I know the title isn’t very eloquent, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up the way my favorite movie of all time (and I say that without any exaggeration) makes me feel: siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
It’s very rare that a movie based on a book leaves a reader satisfied, much less completely and absolutely enamored with the film. And Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of ALL. TIME. So Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation had a LOT to live up to, to say the least.
And it met and wonderfully exceeded my lofty standards.
I don’t envy writers who adapt their screenplays from well-loved books and in classic English literature, I really don’t think it can get more well-loved than Jane Austen. It’s a thankless job, because some bookworm out there will always have something to complain about. But I really can’t imagine how Deborah Moggach’s adaptation could be significantly improved. Although I would have preferred to have seen Ms. Bingley’s (played to haughty perfection by Kelly Reilly) jealousy of Elizabeth played out on screen, that’s just me wanting to see a bitch get her comeuppance (don’t we all?). Other than that, I think it’s a beautiful adaptation. It took enough from dialogue from the book for it still to be distinctly Austen, but not so much that the characters sound like they’re speaking a different language. It was well-paced and the detail and character omissions did not take away from the story at all.
But a good script alone doesn’t make a good movie. The other half of the genius of this movie is in its casting (what is it about British films, anyway? Why are they all so impeccably cast?). Almost everyone, from Judi Dench as Lady Catherine and Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet is perfect for their role. And none the more so than the two leads: Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew McFadyen as Mr. Darcy.
Although I discuss it more at length in a previous post, it still must be said: these two NAILED IT. Both Keira and Matthew were born to play these roles. I was skeptical about Keira playing my favorite fictional heroine, given that the roles she was famous for were in Bend it Like Beckham and Pirates of the Carribean. Not exactly dramatic gold. So imagine my surprise when she moves from the self-assured, headstrong and stubborn Lizzy, to the confused, conflicted and humbled girl in love seamlessly and gracefully.
And what about McFadyen’s Mr. Darcy? Well, before I saw the film, I was already convinced that if I ended up an old maid, I would have Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy to blame, even if I didn’t really have a picture in my head of what Darcy possibly looked like. After seeing the movie, the picture in my head is of McFadyen. McFadyen is so perfect as Mr. Darcy, that I actually get disoriented when I see him in a role set in the modern world, that I find it weird when I see him in a suit and not in breeches, a waistcoat and coattails. And he’s not even THAT good-looking (sorry, Matthew, but you know I love you)! He plays the formal, stiff Mr. Darcy well enough, but I think it’s the flustered, nervous and struggling Mr. Darcy that McFadyen gets spot on, and that gets the “awwwwwwws” going. With McFadyen, you really appreciate the inner struggle Darcy goes through with his feelings for Elizabeth, and isn’t that what’s at the crux of Darcy’s story anyway? And he plays it all with such emotion, but yet with such subtlety. Even with just his eyes and very small movements in his face, McFadyen makes you feel what Mr. Darcy is going through. Mr. Darcy is the probably the most controlled character of them all, but McFadyen is so good as him, that even when Darcy’s unintentionally blurts out “I love you, most ardently”, it all still seems so natural. *swoooooooon*
And together, Keira and Matthew are just brilliant. They play off each other so well. When Darcy and Elizabeth are arguing there’s fire and hostility, but you can sense an underlying attraction to each other that is just undeniable, despite both’s best efforts to resist it. And they are just as good in the latter stages of the movie, when all the hostility is replaced by nervous awkwardness and longing. Like I said, brilliant.
If you need further convincing on how good Keira and Matthew are together, here goes:
If that still doesn’t convince you, (1) what is wrong with you? and (2) then my final suggestion is to get an original DVD of the movie, and watch it with director Joe Wright’s commentary. I loved the movie even without it, but I watched Pride and Prejudice with it and, I didn’t think it was possible, the commentary made me love the movie even more. Wright’s sometimes hilarious and always insightful anecdotes about making the movie, the characters, the actors and the script just gave me a new appreciation for the film that I never had. So, please, get the original DVD. I’ll lend you mine if you can’t find one.
Because more people need to realize how beautiful this movie is. Also, I need more members in my “I am Mrs. Darcy” old’s maid club.