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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.25%
Average: 11.48%
Pretty Bad: 4.92%
Total Crap: 2.46%

8 reviews, 74 user ratings

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Pride & Prejudice (2005)
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by Mel Valentin

"Romantic comedy and Jane Austen fans will find much to like here."
4 stars

First published almost two hundred years ago, Jane Austen's prototypical romantic comedy, "Pride & Prejudice" has been adapted multiple times for other media, mostly for British television. "Pride & Prejudice" was last adapted as a theatrical feature in 1940, with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson in the lead roles of Darcy and Elizabeth. The 1995 BBC adaptation, however, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Elizabeth, respectively, has become a favorite of Austen's multi-generational fans. That fact alone made director Joe Wright's ("Charles II: The Power and the Passion," known in the United States as "The Last King") task a difficult, complex one, especially given the limited running time that affects the number of characters and subplots that can be included. That he mostly succeeds is a credit to the nimble, streamlined screenplay by Deborah Moggach, the credible central performances, the production design (gritty for a period piece), and Wright's filmmaking style that's not unexpectedly pictorial given the period trappings, but surprisingly mobile for a dialogue-driven film.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet (Keira Knightley), the second oldest daughter of five in the Bennet household, is both the brightest and the most headstrong. The other Bennet sisters include her older sister, Jane (Rosamund Pike), and, in order of importance and screen time, Lydia (Jena Malone), Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Mary (Talulah Riley). As a group, the sisters are boisterous, somewhat self-centered, and, given their relative ages, boy-crazy, with Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland), the family patriarch, almost powerless to contain or channel their youthful exuberance. Lydia and Kitty are especially looking forward to the arrival of the local militia in their town. For them, and other local girls, the militia represents a source of eligible bachelors. Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) has larger ambitions for her daughters (or at least, her older daughters), a new, wealthy bachelor, Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods).

At a public dance, Bingley arrives with his vain, snobbish sister, Caroline (Kelly Reilly) and a family friend, Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen). Bingley becomes instantly attracted to Jane, while Caroline looks on with barely veiled disapproval. Mr. Darcy, for his part, is aloof, distant, and uncomfortable in social situations. Darcy is also tall, dark, and wealthy, making his a suitable target for the local women searching for a husband. Lizzie's first encounter with Darcy goes badly, with Lizzie overhearing Darcy insult her appearance to Bingley (she smartly throws the comment back at him). Thus begins mutual antipathy, antipathy that, of course, hides mutual attraction.

Before, however, Lizzie and Darcy act on that attraction (if they do at all), a series of complications and reversals, beginning with the appearance of another suitor for Lizzie's hand, heartbreak for one sister, the scandalous engagement of another, and family opposition (his, not hers), threatens to unravel whatever progress Lizzie and Darcy have made toward mutual understanding. Darcy, for his part, reveals his deep-seated prejudices when he informs Lizzie of his conflicted feelings for her. Lizzie reacts pridefully. But as a prototypical romantic comedy, the obstacles can be overcome, at least where "true love" can be found (a radical notion in Regency England, where marriages were brokered and romantic love rarely played a role in marriage).

Given the constraints of a two-hour running time (more or less), Pride & Prejudice suffers, or appears to suffer, from the same problems novel-to-film adaptations often have: the compression of storylines or subplots (or their elimination), and secondary characters who are given little screen time. The loss of screen time for favorite characters might leave some fans of Austen's novel unhappy, but viewers unfamiliar or only tangentially familiar will have to judge Pride and Prejudice on its own.

Wright's adaptation isn't without its faults, primarily in his unrestrained use of music to underline key emotional moments, or in the indulgence of certain romantic clichés that, despite their likely presence in Austen's novel, should have been either discarded or minimized (a character walking across a meadow with the sun at his back is one egregious example, as is the final, superfluous scene that serves only to reiterate or repeat the dramatic content of a previous scene). Still, Wright deserves credit for his attention to period detail, including the production design (the Bennet home looks lived in, and the costumes, as well as a directing style that emphasizes mobile camerawork over the static, conventional shots audiences have come to expect from period pieces, especially dialogue-heavy period pieces. In the ballroom scenes, Wright uses a Steadicam or a dolly to track different characters as they move across the hall, and in one shot, literalizes the first stirrings of attraction between Lizzie and Darcy.

