Monday, October 31, 2011

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Review

Just about every Jane Austen aficionado out there has, at some time or another, seen Andrew Davies' 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Hundreds of reviews are currently floating around the blogosphere, detailing the plot, critiquing the actors, giggling over the script and raving about the lavish costumes.

We really don't need yet another review.

Then again, "we" (who is "we", anyway?) don't really need yet another period drama blog, but here I am anyway. So I'm going to review Pride and Prejudice, and if you're sick to death of P&P reviews, you don't have to read the post.

Let me warn you. This is going to be an excruciatingly long post packed full of screencaps and quotes, and it will not be an objective summary of the story. Y'all know what happens in P&P. If you don't, I beg you to go read the book. This post is going to be an extremely subjective expository of What I Like About P&P95 (extensive list) and What I Don't Like About P&P95 (there are approximately two items on this list).

~Jennifer Ehle, to begin with, is The Perfect Elizabeth Bennet. Witty, sparkling, attractive, and she has "fine eyes". :) I love the way she plays serious scenes--she switches from totally facetious to totally sober, and it's still believable. And she cries very well in the scene when she finds out about Lydia. Crying on command is an art, as my sister Anne will tell you. Jennifer Ehle is good at it. (Mary Ingalls of LHOTP is NOT, but that's another story for another time.)

I love the way she delivers funny lines. She doesn't overdo it, nor does she underdo it. I can't really describe it, but I love it. "I am no longer surprised at you knowing only... six... accomplished women, Mr. Darcy. I rather wonder at you knowing any."

~Colin Firth makes The Perfect Mr. Darcy. (I just can't call him Fitzwilliam. Saying the name "Fitzwilliam" makes Lady Catherine's voice sound in my head.) He looks just as Mr. Darcy should look--tall, dark and handsome--and he sounds just as Mr. Darcy should sound. This will sound odd, but even his movements and mannerisms are spot-on for Mr. Darcy: very decisive and sudden. Anne's favorite Mr. Darcy scene is the part when Caroline Bingley is making snarky comments about Elizabeth, and he sits up suddenly and says, "WHAT!" We always laugh our heads off at that scene. I have no idea why. My only complaint about Colin Firth as Darcy is that he really doesn't smile enough. (This is why I chose the picture you see on the right.)

Now before all you members of the P&P95Forever Club rise up in wrath and come at me with your DVDs at the ready, I have to point out that Mr. Darcy smiles in the original novel. A lot. In fact, Jane Austen often mentions that he said such-and-such "with a smile". Granted, Mr. Darcy is supposed to be stiff and proud and arrogant. And Colin Firth does that part very well. But I really think he should have smiled a little more.

On the other hand, his usual poker face makes his rare smiles even more noteworthy. For instance, that famous scene known as The Look, when Lizzy is singing at Pemberley. *Cue romantic sigh as all the teenage girls watching P&P melt into a puddle*

Also, I really love the portrayal of Darcy's relationship with Georgiana. She basically adores him, and you get the feeling that he adores her too. "He is so good to me; I don't deserve it." Lizzy's response is one of my favorites: "Oh, I think you do. Your brother thinks so; and as we know, he is never wrong."

~I do love the costumes! The bonnets especially--take a look at Elizabeth's bonnet in the second picture on this post. I would so wear one of those. Unfortunately many of the dresses are a bit low-cut (especially Lydia's, but I suppose that's part of her character. Groan.)

~This film is just. so. elegant. Tea and pretty parlors and English country dancing and old-fashioned manners. It makes me want to be British (or, more specifically, to live in Regency England).

~Lizzy and Darcy's on-screen chemistry leaves little to be desired. Even if you were watching the movie for the first time and had no idea of what would happen, you'd know that the two of them would wind up together in the end. Because it seems right. Whether they're verbally sparring in the ballroom or actually yelling at each other after Darcy's first proposal (okay, technically voices aren't raised but it sure feels like yelling) or smiling at each other across the piano (aww!), Darcy and Lizzy steal the entire screen.

Really, there are just so many delightful characters!

~Anna Chancellor played Caroline Bingley to a T. Her ingratiating smiles when Mr. Darcy was around, her catty remarks about Lizzy, and her snide comments toward Jane were spot-on. What's-her-name who played Louisa Hurst (known as Looweezer to Anne and me--the name comes from "Looweezer and I have been quite desolate without you") was also very good, but not as good. My only complaint about these two snippy ladies is that they don't look like sisters at all.

