Wednesday, June 07, 2006

PeaceBang Reviews "Pride & Prejudice"

smoldering heights
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Everyone was slobbering over this film when it came out, so I figured I should watch it, especially since "Sense & Sensibility" is one of my all-time favorite movies and I generally swoon over costume dramas.

I found "Pride & Prejudice" strangely unmoving, though, and I can't for the life of me figure out why Keira Knightly -- whose main job in this performance is to spout clever Jane Austen dialogue and be Headstrong and Windswept (or would that be "Headstrong & Windswept?), would get an Oscar nom for her work. She's really beautiful and obviously intelligent and I like her, but her nomination just shows how generally lousy women's movie roles are nowadays.
I mean, they nominate Meryl Streep just for showing up.

I've never read the novel (Hunt, don't kill me!), but there's something wrong here. How is it that Mr. Darcy (played by a handsome, overly-brooding Matthew Macfadyen) falls in love with Elizabeth? I didn't see it coming. I find this very disappointing: while I'm prepared to accept that the prettiest, blonde Bennet sister Jane would snare a cute lunk of a millionaire just because she's so exquisitely rose-complected, I find it exasperating that the second Bennet sister seems to snag a rich dude for similarly shallow reasons. The only difference to my eyes is that Jane's a blonde rose-petal and Lizzie's a spunky, smoldering brunette. You can tell she's being especially smoldering in certain scenes because the make-up people give her smoky rock-and-roll eyes with some of that black eyeliner so popular with early 19th century British lasses.

I loved Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet, a kind of British Tevye, who has a wonderful scene with Knightly where he figures out she's really in love and weeps with relief. It's a beautiful papa and daughter scene, very sweet.

Judi Dench plays her usual Judi Dench Imperious Dame role (nothing to sniff at there) and Blenda Blethyn plays her usual twittering mama role (and Brenda, I for one am tired of it).

Jena Malone pulls out a great Brit accent and hilarious comic timing as the bad news man-trap sister, Lydia. Good on ya, Jena! This makes up for that scathing review I had to give you for your work on Broadway in "Doubt!"

All I can say is, if all it takes is a few exchanges of sarcastic repartee and meaningful glances with a man to get him to somberly declare "You have bewitched me, body and soul," I should have men offering their hand in marriage to me at least a few times a year. I don't get it. Maybe I should look into that smoky eyeliner and stride heroically across windswept moors more often. The only problem is, we don't really have moors around here. We don't even have wuthering heights. We have some heights, but they're not wuthering.


Blogger Songbird said...

The problem with the adaptation is that Jane Austen was not really an outdoorsy sort of novelist. This is a sort of Bronte-Austen hybrid. That dramatic scene where she refuses him should take place in a cramped parlor, symbolizing the constraints of society felt by both of them.
In the BBC/A&E version with Colin Firth as Darcy, you get the sense that he is proposing because he's coming thisclose to just having his way with her against the nearest wall. That's the tension. That's the reason he goes crazy for her. After she rejects him, he collects himself and behaves like a gentleman until he gets a hint that she is receptive.
I thought McFayden's Darcy was very good. The character is one of those brooding introverted men who doesn't know what to do with his feelings, and that is portrayed well.
I guess I would rather see Knightley play Jo March, all long legs and romps.
All that said, I thought the setting of the Bennett house was wonderful in its crumbling, and Sutherland blew me away.

Blogger Kim said...

Don't men often fall in love with looks? Isn't that why many men's second wife looks like the first wife did twenty years ago?
(Isn't the same often true of women -- at least the being attracted to looks?)
I feel that our culture is strongly encouraging this tendency to shallowness. It may even partly explain the high divorce rate.
However, in Jane Austen's time and place, since people didn't have a lot of chance to get to know each other before marriage except formally, maybe looks was the greater part of what they had to judge by? Or am I misjudging the ability of people to see the inner person through the formal behavior?

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Back then I imagine that when marriage was often a matter of arrangement and certainly not meant for love, finding a person whom one was permitted to marry AND could lust after must have been just mindblowing!I mean, that was the whole problem with that Reverend dude! Our heroine was very blech about him. Hence, lusting after others was generally discouraged since it was unlikely one's desires would ever be lawfully satisfied anyway.

Blogger fausto said...

The only problem is, we don't really have moors around here. We don't even have wuthering heights. We have some heights, but they're not wuthering.

There may not be moors, but there are plenty of salt marshes and cranberry bogs. Get out your waders and make do!

Blogger Alison said...

I agree the this version was just okay. But I recently heard a wonderful audio version of the novel read by Emilia Fox, downloaded from I highly recommend it, especially for long rainy Saturdays.


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