Judged as a movie in its own right, Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice is a disappointment. Judged as an adaptation of a classic Jane Austen novel, however, it is nothing short of a travesty. For those of you already acquainted with the book, be warned; the only thing that Wright's work has in common with the Austen masterpiece is it's title. Even with the most superficial of viewings, it is clear that the script holds little more than a passing resemblance to the novel. Wright goes to great pains to include most of the story's key features, but has seemingly neither the time nor the inclination to go into any real manner of depth with them. Important plot points - such as Lydia's disappearance and subsequent elopement - are introduced and resolved so quickly that the viewer is denied the luxury of suspense. Consequently, the film feels remarkably lacking in drama, and a sense of flat detachment permeates into every aspect of the script.
Unfortunately, this rushed pacing leaves Elizabeth's journey - both physical and emotional - reduced to mere bullet-notes, and neither she nor those around her demonstrate any growth as individuals. Characterisation is sacrificed again and again as Mr Wright's attempts to cram as much action into the allotted two-hours go increasingly awry. Much-loved characters are reduced to mere nonentities, or else distorted so greatly as to be irreconcilable with their originals. Indeed, in watching this movie, I was left doubting whether the script's writers had read their source material at all. Mr. Bingley's role was cheapened to that of the comic relief (presumably to accentuate the merits of his friend, Mr Darcy), and Georgiana Darcy - far from the sensitive young girl of the novel - is portrayed as a inanely-giggling twit. For those new to Austen's world, there are shamefully few reasons for them notice or care about these characters. Adaptation or not, there can be no excuse for such sloppy characterisation.
Historical accuracy too is snubbed, despite Mr Wright's pretensions towards 'gritty' realism. From the fashions to the dancing, it is clear to anyone with even a basic knowledge of the period that factual errors exist at every turn. However, these outward faults could perhaps be forgiven had the film at least attempted to remained true to the spirit of the era. Sadly, this is not the case. In attempting to modernise Austen's characters - doubtlessly due to the studio's assumption that audiences would not understand the originals - they lose all sense of credibility, and the script descends into farce as even the most basic social conventions of the day are blithely ignored. Gentlemen enter ladies bedrooms, introductions are bypassed, and Mr Darcy has apparently no qualms about walking around (and visiting his potential father-in-law) in a state of undress. Though seemingly small, such mistakes would be unthinkable in the Regency period, where a person's standing in society depended as much on their decorum as it did on their fortune. Manners and restraint act as the keystone of Austen work; they are both the driving force and the central conflict of her romances, and to remove them so completely from the script makes the whole film ring hollow.
Nevertheless, despite all this, the greatest flaw in Mr Wright's adaptation must surely be the dialogue. Far from Miss Austen's delightfully light repartee, we are instead treated to a wearily cumbersome script that fails to inspire either humour or interest, and which makes only a half-hearted attempt to remain true to it's source material. In the novel, it is dialogue that acts as the catalyst for the Darcy/Elizabeth romance - their agile debates demonstrate both wit and intelligence, and remain some of the most memorable exchanges ever committed to the English language. In the movie, however, it is difficult to discern any spark between them whatsoever. Keira Knightly's waspish Elizabeth snipes, pouts, and trills her way through their conversations, while Matthew MacFadeyn's Darcy looks bored and faintly embarrassed (though given the cringe-inducing drivel that he is forced to utter during the second proposal, I cannot say that I blame him). Frankly, there was no need for the script-writers to attempt to re-write Austen's famously sparkling dialogue. The 1995 BBC adaptation lifted most of it's lines directly from the novel itself, and was consequently hailed as the finest costume dramas of it's generation. I can hardly imagine anyone willing to subject themselves to a second viewing of Wright's dire revision.
All in all, this movie falls woefully short of expectations. Special blame must surely be laid at Keira Knightly, however, whose portrayal of Elizabeth Bennett sees one of literatures most beloved heroines reduced to a simpering shrew.
Pride & Prejudice
Action / Drama / Romance
Pride & Prejudice
Action / Drama / Romance
The protagonist Elizabeth Bennett is a witty, sarcastic, somewhat stubborn young lady who really has an opinion about quite a lot including why she would not marry simply because of it is expected of her. Mr. Guy Darcy is a shy, rich, man who defiantly believes there is such a thing as superior birth.
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April 29, 2013 at 09:18 PM