~Julia Sawalha was just perfect as Lydia Bennet. Now, some people say she was too old for the role, but I didn't think so. Okay, she doesn't look 15, but I was honestly shocked when I found out she was 26. She looks about 17 or 18, I think. She's obnoxiously annoying--"save your breath to cool your porridge, *I* shall tell mamma"--but she's also hysterically funny.

~Adrian Lukis played Wickham very well indeed--my only complaint was that he was kind of unlikable right from the very beginning. You could see that he was a slimeball. Anne doesn't like the way he bows--he sort of raises his head like a turtle on the way back up and grins in a most disconcerting way. Ugh. I wouldn't trust him if I were Lizzy. That's the problem; Wickham is supposed to be so charming that anyone would like him. As Elizabeth says to Jane, "It seems that one has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of goodness." [speaking of Mr. Darcy and Wickham]

~Mrs. Bennet, played by Alison Steadman, practically stole the show. If you saw P&P once and only remembered one character (incontheivable! How could you only remember one? Okay, it's an illustration, peoples) then she would have to be that one character. She's become iconic. Her poor nerves are constantly being mocked in our household, and her "Oh, Mr. BENNET!" has become a catchphrase. Let me just point out here that yes, Mrs. Bennet is portrayed as a caricature in this movie. But that's how Jane Austen wrote her. She was a humorist, people. She wrote satire. She was making fun of shallow women who thought of nothing more than making rich matches. Mrs. Bennet isn't supposed to be a sympathetic character (although I did feel sorry for her in the 05 version). She's comic relief, not a secondary heroine.

Speaking of comic relief....

~David Bamber is THE Mr. Collins. Oily, slick, pompously hilarious, Mr. Collins is one of Jane Austen's funniest characters ever. Andrew Davies' script enhances Mr. Collins' pomposity a little, but I think that's a good thing. Let me repeat--Jane Austen wrote caricatures. Mr. Collins is a caricature. Now, I'll admit that his portrayal in this movie is a little over-the-top as compared to his description in the book. He's not oily in the book, just "not a sensible man". But he's funnier in the movie than in the book. And I really like Lucy Scott as Charlotte Lucas. She has that philosophical, bloom-where-she's-planted outlook on life, just like Charlotte in the book. (I'm constantly comparing movies to books. Sorry, it's my one weakness.)

~I do love the music in this movie. From that first galloping-horses piano over the credits at the beginning to the imposing grandeur of "Pemberley" to the wistful strings and winds of "Thinking About Lizzy", the soundtrack captures the spirit of the story. Eek, I hate writing stuff like that--I sound like the back of a CD case. But it says what I want to say. :P

~The script is phenomenal. Andrew Davies, despite his knack for sticking in unnecessary and inappropriate scenes in his movies, kept P&P both clean and fascinating. This movie is just so quotable! But I won't bore you by listing all my favorite quotes--that's what Quote of the Week is for.

~Barbara Leigh-Hunt is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Judi Dench is Miss Matty Jenkyns. Are there any questions? No? (Hush!) Good. We understand each other.

So, now it's your turn to tell me what you liked or didn't like about P&P95. Please do leave a comment. If anyone asks for me, tell them I'm in my library, not to be disturbed. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

P.S. Shocking lack of good P&P95 trailers out there, so I made my own.


Ella said...

I like both the 1995 and 2005 Pride and prejudice movies.
I lovee the dresses too,but a lot of them are immodest.
There is also some cussing through out the movie.
I love how Jennifer Ehle protrayed Lizzy.

Rissi said...

This version is thought by many to be "the" adaptation of Jane's classic novel, and I do love it... but I also really like the feature film. It's much shorter in length making it easier to watch in one night. Still... this version is a masterpiece.

Maria Elisabeth said...

I'm crazy about this one too. One thing I also like is that Anna Chancellor (who played Caroline Bingley) is Jane Austen great-great-great......niece.

Melody said...

Okay, I didn't get very far in this post before I decided I had to keep the comment box open & comment as I go along.
"This post is going to be an extremely subjective expository of What I Like About P&P95 (extensive list) and What I Don't Like About P&P95 (there are approximately two items on this list)."
Haha! I loved that!!

