Monday, November 14, 2005

P&P the Movie

Saturday night, I went to see Pride & Prejudice.


How wonderful!! I can't recommend this movie enough to any fan of P&P or Jane Austen. Yes, I thought it was that good.

Now, there are some caveats.

First of all, you all know how big a fan I am of the BBC/A&E miniseries adaptation of P&P. And there is simply no way a movie of only two hours can come close to the completeness of the novel the way a six hour miniseries can. So my complaint of feeling that so many scenes were given short shrift in the movie is really kind of a no-brainer. Some characters were left out altogether while others, key characters even, were barely seen at all. That has to be expected, I guess, and just know that I would have been happily willing to sit another four hours in the theatre if the film makers had been able to produce more.

What I loved most about this movie is its realism. In nearly every adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, always there is a sense of stiffness about the people of that particular time. The manners are more formal, and the style of dress doesn't quite lend itself to being relaxed. I mean, those high-necked fancy cravats look positively painful. But beyond all of that, there was a feeling that these people are so far removed from anything I've ever experienced I always knew I was watching something that happened in a completely different time and universe.

Not so with P&PtM. The characters/actors moved like real people. The clothes looked soft and worn and comfortable. There was mud and dirt, Longbourne looked shabby and in need of a good scrub-down. The balls with all of the formal dancing didn't look staged and rehearsed but as if there were real people dancing and having a great time in a real space that was crowded and warm and full of fun. The formal mannerisms - all of that bowing and curtseying - was done but in such a way that you didn't notice it, unlike in other versions where everyone would pause for a moment to observe the bow ritual. Even the language sounded natural rather than stiff and foreign.

This adaptation brought P&P as close to home as possible and made me wish I'd lived in such a time.

As for the actors, some I loved and some left me cold. Keira Knightly did a great job as Lizzie. Again, she gave the role a naturalness that made her seem very real, like someone you could imagine living next door. She's very pretty, but she's not so pretty as to leave you wondering why Darcy didn't fall at her feet immediately. Too, I loved how she expressed Lizzie's confusion and inner turmoil about her feelings for Darcy.

As for Mr. Darcy, I will confess that Colin Firth will always be my favorite Mr. Darcy. Poor Matthew MacFadyen had pretty much no chance at surpassing Colin. But the guy actually was pretty amazing. He gave Darcy a whole new vulnerability that even Colin hadn't done. His feelings for Lizzie were so clearly written on his face, your heart just broke for him. No, we never got The Look, but instead the scene when Darcy strides across the moors with is shirt open is pretty darn good.

Other characters were a toss up. Rupert Friend's Mr. Wickham was far more attractive than Adrian Lukis's, therefore making it easier for me to see why anyone would fall for Wickham over Darcy. Except P&PtM had so little of Wickham in whole there wasn't much other physical appearance to his character.

I found Crispin Bonham-Carter (from the mini-series) a much better Mr. Bingley; the costume designers and make-up artists did something so bizarre to Simon Woods' hair that I could never see past it. Both Jena Malone (P&PtM) and Julia Sawalha (mini-series) were equally annoying as Lydia Bennet (as they were supposed to be), again Jena getting not even a fraction of the screen time as Julia had gotten thus leaving movie watchers in the dark about the true idiocy of Lizzie's littlest sister.

Again, because the movie was unable to thoroughly plumb the depths of such characters as Jane Bennet and Mr. Collins, it's hard to say which portrayal I prefer. I found David Bamber's Mr. Collins far more pompous and repugnant than Tom Hollander because he was permitted a lot more time and dialogue to demonstrate exactly what an annoying character he was. Susannah Harker's Jane had so much more screen time than Rosamunde Pike, yet in the end I found both to be the same lovely, sweet-natured lady personifying all that I imagine female perfection was thought to be back in that age. You can go character by character in much the same way; by knowing these characters through the mini-series, I think I got a lot more out of the movie's version of them than perhaps a newcomer might have gotten.

Above and beyond characters, the other aspect of P&PtM that I so much enjoyed was the romance of it all. I can easily recall the frustration I feel every time I watch the mini-series, after Mr. Darcy and Lizzie have confessed their mutual feelings for each other, of wanting the two to touch and become affectionate. Except that they can't because such expressions were not allowed during that time period. Thus in the mini-series (and the book, for that matter), you know they love each other because they've said as much, but nothing about their body language speaks of true emotions and feelings. I want kisses and touches and deep longing. Finally, in P&PtM, I get that. This Lizzie and Mr. Darcy are allowed to touch and do so in a way that made me sigh, whether or not the social mores of the time would have forbidden it or not. I'm thankful for the chance to releave some of my inner frustration.

But in the end, I don't think you can compare and contrast the movie version with the mini-series and come up with a "winner" per se. Both are so completely different, it would be like asking to choose between a hot fudge brownie sundae and a perfectly carmalized creme brulee. If faced with picking, I'd try to figure out a way to have both.


meljean brook said...

Oh, man, I'm hearing amazing reviews of this movie. I can not WAIT to see it.

meljean brook said...

I was bad and saw it today -- ::happy sigh:: I really enjoyed it. I absolutely love it when you can just *feel* the pain of falling in love between those two.

Ah. I love romance.

Lynn M said...

Wasn't that wonderful? The expressions on Darcy's face (props to Matthew MacFadyen) when Lizzie first rejects him. The pain. Then later, as Lizzie begins to realize her true feelings for him and how she's most likely given up any chance she ever had to be with him. How you could see it working inside her but she couldn't share it with those around her.

And I know it was incredibly hokey and probably cause poor old Jane to twist and shout in her grave, I just adored the early morning meeting in the mist scene. It personified what I love most about romance as a whole.


Wish I could find a free three hours to see it again.