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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A little pride and my prejudice

Published: December 2, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

It really says something about the state of my hometown that absolutely no one save me and two friends were in the theater to see the evening showing of Pride & Prejudice on its nationwide opening weekend. Ugh, not a movie about a book that isnt Harry Potter.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books, so of course I walked into the darkened theater with low expectations for the movie. Having just seen Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire myself, I was acutely aware of just how much books have to change for translation to the screen. Besides, I was irked at the choice of Kiera Knightly, who I saw as having absolutely no chance of nailing the role of Elizabeth Bennett.
However, because of my love of the book and the request of an obsessed friend, I ended up in the middle of empty theater with a semi-open mind – and what I got was a pretty decent adaptation of Austens classic novel. It might have been a throw-away okay movie to me, were it not for Matthew MacFadyens performance as Mr. Darcy. He nearly perfectly captured all of the elements that make up Darcy, the quiet countenance and glowering eyes, the intense, hidden passion for Elizabeth, and the fact that he is a generally good and decent human being.

Even Kiera Knightly was not as bad of an Elizabeth as I expected. Although not an amazing performance, she pulled it off. Yet, despite a decent performance, I still cant completely accept her as the right choice because she does not fit the role physically. Elizabeth is supposed to be pretty but not strikingly so and she has a very dramatic face. However, in Hollywood the main characters are usually too shiny and pretty, so Ill try to let that one slide.

Luckily much of the rest of the characters are well-cast, including the Bennett (Donald Southerland) and Mrs. Bennett (Brenda Blethyn) in particular. She has that exact voice of a meddling, overly-talkative mother that I would imagine from reading the novel. Elizabeths sisters play to their roles pretty well, and Southerland is quite good as Mr. Bennett. He has a good fatherly chemistry with Kiera Knightly that makes their characters and their familial bond believable.

While most of the actors are decently good choices for the role, I have to say that for the first half of the movie something about Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) was actually borderline creepy. While he captured some of the boyish enthusiasm of the character, he failed in that the expression he often wears on his face does not so much evoke excitement as forced happiness, which makes him seem somewhat suspicious when he is not at all. He is, however, somewhat redeemed by the sheer amusement of one of his last scenes within the movie, in which his embarrassment and confusion are played up to the point that you feel some affection for his character, rather than wondering why he has that strange, tight-faced grin.

The movie is just a little over two hours, but it is needlessly lengthened with the use of long, sometimes aerial shots of Elizabeth Bennett either walking or just standing in picturesque spot. I can see that the director was probably trying to bring out some deeper meaning in her standing on a rock with the wind blowing her hair, but the fact of the matter is that, while a beautiful shot, it goes on too long and slows the movie down. There is a nicely-framed shot of Mr. Darcy walking through a field, yet it takes so long for the shot to finish that I got boredand Im a little obsessed with Darcy.

All in all, if youve never read the book and appreciate a romance, the movie is worth your while in checking out, but its not a must-see. If, however, you love the novel or want to watch a better movie interpretationand have about six hours of your life to spareId recommend getting a copy of the A&E miniseries of Pride & Prejudice. Its infinitely better and has the added bonus of Colin Firth as the perfect Mr. Darcy.

Or you could just read the book!

If you like to see Jane Austen novels on the big screen, you may also like to see:

Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Starring Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, and Hugh Grant.