Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The first time I saw this film was when I was flicking through some TV channels one day. I didn't watch it all the way through and I hated it. But realising that it wouldn't really be fair for me to slate a film that I hadn't seen all the way through I decided to watch it again and I have warmed to it. Visually it's an incredibly beautiful film. The cinematography, sets, lighting, costumes and locations are all stunning. Dario Marianelli's music is also stunning. In fact this film has one of my favourite soundtracks and this song in particular is so emotional and powerful. It's just an absolutely beautiful piece of music.

The film is mostly faithful to Austen's book as well although parts of it are obviously left out because it's a two hour film adaptation. For example: Bingley's other sister Mrs Hurst and the Bennet sisters' Aunt Philips aren't in this film. Having said that the film doesn't leave out anything major and all of the important scenes are still there.

Rosamond Pike as Jane Bennet
Some of the supporting actors are excellent in this film too. The number one standout for me is Rosamond Pike who makes for a lovely Jane Bennet. She is the Jane Bennet I imagined when I read the book! Rosamond Pike's Jane is clearly shy and reserved but she still comes across as warm and affectionate. She's also very beautiful, arguably more so than Keira Knightley. This is very fitting since Jane is supposed to be the most beautiful of the Bennet sisters! I really love Brenda Blethyn's performance as Mrs Bennet too. She gives a much better performance than Alison Steadman did in the 1995 adaptation. Blethyn's Mrs Bennet is silly, ridiculous and annoying but she isn't so over-the-top annoying that you want to strangle her every time she appears on screen. The same goes for Jenna Malone's Lydia. She's still annoying in this film but she's nowhere near as over-the-top as Julia Sawalha is in the 1995 version and she does a very convincing English accent too - a much more convincing English accent than Donald Sutherland managed. Malone makes for a much more credible 15 year old than Julia Sawalha as well! I also really loved Tom Hollander's Mr Collins. Hollander manages to be pompous, boring and smarmy without being as obviously slimy and unpleasant as David Bamber is in the 1995 version. You completely understand why Elizabeth rejects Mr Collins' marriage proposal in this version but at the same time you don't think Charlotte Lucas is an idiot for accepting him. I also loved Rupert Friend's Wickham, Kelly Reilly's Miss Bingley, and Claudie Blakely's Charlotte Lucas in this version. Judi Dench is a great actress and she gives a good performance as Lady Catherine too - although she still can't hold a candle to Barbara Leigh-Hunt's in the 1995 version. However, I still have some major issues with this film.

One major issue that I have with this film is that the leading actress is miscast. Keira Knightley is undeniably beautiful and she definitely looks the part with her light figure and her dark "fine eyes". However I didn't really care for her performance at all. Her acting isn't as terrible as I'd feared but she has some very annoying mannerisms and I never, ever believed that I was watching Jane Austen's Elizabeth brought to life. Knightley's Elizabeth is much too giggly, flirty and pouty and she got on my nerves at times. I never sensed much intelligence or sharp, dry wit coming from her Elizabeth either. Also, she and Matthew MacFadyen had very little chemistry. And boy did they overdo the whole "Elizabeth Bennet = Modern Woman/Tomboy" in this film! Yes, Elizabeth is an unconventional and outspoken woman for her time but she's still a woman of her time! Her appearance in this film is all wrong. The other Bennet sisters manage to keep their hair and bonnets in place, but half the time Knightley's Elizabeth looks as if she's rolling around in the ground and sleeping in hedges. Women did not wear their hair down in public back then! I really didn't like the scene where Knightley's Elizabeth shouts at her family to leave her alone after her confrontation with Lady Catherine either. I can't ever imagine Austen's Elizabeth doing that!

