Pride & Prejudice (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/09/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 127 mins

Enjoyable, well-acted costume drama, despite a couple of dodgy directorial moments.

The Background
It’s probably fair to say that for most fans of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, their favourite adaptation is always going to be the BBC TV version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The new incarnation isn’t likely to change that, but it’s a pleasure to see the story up on the big screen again, for the first time in 65 years - if it seems like less, that’s because the story itself has been appropriated in recent years for films like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bride and Prejudice. At any rate, the new version, as directed by Joe Wright, can at least afford to stand proudly alongside other Austen adaptations such as Emma and Sense & Sensibility.

The Story
The film is set in 18th century England, where marriage is extremely important for girls from less-than-wealthy families. When Mrs Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) hears that a wealthy young bachelor is their new neighbour, she pulls out all the stops to try and marry off one of her five eligible daughters. Luckily, the bachelor in question, Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) falls for Mrs Bennet’s oldest daughter, Jane (Rosamund Pike).

However, when Bingley abruptly returns to the city, it appears that the apparently cruel Mr Darcy (Matthew McFadyen) is to blame for sabotaging the relationship. As a result, he comes up against Mrs Bennet’s feisty second daughter, Lizzie (Keira Knightley), who’s determined not to let his sullen snobbery ruin her sister’s chances. Meanwhile, Mr Bennet (Donald Sutherland) despairs of living with six marriage-obsessed women, while youngest daughter Lydia (Jena Malone) sets her sights on the entirely unsuitable Mr Wickham (Rupert Friend).

The Good
Knightley is superb as Austen’s best-loved heroine – there’s a sparkle in her eyes that’s nothing short of infectious. There’s also a genuine chemistry between her and Matthew McFadyen’s Darcy, which is fortunate, because he frequently overdoes the stomping and the glowering, coming across as a stroppy Clive Owen in miniature. There’s also strong support from Rosamund Pike (perfectly cast as Jane), Brenda Blethyn and Tom Hollander as Mr Collins.

The Bad
Not all the casting is quite as successful, however. Simon Wood is too strange-looking and, well, ginger, to really convince as Bingley and Jena Malone is terrible as Lydia, despite terrific work elsewhere. That said, the actress playing Kitty was just as bad, so it could easily be the director’s fault – perhaps he just told them to giggle in every scene and left them to it.

In fact, Wright makes several unusual directing decisions throughout the film, some of which work brilliantly, such as the romantic almost-kissing scene in the rain, or the unusual choice of final shot. However, there’s also an incredibly cack-handed attempt at one of those 'oh, they're dancing with each other and it's like they're the only two people there' scenes – it’s handled so badly that it completely takes you out of the film. And the less said about the gratuitous Pig's Testicles scene, the better.

The Conclusion
To sum up, Pride & Prejudice may have a couple of dodgy moments, but the set design, the performances and the impressive score more than make up for any lapses. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 22:18

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