Friday, April 21, 2006

Pride And Prejudice: A movie review

I had some doubts the first time I heard that they were doing a Pride and Prejudice movie. I didn’t think that they could do the book justice in 2-3 hours worth of film. My doubts further increased when I heard Keira Knightley was cast in the main role. Even though hubby thinks she’s cute *** ROLLING EYES ***, her acting ability I think, leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve seen her in Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean, and thought her acting abilities to be mediocre at best.

The first time I saw the movie, I saw it with 18th century eyes, and much of the movie fell short. It certainly fell short of the novel. Then, because I felt that I was being unfair, I watched the movie in the theatre again. This time, I sat back and tried to enjoy the movie as it was presented to me, and I found that I quite enjoyed the movie.

Now, after several viewings of the movie (of course I had to go and buy the DVD), here is my (not-so-short) summary.

What I liked about this Pride and Prejudice:
  • The cinematography and music were very well done, to the point of making the film a bit too artsy for my tastes, but I can still appreciate it, artsiness and all;
  • I liked the fact that the actresses (except the one who played Lydia) who played the Bennet sisters were actually close in age to the Bennet sisters in the novel. Past adaptations had older actresses. I particularly liked the actresses who played Kitty and Mary, I thought that they were atypical Kitty and Mary castings;
  • The people didn’t look perfect. They had messy hair and wrinkled clothing, just like we do today.
What I didn’t like but was willing to overlook, because this film was, after all, an adaptation (read “someone’s interpretation”) of the novel. Plus, they had to modernize it somewhat to allow for a wider audience who didn’t know about 18th century etiquette, propriety, language and sensibilities. And they had to cut some major character/plot development out to accommodate the film’s short length:
  • Lizzy and Mr. Bennet’s father-daughter relationship. It just wasn’t there, despite their attempts at trying;
  • Lizzy’s relationship with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner also wasn’t well developed, and Aunt Gardiner’s part was greatly reduced;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s relationship. It wasn’t apparent to me that Mr. Bennet really didn’t think very highly of his wife and made fun of her when he could. Vulgarity is actually a big theme in the novel; apparently, vulgarity is a norm these days if I couldn’t notice it in the movie;
  • For some reason, Mr. Wickham didn’t appear as evil as he is made out in the book, and every time I watch this version, I just don’t feel that he’s evil. Just whiny. It may be because they didn’t have enough time to develop his character sufficiently;
  • People walking around half naked or in their PJs. It just wasn’t done then;
  • Jane and Lizzy going on their respective holidays unescorted. The ladies’ reputations would have been ruined in real life;
  • The Bennet Family shabby-chic look. The Bennet Family are not poor, they never were. They lived from paycheque-to-paycheque, so to speak, and didn’t have much saved up for the daughters. (And I still don’t understand the pig).
Characters that I liked in this movie:
  • Mr. Darcy: When I first heard that Matthew Macfadyen was cast in this role, I was quite skeptical that he could pull it off. I’ve only seen Mr. Macfadyen in MI:5 and only thought that his acting was okay. But what I like about this Mr. Darcy is that he shows more emotion and feeling, and is not some stiff, walking robot (As much as many people loved Colin Firth’s performance, I never liked it, and have always felt that it fell short of what I imagined Mr. Darcy to be like).
  • Mr. Collins: previous adaptations had the actors portray him as being an uncouth, pompous ass without any sense. Tom Hollander decided to take a different angle, and I have to say that I really liked his interpretation of Mr. Collins;
  • Mrs. Bennet: not so screechy as her predecessors, but still very flighty;
  • Jane Bennet: I actually didn’t think that Rosamund Pike would do a very good job. She was okay in her role as a Bond girl, but in this film, I feel that she really gave Jane a depth that was lacking in the other adaptations, and she seemed more real than the others;
  • Mr. Wickham: this is the best looking one out of all the adaptations, but I was a little disappointed in the character development;
  • Lady Catherine: It’s Judi Dench. She practically stole the scenes that she was in. She is my favourite Lady Catherine.
Things I didn’t like (and not too certain if I can forgive) aka The Joe Wright Gripe Section:
  • They changed Mr. Bingley’s character. Whatever Mr. Bingley is, he is not some putz with a donkey’s bray. The guy has a brain, yet they decided to lobotomize him and make him look silly. The worst line in the whole move was the “Unmitigated and comprehensive ass” part. Okay, I know you need to modernize the dialogue, but there has to be a better way of saying this. I blame Joe Wright for allowing this piece of dialogue. I could have accepted this version of Bingley if it weren’t for this line.
  • Joe Wright’s comments about bonnets being a “Jane Austen cliché”. What the heck kind of film did you think you were making? I suspected he didn’t like them because they blocked out some of the actress’s face and made it harder to film.
  • Joe Wright’s constant griping about letters in the novel. I’m sorry, but this is how people communicated with each other back in the 18th century. It may be difficult thing for you to try to incorporate in the film, but that’s how things were done, given they hadn’t invented the telephone or email at this point.
  • Joe Wright, I felt (especially after listening to his commentary on DVD), decided to pick the 18th century items he liked and ignore the rest, especially for the sake of being artsy, in my opinion. Pretty jarring in my mind. Hey, call me a purist, but this is how I see it;
  • I still don't know how Lizzy managed to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. That's just weak plot development, any way you look at it.
  • The last kissy scene. I have one word for it: Barf!
And finally, why I think Keira Knightly makes a not-so-great Lizzy Bennet:
  • She slouches. Seriously, this girl makes millions of dollars, but has no one had the gumption to tell her that she would look a million times better if she didn’t slouch? She reminded me of a goose the whole time, and I thought she would topple over if you pushed her hard enough;
  • She mumbles. This girl has had no theatrical training, and I felt at times that I had to really strain to listen to what she was saying, so garbled was her speech. Enunciate. Please.
  • Now, I know that not many can shine brighter than Judi Dench, but the scene where Lady Catherine confronts Lizzy with a rumor that she is to marry Mr. Darcy, that really stands out in my mind as some really weak acting on her part. Judi was excellent; Keira was sleepwalking and reciting lines. She didn’t seemed pissed off that someone was standing there insulting her and her family.
To be fair to Keira, she did a good enough job, just not a very good job.

So my final verdict: 7.5 out of 10.

And my favourite Lizzy? Elizabeth Garvie from the 1980 adaptation.

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