Keira Knightley isn't the only actor to have been miscast in this film though. Tamzin Merchant's Georgiana Darcy is far too outgoing and lively and Donald Sutherland's Mr Bennet is expressionless and lifeless. Sutherland looks really bored in most of his scenes and his Mr Bennet bears no relation whatsover to the witty, sardonic Mr Bennet of the novel. Sutherland looks like he's wandered onto the wrong film set by mistake or something! The actor in the 1995 adaptation did a much better job. Mr Bennet's relationship with his wife is completely wrong in this film as well but in fairness that's clearly a fault of the script. In the book Austen makes it very clear that Mr and Mrs Bennet have an unhappy marriage and that they're completely mismatched. Mr Bennet barely tolerates his wife and chooses to spend most of his time shut up in his study so he can avoid her. But Mr and Mrs Bennet seem to have a very happy marriage in this film and there's even a shot of them them kissing and cuddling in bed! 

And as for the leading actor in this film, well, Matthew MacFadyen is very attractive and he's by no means bad as Darcy. However, according to imdb.com, MacFadyen didn't read Austen's book before filming and just based his entire interpretation of the character on the script - and you can tell. We hardly ever get to see the arrogant, "pride" side of Darcy's character and it seems that Darcy is just socially awkward and shy in this film. Erm... no. That's not really Jane Austen's Darcy. Yes, Darcy can be socially awkward at times and he isn't anywhere near as bad a person as Elizabeth initially thinks he is. He didn't realise that Jane really was in love with Bingley and he was entirely justified in his treatment of Wickham. He does improve as the book goes on. Having said that Darcy is still arrogant and haughty at the beginning of the book. I preferred MacFadyen's performance over Knightley's though and his shy, socially awkward take on Darcy makes more sense as the film goes on. It's just jarring in the early scenes when Darcy is supposed to be full of pride. 

I still have some other issues with this film. For one thing, I hated how Bingley's character was turned into a stuttering idiot! What exactly does Jane see in him?! Why is he Darcy's best friend?! The fact that the Bennet family are made out to be much poorer in this movie than they are in the book was something that really bothered me as well. In this film they live in a ramshackle, overgrown farmhouse with animals running around all over the place. In the book it's different. They may not be rich but they're hardly destitute. They have one or two servants and are able to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle. There are a number of historical inaccuracies in this film actually. In addition to Elizabeth wearing her hair down in public we also get Darcy going into Elizabeth's bedroom so he can hand her a letter. And, while I'm at it, Lady Catherine may be an extremely rude woman in Austen's novel but even she would have had the decency not to turn up at Longbourn in the middle of the night! Last but not least, another problem that I have with this film is that the alternate American ending for this film is cheesy and unintentionally hilarious! So bad it's good! Apparently they decided to release an alternate ending for this film because the American test screen audiences complained about Darcy and Elizabeth not kissing at the end. I can see why they made an alternate ending then but this is just embarrassing! A better choice in my opinion would have been that scene from the book when Darcy and Elizabeth are talking about when their feelings for each other began to turn into love. 

I don't actually hate this film at all. I did dislike it the first time I saw it but having seen it a few times since I now think it's OK. The story moves at a good pace and despite its faults I do think it's a mostly enjoyable film. It's visually stunning and the cinematography is amazing. The music is also amazing. Some of the supporting actors are great. But the film isn't really Austen's Pride and Prejudice and it doesn't do the book justice. 

Rating: 3/5


Geneva said...

I totally understand all the points you make, but for some reason I still kinda love this movie! I shouldn't. As an Austen lover who ranks P&P as the best of her works, this movie SHOULD really bother me, but for some unfathomable reason, I still really like it.

And I had no idea the British version didn't have that ending! I remember sitting in the theatre thinking how it was silly that they felt the need to include a kiss and that "Mrs. Darcy" stuff.

Hannah said...

Actually this film has seriously grown on me within the past year or so! That never happens to me! Usually my opinions of books and films are set in stone and I never ever change my mind about them. But it was watching Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' adaptation that did it for me. It made me think "You know what, this film is actually making me appreciate his 'Pride and Prejudice' a whole lot more because that was a much better adaptation of Austen's book than this adaptation of Tolstoy!"

