Thursday, January 05, 2006

Review: Pride and Prejudice

I was once prejudiced against rom-coms, thinking them too shallow and trite for my sophisticated mind. But in the recent screen adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I have met my Mr. Darcy, and now find myself curiously attracted its unexpected charms. Ah, cruel fate, to be thusly wooed and thusly.... Oh, sorry; my editors tell me I should restrain my prosaic tendencies to suit the attention span of the modern audience.

You see, Pride & Prejudice and I are in a love/hate relationship right now. The things I loved the most about this movie are, upon further reflection, the very things I hated the most. And I daresay it threatens the congeniality of our once amiable intercourse.

The script, for example, yields compelling dialogue with an 18th century tone that is at once eloquent, beautiful, and accessible. However, I just can't shake the feeling that I was listening to Jane Austen sound bites--sentences and phrases clipped from their context--and I have only had briefest acquaintance with her work. I realize that retaining any more of the original would have made a mini-series rather than a movie, but I just feel the script could have been edited better. Did I mention that I really, really liked the script?

The cinematography in Pride & Prejudice almost better than the script, which is saying a lot since rom-coms live or die by their scripts. The whole film looks dirty, that is to say, authentic. The walls that need paint, the mud and rain and fog, the homespun fabrics, and the greasy food are all shot in dark dingy rooms and captured on a grainy film-stock that makes the images look like they were painted onto the screen. That being said, the artificially whitened teeth of the actors served nicely to jilt me out of the time period. I hate you Pride and Prejudice!

No, no, please, I didn't mean it; the actors were so good and delivering those prosaic lines. Keira Knightly, as Elizabeth, carried to whole thing on her super-stretched neck and chin. Matthew MacFadyen's Darcy was taciturn in the extreme, and I loved it. Donald Sutherland was by far the best supporting actor as Lizie's greathearted yet thoroughly whipped father, and Tom Hollander came a close second as the hilariously unromantic vicar.

So go see the second best, in my humble opinion, film of the year (I'll blog about the best one next time). Yes, it's corny and ancient, but it will do you some good to put your prejudices aside and watch a good adaptation of a masterpiece in the canon of English literature. It's not half as boring as it sounds, and before you know it Pride & Prejudice will have you enchanted too.

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