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.