There are still certain things about this film that annoy me. I still don't like the changes to Mr Bennet and Georgiana Darcy for example and I still think that Elizabeth wearing her hair down in some scenes is just silly. I hate that American ending although, since I'm British, it's tucked away in the bonus scenes and I only have to watch when I want to - which is never! :D

I do appreciate this film so much more though. I've always loved its music and cinematography. I love most of its cast now. I'm still not much of a Keira Knightley fan but I don't mind her Elizabeth. She isn't my favourite in the role but she doesn't bother me anywhere near as much as she used to. And I've grown to love Matthew MacFadyen's Darcy. I wish that we could have seen more of Darcy's "pride" in his early scenes but I actually really love that he emphasises Darcy's vulnerable, socially awkward side. And I'd take the scene where he walks through the early morning mist over Colin Firth's pond scene ANY day! :D

This film isn't my favourite P&P adaptation because I love The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to a possibly irrational level. But I'd take it over the 1995 version now. How do you feel about that miniseries? I know it's by far the most popular adaptation and that most Janeites see it as definitive but I've never liked it THAT much and I've grown more dissatisfied with it in recent years. A lot of the actors are too old or very OTT in their roles I think. And I really dislike the added Darcy scenes that they put in. The pond scene makes me cringe. It looks really scummy I think!

Geneva said...

Okay, so here is where I confess- I have never seen the 1995 miniseries! I've always meant to but it's hard to find the time. Part of my reluctance might also be the pool scene. I love Colin Firth but the clips I've seen of that just look so silly and pure titillation as if they thought, "Let's thrown a bone to these love-starved ladies who obsess over this book like women watching their soap operas."

The scene in the field in the 2005 version is sooo good! It's literally breathtaking. That is why I thought the US ending was funny because the non-kiss was so much more romantic!

The cinematography really is beautiful. I feel a little stupid, but I hadn't realized before that you guys had trees that huge! When I think of England's forests, for some reason I just picture different sorts of trees.

The music is wonderful. That opening shot with the Haydn-like music is so peaceful. I love it, the movie starts, I hear that music, and I just settle in and enjoy the trip.

MacFadyen does grow on you. At first I didn't think he was attractive enough, but I got over it. Pike as Jane really is perfect, as you said. Bingley being a bit of a buffoon bothers me and doesn't at the same time. It's annoying that they changed him for the movie, but I also think he is so lovable and it makes sense as to why Darcy needs to protect him from making unfortunate choices.

I need to finally read Anna Karenina and I will keep in mind if I ever watch that movie that it isn't accurate.

Geneva said...

Oh, I completely forgot about another movie, 'Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy.' As you might guess by the title, it is a Mormon based movie (although I don't think they ever actually mention LDS). It's been years since I watched it, so my memory is fuzzy but I remember it being a funny and sweet little movie. I just watched a clip on YouTube where Darcy asks Elizabeth out, and I thought it was pretty good. Although, disclaimer: some of my remembered fondness for it is also because the actress playing Elizabeth could be the twin to a Mormon friend of mine. This friend told me once that she looks exactly like all the other Mormon girls in Utah. I, of course, thought she was joking, but then this movie came out and I had to consider that she might just be onto something!

Hannah said...

Sorry I shouldn't have assumed that you'd seen the 1995 version! If I ever watch that version I have to spread it out over 3 days or so. Lengthy miniseries adaptations are great but sometimes it's hard to find the time to watch them.

Hee hee! That's a really funny description of what I'm sure Andrew Davies was thinking when he wrote the pond scene :D To be fair the 1995 version is worth a watch and it has a lot of good points. It has the best Mr Bennet, Miss Bingley and Georgiana Darcy imo and it's mostly faithful to the book. Lots of people love it. It's by far the most popular adaptation of P&P and probably the most popular JA adaptation full stop. I do like it. I just don't think it's anywhere near as perfect as everyone makes it out to be.

I've had no interest in watching the Mormon Pride and Prejudice tbh because I haven't heard good things about it but maybe if I get the chance I'll give it a watch, especially now I know you have some kind of a connection to it! :D I'm watching the 1980 version of P&P at the moment actually and I'm really enjoying it so far. Hopefully I'll have a review out in the next week or so.

Geneva said...

That's okay, the Mormon version is probably more trouble to find than it is worth. I'll look out for your next review!