Raymond’s review of Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version)


This weekend I saw the latest reinterpretation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I was introduced to the wondrous world of Jane Austen by the marvelous BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice from 1995. (The Bollywood interpration I found diverting, but Darcy's "Pemberley" hotel was not as awe-inspiring as it needed to be for the story to work. The "Mr. Collins" character was a riot, though.)

I went in with some trepidation, because some members of the Jane Austen Society of North America felt that this was the WORST ADAPTATION EVER. (Okay, not really, but it was fun to write.) The best sound bite from the director was his reaction to people who were all nitpicking over details: "They can, I dunno, go and jump in the lake." Was this a backhanded reference to the swoon-inducing lake scene in the heralded BBC production? (A scene which, by the way, doesn't exist in the book.)

I enjoyed this adaptation. Sure it wasn't a literal interpretation, but if you want a literal interpretation, go watch Colin Firth again. (Warning: Spoilers, but I mean, come on, like you don't know the story backwards and forwards by now!)

  • I think Wright was closer to the mark on the relative pulchritude of the characters. Jane is prettier than Elizabeth (something that most adaptations get backwards), Wickham is charming and handsome (in a swoonily Orlando Bloom sort of way), and Charlotte is homely.

  • I enjoyed Wright's take on Mr. Collins. Still sweaty, but less snivelly than the BBC version.

  • Many people didn't like Matthew MacFadyen's Darcy, but I thought he did a good job, though his entrance to the Meryton assembly was overdone.

  • Caroline Bingley still had that condescending attitude, but it's hard to top Anna Chancellor from the BBC version.

  • You could tell where the new dialog was introduced. It didn't have quite that Jane Austen magic to it, and in places sounded anachronistic. (For example, when the servant introduces "Mrs. Bennett, Miss Bennett, Miss Bennett, and Miss Bennett." Only the eldest unmarried daughter goes by the name "Miss X"; the younger ones include their Christian names. But it made for a cute joke, so I'll forgive it.)

  • The humor was well-done.
  • I enjoyed that when Darcy makes a surprise early return to Pemberley, you can hear in your mind Elizabeth saying to herself, "crap crap crap crap crap crap".

  • In the scenes where Elizabeth learns of Lydia's situation and where she is confronted by Lady Catherine, it felt as if Keira Knightley were channeling Jennifer Ehle. Somehow, even though it was Keira's lips moving, the voice coming out sounded just like Jennifer Ehle's...

  • I think the director was trying to make me puke or induce some sort of epileptic seizure. One scene is shot from a rapidly-spinning camera (woozy) and a fabricated dream sequence was introduced by a really annoying sequence with flashing colors.

  • In my mind, the two fabricated scenes at the end were awful.

Overall, though, I'd give the movie a strong recommendation.

By the way, the Biography Channel is re-running the BBC Pride and Prejudice starting tonight. Psst, Biography Channel, news flash: Pride and Prejudice is not a biography. Elizabeth Bennett is a fictional character.

[Edit 11am: Fixed spelling of Ms. Knightley's name.]

Comments (14)
  1. Joe Dietz says:

    Its sad that BBC America is so weak, Biography Channel is about the only place to get some of the better British television series, particularly the mystery series, all of which are about fictional characters.

    It seems that all of the cable networks that popped up during the cable boom have entirely re-tooled themselfves now, but kept their old names. Not unlike the (to me) odd habbit of moving sports francishes and only changing the city names. For awhile, in Portland we had the Colorado Rockies as the Portland Rockies.

    When was the last time you learned something on TLC? Which in a KFC move begs you to forget TLC might have at one point stood for something.

  2. I believe it’s Keira Knightley (with an extra "e")

  3. Jerry Pisk says:

    If you want to learn something you need to watch the Discovery channel, Mythbusters teaches you something new every time :) Who would know that you need to use tracer rounds if you want to explode a car’s gas tank by firing at it, that bullets from high power rifles disintegrate when they hit water (but slow handguns fired bullets do not), that steel toed boots really work and will not cut your fingers off, that the toilet seat is much cleaner than the floor, that you can safely float from an airplane using the emergency slide (if you manage to get it open and hold on to it) but not the life raft and so on.

  4. Chris Westcott says:

    Jerry – do you wear boots on your hands? ;)

  5. Yeah but those extra eight minutes were awful.

  6. Jerry Pisk says:

    Chris – right, it should’ve been toes. But then again – my statement was perfectly valid :)

  7. Jerry Pisk says:

    And it should’ve been steel tipped boots, I could really use a proof reader.

  8. Bec says:

    Good points. I’ve never read the book or seen the BBC series, and I enjoyed the movie immensely, very amusing and entertaining – I think it probably helps to have nothing to compare it to. But I do want to read the book now.

  9. Diane Walker says:

    Hi, Raymond —

    Chris (Walker) just showed me your review; I’m glad to hear you think this new one is good (maybe I’ll actually be able to get him to go, he usually hates Jane Austen movies). We had to look up which version was directed by the Wright mentioned in your first point, though; you could clarify that fairly simply by changing the phrase "Wright was closer" to "Wright is closer." And, since you’re fixing spelling, that’s Bollywood interprETation. Can you tell I’m an English major? And I got the impression from the book (which I read long before seeing any of the movie versions) that Jane was SUPPOSED to be prettier than Elizabeth; just in a bland sort of way. But perhaps my memory serves me false; it was rather a long time ago.

  10. Nick Lamb says:

    "Its sad that BBC America is so weak, Biography Channel is about the only place to get some of the better British television series, particularly the mystery series, all of which are about fictional characters."

    I can’t explain this particular example, but a lot of British murder mysteries and similar are products of the regional ITV companies. Those are independent television companies (hence ITV) not part of or contracted to the BBC, so BBC America would be unlikely to show their output. One theory as to why they’re so good at these shows is that the settings, accents etc are important and ITV’s companies are regional, e.g. Central made Inspector Morse which is of course set in Oxford. The BBC can do good regional drama, but mostly they don’t.

  11. Chris Booth says:

    Raymond, if you’re going to correct Keira Knightley’s spelling, don’t you think you should correct Elizabeth Bennet’s name too?

  12. Good Point says:

    Movie bad. Keira Knightley good.

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