The DVD of Universal's rendition of the classic novel, Pride & Prejudice is due out on Tuesday. I was one of the lucky ones to get a sneak preview. Since I hadn't had a chance to actually see the movie when it was in theaters, Iwas quite excited about having first dibs on the DVD.
I'll assume that everyone knows it was nominated for four academy awards...and that the star of the film, Keira Knightly, was previously in Pirates of the Caribbean. All good stuff, I agree, but for me, the best part of the movie was the majestic landscape, the wonderous cinematography, and the beauty of the costumes. I was transported back to a time of innocence, when life was - lived in more glory than we mere 21st century citizens can image.
The love story, which movie trailers concentrated on when the movie was being shown in theaters, is emotional and touching, yes, but I couldn't connect with it. To be honest, I found the 'charming' Mr. Darcy not charming nor appealing, at all. It wasn't the character I found unappealing, it was Matthew Macfadyen's interpretation that left me cold. The brooding glances just didn't work - they smacked of insolence and over-acting. I kept wondering what it was about this man that Elizabeth Bennet found so attractive.
Keira Knightly and the cast of sisters were acceptable. Not outstanding. Not worth an academy award, but acceptable. Their silliness resonated with the routines of the day. They acted as one might expect 19th century, childish women to act. While Keira obviously got the prime role in the movie, I say the acting of her 'sisters' was what helped her earn that academy award nomination. And, I felt more drawn to her interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet; I felt it was more true than Macfadyen's Mr. Darcy.
As I mentioned earlier, the costumes were delightful. Especially the eveningwear of the women, in the party scenes. All of the women and girls presented glamorous figures - feminine and beautiful, to the extreme. This movie portrayed them exactly as we imagine them to be, in a world consumed with appearances (not just looking good, but actually acting proper), back in those dark days of the 19th century, when women were more like property, than people. When fathers and mothers chose your future for you, your own will be damned. This movie, of course, plays against that societal constraint, with Keira's 'Elizabeth' showing a headstrong, forceful personality refusing to bend to the rules of the day.
Back to the best of the movie - to the party scenes, which by far better depicted the sum and substance of the story, than the actors, and to the extraordinary outdoor scenes, so reminiscent of Wuthering Heights (the 1939 version with Merle Oberon)...scenes of Elizabeth standing on a hill of heather, face to the wind, alone in the world, surrounded by countryside - a place more friendly than the home she wishes to escape, and more welcome to her than the society which strives to keep her in her place. It was in these scenes, on the hillside and on the early trip with her Uncle and Aunt, where they stop for a bit, sitting under an enormous tree, enjoying a few moments of rest, of a quiet afternoon, full of sunshine and warmth. And yes, even the scene where Elizabeth is drenched in rain, covered head to toe, hem full of mud, confronted by Mr. Darcy, who manages to mumble a sorry invitation to become his wife - even that scene captured my heart and my favor.
This is a must-see movie. The acting is not extraordinary, except for Brenda Blethyn who played Mrs. Bennet - she deserved the academy award nomination. Of all the actors, her portrayl of the much maligned mother, whose daughters refuse to behave, was believable. What mother hasn't felt the sting of an ungrateful child?
I will watch this movie over and over again. It's guaranteed that I will have new reactions each time I view it. One thing, however, will never change - the realization that I am so lucky to have been born in the 20th century, and to be here, now, in the 21st century. Every second of this movie reminded me of that fact.
Is this, as the PR says, one of the greatest love stories of all time? I'm sure there are those who believe so. I do not. It's a story. I was not caught up in the 'love' theme, at all. Does it deserve its four nominations for academy awards? It deserves nominations for Best Costume and Design (indeed!), Best Art Direction (I concur) but not best actress nor best original score. They were average, nothing more.
I encourage you to add this to your DVD collection, and watch it with your children. There is history to be learned, and nuances of the rise of the feminist movement. And, it is entertaining.