi Dench), not so much invites as she commands them to come to dinner. While there, Elizabeth encounters Darcy, who is Lady Catherine’s nephew. She also learns that Darcy was responsible for Bingley returning to London, which adds to her animosity towards him. He professes his love and proposes to her, but she refuses with disgust. However, there’s more to learn about Darcy. The Bennett sisters need to find satisfactory husbands.

The video presentation looks very good at times. The English countryside and some of the lavish residences are beautiful to behold. There were some low lit scenes where the grain is noticable; however, it adds to the authenticty of the time.

The film is dialogue-heavy, the main focus of the audio. However, it’s very soft throughout. I had to turn the volume up to catch everything. The score occasionally overwhelmed the dialogue.

The Special Features were hit and miss and deserved to be better, considering the source material. “Conversation with The Cast” presents the actors talking about what a wonderful time they had together. “Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time,” is a very brief examination of the author. I was surprised there wasn’t something more in depth about her or the work. “A Bennet Family Portrait” examines the characters and their relatinships. “The Politics of Dating” examines the rules of courtship of the time period. “The Stately Homes of 'Pride & Prejudice'" provides a map of the locations, and choosing one gives access to a short film and photos about it “HBO First Look: 'Pride & Prejudice'” is includes material from the other extras. There is also a commentary by director Wright.

Although it’s a classic tale of English literature, certainly made evident by the number of film and television adaptations, I didn’t completely understand how Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth. She is rather nasty towards him a good portion of the time, and I didn’t see enough believable moments where he would be smitten by her. With that caveat and making no claims to being an Austenophile, "Pride & Prejudice" (2005) seems like a very competent adaptation of the material.

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