There’s a double meaning in that. Can anything be favorably compared to Pride and Prejudice (1995), the BBC miniseries based upon the novel by Jane Austen? Perhaps Pride & Prejudice (2005), directed by Joe Wright, is barely tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me. No, no I have that wrong. It is Pride and Prejudice that is barely tolerable, but not handsome enough while Pride & Prejudice is barely handsome, but not tolerable enough. Is that what I mean to say? Let me pull out my irony handbook of equations and understatement. Nay, madam, let me speak plain for I daresay that with overveiled discourse I should make an omnishambles of my perishable thought bubbles. My lady, you are beautiful. The gentle tinkle of your voice and stirling calm of your waters warms my heart and stirs my side tearings. But lady, you go too quick. Not so fast as to make me sick or confused, but with too little dwelling in your gorgeous landscape and venomous tongue. O, but if I could catch that tongue and die by its venom would I count myself a glutton of fate’s benevolence. But you lashed me too brief and my friend of the £10,000, though admirable in his misty walkings, has too thick a tongue to taste the thorny talkings.
If I may make so bold, to tell the tale of Bennets told so many times since first was said by the gentle lady who now is dead. First among them is Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), in plot if not in age, who finds her romanticism set free when a certain Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) moves into the great house nearby. Elizabeth is the second daughter of five to the poor Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) and Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) whose poverty lies in their limited inheritance and plethora of feminine generation. Mr. Bingley is a very fine sort of flighty young gentlemen with no malice in him while he is accompanied by his hoity, that is not to say toity, sister Ms. Caroline (Kelly Reilly) and the taciturn Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen). The great weight of society is the very devil in wheedling itself into the way of obvious affections while, perhaps, aiding in the fermentation process of less likely pairings. For the part of the obvious, it is Mr. Bingley and his obvious match for Ms. Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike), the eldest daughter who is better equipped with Christian virtues than any human has a right to be. But modesty is not one of Mrs. Bennet’s vicious tendencies, and the daughters, especially Jane, are put forward, and at times at their physical or emotional peril, into the firing line of matrimonial attachment.
As I say, Joe Wright’s film is a gorgeous one. I was tempted to hunt up the keenest of the images–and there is one that is so painfully beautiful it ought to be equipped with an inhaler for unsuspecting asthmatics caught up in its splendor–but would not wish for you to be deprived of the first experience on as large a screen as you can manage. Roman Osin has done only one other film recognizable to my sight and so I am tempted to give the greater helping of credit to Wright whose credits include those of matching visual ambition (including a personal favorite in Hanna (2011)). The music, almost entirely piano, includes original music by Dario Marianelli as well as traditional pieces that are mixed almost to be too loud if they weren’t so lovely. On the side of production, the film cannot be overestimated.
Where I would bring up Mr. Wright’s achievement would be in the condensed telling of the story (screenplay by Deborah Moggach). Though, to complain that Moggach and Wright could give 80% of my understanding of the novel in just over two hours when the laudable BBC adaptation did only a quarter better in nearly three times the span is unfair if not to say deranged. Because while I do hold that the pace is not as leisurely as I believe it necessary to be, since the time itself was slow and the reserve of the characters so great as to make the Wilde speed of delivery obnoxiously inapt, the fact that it could fully accomplish its goal of telling the Bennet love stories in all their ups and downs without forgoing transition or style is marvelous. The great pain of many adaptations loaded down with plotting and character development is that they devolve into a montage of functional photography that one could more easily plot on graph paper than on one’s metaphorical heart. Wright, however, appears to love the material as much as Ms. Knightley’s face. I do admire his tastes.
It did surprise me slightly that it was Macfadyen, whom I adore from the first two seasons of MI-5 (2002-03), who failed the most in delivery. Perhaps that only speaks to the quality of everyone around him that he is a weakest link in a very strong chain. But, as I said, I do not believe his tongue was sharp enough for the sarcasm to hit home. But his unspoken dialogue was brilliantly done. And God, do I love Kiera Knightley. She borrowed Jennifer Ehle‘s smile and made it better. She does lack Ehle’s gravity and so cannot substitute Ehle as my ideal of womanhood in the character Elizabeth Bennet. Tom Hollander is one of my favorites and that’s all I have to say.
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