Oh I know! I love the scene with Mr. Darcy's "What!" My dad and I love to copy that one. Actually my sisters too. And we laugh at it every time. :)
I agree about him not smiling enough. Like you, I have few complains about Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy, but I do have some, and that's one of them. Another is that I didn't think he was quite convincing enough during the proposal scene - the description of him in the book didn't quite match up, I thought. He really should have smiled then too.

I've never heard of the P&P95Forever Club, but I'm probably a member, and I totally agree with you about the smiling! I've pointed the same thing out myself before.

It was shocking to actually see him grinning as they got in the carriage after the wedding! =)

Haha, love your 'romantic sigh' bit - that's also what I do after the Emma/Knightley dance scene (2009). Once I tried not to and instead it came out as a silly little giggle. Last time I did both........

I LOVE that teacup. I really love it. A lot. Every time I watch that movie I love the teacup. I think I've seen it on some other Period Drama as well...I've definitely seen the Bennet's table settings, but I can't remember where now.

The only complaint I have for Miss Bingley is that I wouldn't call her handsome or pretty or whatever the book said she was.

I agree, Perfect Lydia Actress. It's funny to see Julia S. in calmer, more sensible roles such as Cranford and Lark Rise to Candleford.

I LOVE LOVE that Mrs. Bennet. I mean I hate her. I mean...she's perfect as Mrs. Bennet. =)
Really, the Bennets in the 2005 movie are so ......boring compared to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet on 1995!

The only thing I didn't like about Mr. Collins was that he wasn't tall enough. The book says he should be. At least he's not as short as the fellow in the 2005 one though!

No no dear, you NEED to compare them to the books! That's what Janeites should do! ;-)

The first time I listened to the soundtrack was on a trip, and I was listening to it over and over until I practically knew it by heart.

Haha! I love your LadyCatherine-MissMatty thing. I haven't actually seen Judi Dench as Lady Catherine because I haven't gotten that far yet. And I don't know when I'll ever be watching it again...

Well my dear, this post was very diverting! =) I hope you don't mind the long comment. But a nice long post as you proclaimed yours to be merits a long comment, don't you think? =D

Miss Dashwood said...

You're right--Mr. Hurst's language isn't the best, and it really wasn't necessary. My philosophy is: if the original author of the novel would have been shocked to see it, don't put it in.

Thanks for your comment! I do enjoy the newer one as well, but not as much as this one... I'll probably address it in a later post.

Miss Georgiana,
What a fun piece of trivia! I didn't know that.

Melody said...

Oh, speaking of Anna Chancellor, she also narrated a Jane Austen documentary in 2002. It's a really good one too. I'll probably review it one of these days.
It was funny to see her as herself rather than Miss Bingley!

Miss Dashwood said...

Long comments! Yay!

The proposal scene is the one scene that's a little lacking. I'm not really sure where I stand on it. I love how he says "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" but for crying out loud, Darcy, just SMILE already!

I made up the P&P95Forever Club out of mine own head. Which is probably why you've never heard of it.

That's true--I forget that Miss Bingley is supposed to be purty. That's one thing the 2005 movie did better.

Yes, Mr. Collins is supposed to be tall! I forgot about that. Yeah, Osborne Hamley (that's WHO HE IS) is definitely too short for the role in the newer one.

I'm glad you were diverted, my dear!

Miss Dashwood said...

That's so cool about the documentary! I'll have to get my hands on it somehow. What's it called?
Oh, and I added my new P&P trailer to this post--I think you'll like it. It's funny. :) (I don't suffer from false modesty, as you can see.)

Abby said...

I am definitely a member of the P&P95Forever Club! ;) I absolutely adore this film: it will always be THE version for me! And I completely agree with you about the smiling: whenever I read P&P, I always notice how actually, Darcy smiles a whole lot more than you'd think he does! But as you say, for an adaptation, it makes it more noticeable when he does smile...

I loved the trailer! You're right, P&P95 does need more trailers :)


Melody said...

Hahaha! Okay, I hadn't read your second comment yet and I watched the trailer. I did like it, it is quite funny. =) I was trying to watch it and people kept trying to talk to me, and I said "What!" ;-) That was before I came to that part of the trailer.
One thing great about that trailer is that it made me feel HAPPY, just like the movie does! Excellent.

