Pride and Prejudice Review

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Hearing their new neighbour is a wealthy young bachelor, Mrs. Bennet (Blethyn) goes overboard contriving a match for one of her five daughters. Amiable Bingley (Simon Woods) duly falls for beautiful Jane (Pike). Unhappily, his even more eligible chum Darcy (MacFadyen) disdains the Bennets, his growing attraction to spirited Elizabeth (Knightley) handicapped by her ghastly relatives, scandal and misunderstandings galore...


On behalf of the girlie contingent, we’d just like to say, “Yay!” Sixty-five years since the last proper Pride And Prejudice played at a cinema near your great gran, seeing Jane Austen’s most popular novel energetically refitted for the big screen after umpteen TV serials is a reminder that Austen created the basic romantic comedy formula we all know and love.Take a heroine who’s intelligent, good-humoured and loyal, but also judgmental, stubborn and a bit of a smarty-pants. Make the hero seemingly unavailable, beyond the heroine’s reach in status, wealth, looks or eligibility. Give her embarrassing relatives, talkative friends, rich-bitch rivals and an unwanted suitor. Create a misunderstanding that keeps the leads apart but is quickly cleared up with an honest explanation or last-chance declaration of love. Voila, you have a Meg Ryan/Sandra Bullock/J.Lo movie. Not only have all these elements been used time and again in the rom-com genre, the source story itself has recently been lifted into the modern day for Bridget Jones and Bride & Prejudice. But this is the first straight adaptation for the big screen since the delicious 1940 version starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. And very welcome it is, with a fresh, realistic approach, earthy settings and romantic suspense — and in Keira Knightley’s superb Lizzy, a heroine for all time.A rethink on characterisations goes back faithfully to Austen’s social comedy. Blethyn’s dippy Mrs. Bennet is vulgar, but not the comic grotesque often depicted. She’s funny and no-one can accuse her of underplaying — you certainly feel the desperation of a woman with five daughters whose prospects are grim if they don’t marry some money. Similarly, Tom Hollander’s cousin-come-a-wooing, the self-righteous clergyman Mr. Collins, is a suitor no fun girl would want, but he’s hardly contemptible.Since no English lit-flick is complete without Judi Dench, she obligingly terrorises as arrogant Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It’s Knightley, though, who really stands out. She’s delightful as Austen’s best-loved character — the slender, clever figure who loves a laugh, such as when she sets eyes on Darcy’s palatial pile and can’t control her goggle-eyed mirth, realising it could have been hers. The emphasis is not on heaving cleavage but on wit and unstudied charm, and Elizabeth Bennet has more of those than any other heroine in the English language.A few not-terribly-serious gripes: Matthew ‘Spooks’ MacFadyen’s Darcy is dishy, but his blushing sad-sack manner is at times more like Droopy The Dog than a Georgian grandee, while Simon Woods’ Bingley is a tad too twittish to be sombre Darcy’s buddy. And the ending looks lopped off. Yes, almost everyone knows how it goes, and not every Austen adaptation has to end with a wedding, but Jane-ites really shouldn’t be deprived of one kissy shot.Still, debut feature director Joe Wright should be applauded for delivering a vividly realised Austen adap — one which confirms Knightley has graduated from the Jackie Bisset of the '00s to this decade’s Julie Christie.

Not as divine as Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, but engagingly comparable to the Gwyneth Paltrow-starring Emma and vastly superior to Mansfield Park