P&P Review

“Longer Pride for US Austen Fans. Huh. That’s interesting. And it reminds me that I haven’t actually given my review of the movie yet, which I just saw on the weekend. My love for the book and the BBC miniseries adaptation is well-documented, but I can honestly say that I went into this thing with an open mind. I knew they were going to have to cut out a lot to get it down to two hours, but Ebert gave it four stars and other Austen fans had told me they liked it, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad. Folks, I pretty much hated it. There were things that I definitely liked – the look of the film, Jane actually being prettier than Lizzie, Donald Sutherland, the different portrayal of Mr. Collins as less of an idiot and more of somebody scared sh*tless – but overall, I didn’t really enjoy myself. The thing that really drove me up the wall was the writing. Characters would just have paragraphs of dialogue where they’d flat-out state all their motivations and the plot exposition. It was like Pride and Prejudice for Dumbasses. Example: Charlotte’s psycho speech to Lizzie informing her that she’s marring Mr. Collins. “I’m 27-years-old and a burden on my family! I’m going to be an old maid! I’m terrifed and I need security and safety and he can give me that! Don’t judge me, Lizzie!” It sounds like I’m condensing and exaggerating, but I’m really not. That’s exactly how the characters in this version talk. OF COURSE that’s why Charlotte married him, but nobody just comes right out and says it! Darcy’s proposal in the rain was another scene that had me writhing in my seat. “I broke up my friend and your sister because your family were embarrassing and I thought she didn’t like him very much.” “SHE’S JUST SHY!” Dear Readers, I submit to you that the word “shy” appears NOWHERE in the text of Pride and Prejudice. Another dumbass exchange came when Darcy and Lizzie were discussing Lydia’s scandal: “This never would have happened if I hadn’t been too PROUD and embarrassed to tell everybody about what a rotter he is.” “No, it’s all my fault! I should’ve told everyone in town about him!” It’s like nobody has any inner monologue. They speak every single subtle motivation and thought they have. Then at the end, when Lizzie tells her Father what Darcy did for the family… my brain fell out. Why? No one would do that. Any person with two brain cells would realize how crappy and obligated that would make him feel (not to mention the fact that Darcy explicitly didn’t want anybody to know), so why does she do it in this version? I have no idea. Maybe the scriptwriter wanted to show that Mr. Bennet wasn’t giving his consent purely for monetary reasons, but because he now knew that Darcy really was a good guy. But instead to me it came off as him being pressured into it. The other big problem I had with the film was the general lack of decorum observed by everyone in it. Bingley saying to Jane, “I’ve been an unmitigated ass”? Lady Catherine de Bourgh arriving at the Bennet house in the middle of the frickin’ night with her hair all crazy? Mr. Darcy and Lizzie having a screaming sexually-charged argument in the middle of a rainstorm? Darcy striding across a field with his shirt wide open? NO WAY. NO FRIGGIN’ WAY. I understand that the social customs of the 18th century seem a little weird and foreign to us in 2005, but that doesn’t mean you can disregard them completely, especially when they constitute such a huge part of the story. How can Darcy object to Lizzie’s family’s behavior when his own sister is all “LIZZIE!” to somebody she’s never met and bouncing around the room like an idiot? Anyway… this rant is getting a little long, and I could go on for hours. (Why only one Wickham scene until the elopement? Why the lack of any seasonal progression to show the passage of time? What is up with that crazy scene where Keira Knightley just stares at the camera for three minutes and her face starts to look weirder and weirder until you’re about to jump out of your seat just to get away?) I’ll sum up by saying yeah, this is probably the best two-hour version of the story that could’ve been made. But it’s the Cliffs Notes version. You get the major characters and the major plot points, but none of the humor, subtlety, and wit that made the original so great.

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  1. Oh, wow! As someone who’s read the book half a dozen times and watched the mini-series more times than I can remember, I have to say I was laughing outloud at your description of the new movie. Now I can’t decide if I want to see the movie just to experience all of the hideous liberties they’ve taken, per your recap, or if I should boycott it because it’ll just anger me. (And as a side note, I don’t think I’d ever seen the pic of your costumes from last year, but I’m very impressed! You look like you’re straight out of the BBC show.)

  2. You should see it, just so you’ll know how I wasn’t exaggerating! Charlotte ACTUALLY SAYS “Don’t judge me, Lizzie!” On top of everything else, what an anachronism…

    Another point I forgot to mention: the utter lack of chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth. There’s nothing in the whole movie that achieves ONE-TENTH the smouldering lust of the Pemberley Piano scene from the BBC version. You know what I mean. “The look.” As I whispered to the Snook at one point, “I think it helps if the actors playing Darcy and Elizabeth are actually gettin’ it on at the time of filming,” a la Ehle and Firth. Nothing else seems realistic.

    I wasn’t actually angered by it so much as bewildered at how many accolades it’s getting. It’s just mystifying. It’d be a great version for high schoolers to watch, but if you know the story at all it’s unsatisfying.

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