I am a major, major Pride and Prejudice dork.
Along with several of my librarian dork friends, I once even had a Pride and Prejudice party with tea sandwiches and a viewing of our favorite parts of the excellent 1995 television version produced by BBC and A&E. My friend Melinda and I can recite passages verbatim from the book at each other. Very sad.
I was looking forward to the new movie version, anxious to see it, but skeptical whether it could ever live up to the classic 1995 mini-series, which starred Colin Firth. It didn’t, of course. Melinda and I saw the new movie together, whispering to each other and giggling. Probably having such an intimate acquaintance with the story helped us both — we only had to see Mr. Collins to start laughing.
Watching the movie felt like getting a crumb when you want the whole scone. It moved so quickly — bam! We’re at Netherfield, now we’re at Pemberley, now we’re back at the Bennet’s place. The television mini-series let you savor all the nuances of the story. This was more like a tour of the highlights.
Not that it was a bad movie or that I didn’t enjoy it thoroughly. Keira Knightley is a gorgeous and spunky Elizabeth, and Matthew MacFadyen was a puppy-dog-eyed Darcy — none of that English stiff-upper-lip for him. He’s no Colin Firth, but when he comes through the mists in his unbuttoned shirt and long coat to find Lizzie, you could hear our sighs all the way to the back row of the theater.
Of course, a lot had to be left out. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” — left out. Mr and Mrs. Hurst — gone. Jane’s time in London — not shown.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me”. That line did make it into the new film, and it’s hard not to laugh and roll your eyes when Darcy says that about … Keira Knightley. This has always been a problem with Pride and Prejudice movies, even including the terrible 1940 film with Greer Garson — Jane is supposed to be the beautiful one, but how can you not make the heroine prettier? The usual solution, used here, is to make Jane a blonde and Elizabeth a brunette.
Judi Dench is an imperious Lady Catherine. Donald Sutherland seemed an odd choice for Mr. Bennet, but he turned out to be perfect, especially in the scene where he gives permission for Lizzie to marry. Mr. Collins and even poor Bingley were played for laughs. Jane deserves better than a clown. But the story all comes down to two people: Elizabeth and Darcy. Colin Firth remains authoritative as the taciturn Darcy, but it did break my heart to see Matthew MacFayden rejected by Elizabeth in the first proposal scene. And when they finally get together at Pemberley, well, who doesn’t love a happy ending?