I don’t know if Pride & Prejudice, authored by Jane Austen is considered one of the “greatest” stories ever, but its powers of persuasion endears it to readers. Predominately this is thanks to its feisty heroine and swoon-worthy hero. Either way, it’s a saga that transcends time. Today I review the 2005 adaptation Pride & Prejudice.
Pride & Prejudice (2005) Film Review
Raising a family of five daughters, Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) is a mother on a mission. She wants to see all of them married, but not just to any one. Her goal is to see them settled with wealth beyond their father (Donald Sutherland) can settle on them. Where better to begin than the new owner of Netherfield Park, Mr. Charles Bingley (Simon Woods)? Considered the beauty of the Bennet family, eldest Jane (Rosamund Pike) captures the fancy of Bingley and an match is imagined between them. This acquaintance leads the Bennet’s to that of a Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden) whose wealth exceeds that of Bingley’s. Mrs. Bennet is ready to make a match.
Second eldest – in both “age and beauty,” Lizzie (Keira Knightley) doesn’t waste time sparring with the intellectual Darcy. Distracting her from the arrogant presence of Darcy is the arrival of the foppish Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) who is to inherit the Longboure estate upon her father’s passing. The trouble is, he has set his sights on marrying Lizzie! Not about to be bullied into matrimony, Lizzie instead sets her mind to seeing Jane and Bingley marry. Until Jane receives a letter that breaks her heart…and so the story goes.
This is the sort of story all authors aspire to write. Perhaps not the style or genre, but characters who stick with readers long after the last page, or the unexpected, subtle moments of humor woven into the parts that make up a solid and charming yet complex novel. Each time I rewatch this version, for the zillionth time (and counting!), I look at this remake through new eyes. I want to try to give a balanced opinion because otherwise there’d likely be abnormal amounts of gushing. This said, this version stirs lots of emotions – both good and bad.
There are likely three groups of people and opinions when it comes to this adaptation. Those who a.) watch it under duress and think it’s rubbish (you will probably be a purist of the book or the A&E miniseries if true); b.) those of you who haven’t seen the longer version; or c.) people who watch this 2005 account and can appreciate remakes or retellings. I fall into the latter type. The first thing that endears this film to me is a family memory, and secondly, that the film is really very good, and beautiful!
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Lush landscapes, picturesque settings and majestic estates adds ambiance, and there’s a magnificent score that soars. Matching this rustic beauty contextually is a different time frame which shows a surprisingly, more uncouth Bennet family. It’s a representation that is the screen visualizes through the costumes and way of living (the posture of the characters, loud and unrefined country dances or table settings). Instead of the refined charm of the A&E adaption, this version chose to “loosen” the propriety bounds and for example, made Lizzie a more “casual beauty.” Or to show the family’s daily routine involving a pig walking through the kitchen – and I love every second of it, or very nearly.
Aside from the cast (which we’ll discuss), the thing that works best under Joe Wright’s direction is how well the script condenses things. By this I mean in relation to prior cinematic works, not the original text. The film moves swiftly, which is a requirement for a box office release. There isn’t time for Lizzie to develop a rapport with the scoundrel Wickham before we twirl into Lizzie’s spontaneous Netherfield dance with Darcy. Fans of Pride and Prejudice in its full form will likely find much to criticize about all that we don’t see, I however am impressed. Given what they had to work with, the story flows well and is really very complete.
Everyone seems to have bias against Macfayden. In the beginning, I was the same. Each time I watch him as incomparable Darcy (stern persona intact), he wins my fangirl heart a little more. Best of all I love the interplay between he and Keira. From “the” exquisite dance to the swoon-worthy second proposal, this couple meets and surpasses every expectation I have. Supporting them is a strong cast. This includes Carey Mulligan, Jena Malone, Kelly Reilly and Judi Dench plus many familiar faces who lend a sense of comfort to the production.
In my experience, this 2 hour version is worth its mettle because it dares to interpret the story in its own way. It doesn’t take cues from established favorites. Instead this uses the cast and interpretive script to the best advantage. (One example is the dramatic but effective proposal scene; a reaction that is wonderfully fulfilling.) Then there’s the “artsy” feel of the film; instead of conversational fillers, often there is emotional scenes revealed only through expression.
To reinvent a timeless tale may not always be for the better or a calculated risk worth taking. Countless epic fails have proven this. I do honestly admire this film, and its unique perspective on a story that you might not imagine could feel new. Through Joe Wright’s eyes, I see Pride and Prejudice in a new way, and it’s cinematic brilliance.
How about you? What do you think of this more contemporary, looser adaptation of Austen’s popular novel?
(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Read the disclosure page for details.)You can buy Pride and Prejudice digitally on Amazon Video or purchase on DVD