"That head I see now on your shoulders?" (Mr Rochester)
Just kidding, I can't really see your head. But anyways, I figured you made it up. =) You should really start that club. tehe

Yes, "Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" was practically perfect. =)

Oh dear! That made me laugh so - in my last comment I ALMOST said "but at least he wasn't as short as Osborne!" I agree, that's who he is.

Hey, if you want to make any more trailers, maybe we could collaborate. =)

Melody said...

Oh sorry, I forgot the name: The Real Jane Austen, it's called. =) It's on YouTube. Not on DVD or anything.

Miss Dashwood said...

Yep, it's THE Pride and Prejudice. We really should form a P&P95Forever club! I'm glad you enjoyed the trailer; I love trailers. :)

LOL, the "What?!" has absolutely nothing to do with the real plot of the story, but I couldn't resist putting it in the trailer. Ha, your Mr. Rochester quote made me laugh out loud. We definitely should collaborate on some trailers. Any ideas?

Anne-girl said...

I'm doing what Melody did!

Miss Dashwood:But I really think he should have smiled a little more.

Collin Firth: Smile more? I'll look like an imbecile standing there smiling. Why don't you stay here and we'll "smile" together.

*Romantically sighs*

You're right the chemistry is perfect. I find that a bit lacking in 05.

I think wickham was perfect. His little bow is my favorite!

Amen to the part about caricature's It really gets my dander up when people criticize the 95 version for making the characters caricatures.

Oh and I love the trailer how did you ever think of it? ha ha!

Melody said...

The only ideas I have already is, of course, the P&P trailer screenplay I was telling you about, but you already have two. ;-) I'll keep my mind on it.

Oh, first--if you want to do this--it would help if you looked on the old-fashioned movies page on my blog, and let me know which ones listed you HAVEN'T seen. Then I'll know which ones you have. ;-)

Miss Dashwood said...

Anne, your reference to Little Women made me laugh out loud! And yes, your ideas for the trailer were fantastic. As I have already told you. Several times.

Melody said...

What do they mean? Those characters just ARE caricatures in that sense. And if they think otherwise they either haven't read the book or don't understand it. =)

Waaaait....what reference to Little Women? (I really need to read that...)

Hayden said...

I. Loved. This. Review.
A Lot.
And yes, Judi Dench IS MISS Matty!!
It's hard to think of her as Lady Catherine when she's so sweet in Cranford...

Julia Rogers said...

AHHHHH!! Once again you are spot on, when you said "who's we" (about not needing another period drama review of P&P, and that they could not read iidf they didnt want to, )i thought, ARE YOU KIDDING???!!!! I SO will read it!!! I am a P&P95Forever fan!! (and i could tell that you made it up on the spur of the moment,...which made it better, so witty!! :) WOW! I am still shocked....i have scarcely ever agreed with someone(blogger) so completely about EVERYTHING!! And you say it so humorously!! ahh!! a TRUE jANEITE!!
That "WHAT!" was classic!! I say that to my sister all the time if she is being crazy or whatever, and we both go off in to peels of laughter! I SOOO "melt into a puddle" every time i think of that part of Pemberly\piano\remembering!!!!
AHHH!! THE teacup!! You are soo right i comment (or think rather) every time i see it, SOO LOVELY!!
Ok, so i'm NOT the ONLY person who thinks Lydia is funny!! GOOD! :P
I laughed SOO hard about the bit about Wickham's bow.... (we call him wicked Wickky)
Oh, yes! Mr.Collins ....the slimeball!! (perfect, spot on!!)
And the Lady Catherine-Miss Matty bit, I just died laughing!! (some people think the other way around you know?!!)
I'm always imitating the bit she says after the proposal to my sister.."Is that my nephew???!!!!....WHERE have you BEEN??????!!!!!" (in perfect accent:)
OK, so suffice it to say after all this that once did a FABULOUS job!!!

An Old-Fashioned Girl said...

An Old Fashioned Girl
I adore this version of P&P! I first saw it when I was in elementary school. My mom and I watched it together and we each had a favorite Bennet sister. Mom liked Jane, while I liked Lydia. I was young and didn't understand the all that her elopement entailed. Now I understand it and I still like her. She's so ebullient and comical in this film, when she's not arguing with Kitty or calling Mary King a "nasty little freckled thing."
Anyway, I think the Wickham in this film has "all the appearance of goodness." I see why Lizzy would like him, before she finds out his true character.
Now about those other characters... perfect, each and every one!

Mykaela said...

