Pride & Prejudice (Gen)Thursday 15 Sep 2005
Directed by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Rosamund Pike, Simon Woods, Kelly Reilly, Jena Malone, Tom Hollander, Judi Dench and Rupert Friend.
Jane Austen's classic tale of love and misunderstanding has undergone many screen adaptations in recent years: 'Bridget Jones's Diary' (2001), 'Bride & Prejudice' (2004) and the BBC's television version in 1995. It's a timeless story, but did we really need another adaptation? In the case of Joe Wright's movie, the answer is a definitive 'no'.
Keira Knightley takes on the role of the spirited Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest of five sisters. She's independent and intelligent and determined to marry for love, despite the fact that her mother (Blethyn) is hell bent on marrying off her girls advantageously. So, when the handsome and wealthy Mr Bingley (Woods) takes up residence in the area, Mrs Bennet wastes no time in attempting to procure him for her eldest, Jane (Pike).
Elizabeth soon meets Bingley's oldest friend, Mr Darcy (MacFadyen) and forms an almost instant dislike of him. She much prefers a young officer by the name of Wickham (Friend), an old acquaintance of Darcy, though not a friendly one. Elizabeth's prejudice towards Darcy and his apparent conceit make them an unlikely match, but Darcy has been captivated by her fiery nature and, eventually, circumstances lead them to a better understanding of each other.
While 'Pride & Prejudice' looks beautiful, beneath the surface there are a lot of problems with it, the biggest of which is Keira Knightley. When the news emerged that she was going to play Elizabeth, I, for one, doubted that she could pull it off, and she doesn't. She's simply not a good enough actress to convincingly portray the wit and intelligence of Austen's greatest heroine. Her mirthful laugh and doleful sighs aren't enough here and she becomes more irritating as the film progresses.
MacFadyen as Darcy does better, though there is little chemistry between him and Knightley. Blethyn's Mrs Bennet needed to be less savvy and it's impossible to believe that any woman would fall for Rupert Friend's terrible Wickham.
As far as the plot goes, the writers have done well to incorporate all the important points into a two-hour film, though the etiquette of Regency society seems to have been neglected. At one point, Darcy delivers a letter to Elizabeth during the night and sees her in her night-dress. Such contact between a young unmarried lady and a gentleman in Austen's day would have caused a scandal. It adds nothing to the story, so we must assume that the scriptwriters had Colin Firth's returning from his swim in the lake in the BBC's 1995 adaptation in mind when this was written.
Which brings us to the fact that that version was immensely superior to Wright's movie. 'Pride & Prejudice' 2005 just doesn't measure up in terms of acting talent, detail or sentiment. Despite all the big names here, this movie, like its leading lady, lacks depth.