Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

This is fine souffle of a film.  A feather-light frippery of an adaptation that makes up in cheerful melodrama what it lacks in the sharp witticisms of the original novel.  That it is also the weakest of the three versions of Pride and Prejudice that I have reviewed for this blog is not something to hold against it.  The other two are after all the very highly-regarded 1995 mini-series and the to my mind even better Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  Coming third to those two is a bit like losing a foot race to Usain Bolt and ... some other really fast guy.  Athletics isn't really my thing.

The basic outline of the story - for the two people in the English-speaking world who somehow don't know - is that Elizabeth Bennet (Lizzie to her family) is one of five unmarried sisters.  When she is introduced to eligible bachelor Mr William Darcy, she is deeply unimpressed, finding him boorish, rude and arrogant.  You can probably guess that over the course of the film her opinions will come to change.

Necessarily slighter than the other adaptations by virtue of having to fit in a feature film running time (and not a Peter Jackson running time either, but a relatively compact two hours), this version sensibly keeps the narrative focus tightly on Lizzie, eschewing the elaborations and diversions in which the other longer-form adaptations could indulge.  That means that it lacks some of their depth, but I for one found the directness and pace quite enjoyable.

Also to the film's credit are its performances.  Keira Knightley is solid in the lead role (though her Oscar nomination for it seems a mite generous, to me), and both Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench are as excellent as you'd expect in their roles.  I also really liked Tom Hollander as the alternately pompous and obsequious Mr Collins.

Really, if you're a Jane Austen fan, you are spoiled for choice as far as adaptations go.

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