Just wondering--am I the only one who thinks Mr. Collins in this movie looks like he fell in the toilet? (his hair?)

Miss Dashwood said...

Old-Fashioned Girl,
While I wouldn't quite say I *like* Lydia, I definitely am "excessively diverted" by her! :) Ebullient and comical are the perfect words to describe her.

Hmm, well, I don't know if I would quite make that comparison! But my sister and I often make giggly remarks about Mr. Collins' hair oil. Personally, I think he looks quite slimy. :)

Jemimah said...

David Bamber, seriously, what can I say other than he is a top notch actor? He plays Mr. Collins to perfection! I love the scene when at the Netherfield ball he approaches Mr. Darcy and tells him that his aunt was "in the best of health...8 days ago." Seriously, that guy is amazing! Oily, slick, pompous and everything else Mr. Collins could ever be.

Charity U said...

Last comment tonight. Maybe. :) Love Jennifer Ehle -- she does have perfect eyes! I've always been impressed with her crying...ever since I was little. :)

Nope, I always have to call him Mr. Darcy too. AH! I love "The Look." Totally my favorite scene in the movie. Ever. Always. ;)

That's a good point...the Bingley girls really don't look like sisters. But they're both such amazing actresses, that I'm very glad they're in. :)

Haha, Wickham DOES look like a turtle when he does that bowing! That never occurred to me before, but as soon as it was mentioned, I knew exactly what was meant.

Great trailer!

Btw, have you seen the 2009 Emma? I love that version. :)

Holly said...

I'm so crazy about this series! Love everything about it...great review!! And your trailer is the BEST one out there :)

Lela Gary said...

The best version of the P&P of all, because it is the closest adaptation of the book. Yes, Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy, but he lacks the emotional expression of Darcy in the book and of the 2005Darcy's portrayal. Colin Firth's
"dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" was more a rote memory than an expression of love. And the heartfelt delight, diffused over his face when Elizabeth accepted the proposal the second time around, was nowhere to be seen on his rather austere face. By contrast, the 2005 Darcy showed the pain of a man desperately in love both at the rain scene and at the second time proposal to Elizabeth.

Emily said...

I agree with you that Mr. Darcy's few smiles are definitely more noteworthy! I think Colin Firth is the perfect Mr. Darcy. We wouldn't like it if he was just smiling all the time. It would make him seem to be worth less or something. His few smiles, and the emotions portrayed through his eyes mean SO MUCH MORE to me. He makes those few special faces way more valuable. They stick with you more. You remember the look in his eyes. I'd say it was done perfectly. :)

Unknown said...

It's possible that I shouldn't take the request to "leave a comment" at face value when the post is two years old, but as much as I agree about the positive aspects of the 1995 film (and for that matter, the flaws of the 2005 version), I think Mrs Bennet isn't simply a caricature. We're meant to mock her, of course, but there are several moments in the book when we're meant to empathize with her because she's in a difficult position and her husband is entirely unprepared to help. Her critique of Mr. Bennet is excessive, but not entirely unreasonable when she's faced with complete dependence on her relatives, if not actual destitution. I love Jane Austen so much because even the most ridiculous, most outrageous characters can produce social commentary and in some cases, make social commentary. YMM, of course, V.

Naomi said...

enough said.

Unknown said...

I love the BBC 1995 adaptation and I totally agree to your review. I believe is practically impossible to make a better adaptation, and the 2005 is a little disappointing compared to this masterpiece. It has its interesting points, but I think it misses the atmosphere of Austen's book: I believe it is more what the director wanted the story to be like. Of course, it was plenty of sexual tension that inflicted a major impact in all romantic hearts (mine included). But, sexual tension was not in the book. All these things were subtly implied.
I would like to point out on of my favourite scenes in the BBC series, which I think is overlooked, in favor of those of greater importance to the story: I cannot help but laughing at Lizzie's face, when she visits Netherfield to see her sick sister and bumps into Darcy: her curtsey and her look is absolutely phenomenal, and then, Mr Darcy greets her with a such an expression in his eyes! I think it's the most playful scene! She is so funnily disrespectful and he is so sure she's here for him!

Excuse my long comment, I would like just to add that the BBC adaptation was my faithful friend when I was experiencing tremendous inner conflictions and had to pass through the most difficult time of my life; due to its wit, its freshness, I managed to see the world in a new, realistic light and to regain hope and courage.