Performance wise, Keira Knightly makes for a credible 18th-century heroine, as does Matthew MacFadyen as the brooding, Heathcliff-like Mr. Darcy (it's not surprisingly to learn that MacFadyen has appeared in a production of "Wuthering Heights" (but not as the central character, Heathcliff). Donald Sutherland has far less to do, although he conveys Mr. Bennet's continual befuddlement (which hides an unexpected perceptiveness) with relative ease. Brenda Blethyn fares less well, playing the Mrs. Bennet character broadly (typical for Blethyn's performances). To be fair, the Mrs. Bennet character is broadly written, and only partially sympathetic, but an understated performance would have still been preferable.

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originally posted: 11/11/05 14:21:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/24/18 Katie Addicted. Need a fix of P&P every couple of months. Love this adaptation !! 5 stars
3/18/13 Mireya Love this movie! 5 stars
4/06/12 Mrs. Bennet MacFadyen should have been in the better BBC version 5 stars
3/10/11 Lonesome Rhodes Late to this version. It can't make me forget the BBC version. Knightley ain't sexy. 3 stars
3/20/10 JM Keynesy capture the essence of the novel. Keira is exceptional and present what the novel depict. 5 stars
2/19/10 Rita P watch the 1995 version - forget Knightley - ckeck out Ehle. 4 stars
2/17/10 The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness Interesting review! I didn't know Emma Thompson had a hand in the script! Cool! 4 stars
12/16/09 A Girl the first poster is is this dumb downed? 5 stars
10/28/09 Talless I think Darcy is sexyand elizabeth was playing hard too get too much. The movie was great!! 4 stars
10/17/09 glyzashin i love it 5 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. one of keira knightley's better films...beautiful cinematography! 5 stars
1/19/08 jeanne I was too distracted by how grubby everyone was; Lizzie should NOT have stringy hair! 2 stars
1/01/08 Susan Wonderful movie. Great acting. Keira won my respect from this movie. 5 stars
12/09/07 Keystra Williams Absolutely fanfuckingtastic! 5 stars
5/09/07 David Pollastrini Keira Knightley is hot is hot in this! 3 stars
4/24/07 Luisa It brought tears to my eyes. 4 stars
3/11/07 Roy F. Moore Keira Knightly makes a pretty good Lizzie. 5 stars
1/15/07 quirky By far, a wonderfully refreshing adaptation of the novel. 5 stars
12/14/06 MJ This movie was terrible. No one can ever replace Ehle and FIrth! 1 stars
12/05/06 Bitchflaps Pretty to a fault, a sterile adaptation. Knightly mistakes formality for stiltedness. 2 stars
11/30/06 Jess I loved this movie so much I watch it all the time. Keira is a great actress. 5 stars
10/12/06 Kaleb I didnt understand the movie.....not worth seeing 1 stars
10/02/06 kath Captures the essence of the novel. Keira was great and photography was wonderful! 5 stars
9/27/06 laruja I love you. Most ardently. Please do me the honour of accepting my hand. 5 stars
9/05/06 Julia I hated this awful film. Those who like it don't have the foggiest idea. 1 stars
6/16/06 od absolutely fabulous 5 stars
6/05/06 o.kilinc really worth watching especially after watching the BBC version 5 stars
5/12/06 Annie G An enjoyable adaptation - never really "wowed" me though. 4 stars
5/11/06 anne i love this movie and went to see it 5 times ! 5 stars
5/03/06 Ashley Hinz lovely. can't say enough about it. 5 stars
4/29/06 Olivia Morene This movie shows that some people will find love where they least expect it! 5 stars
4/29/06 maria casal i loved that much this movie, that I rented it, and in the first day I wathed it over 3 tim 5 stars
4/21/06 LOLA Bring back Colin Firth! Other than that, pretty good! 3 stars
4/12/06 Erin Addington Ah Naomi, that could go along with what I read, that Jane Austen died of constipation. 4 stars
4/12/06 Naomi Valentine Dooky? DUH! Nobody goes to the bathroom in Jane Austen novels! 3 stars
4/11/06 The Great Squizzaloon Rosamund Pike is eye candy, but Judi Dench would be more likeable wallowing in her dooky! 3 stars
4/11/06 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne EYE CANDY, but 1st half is ear torture. 2nd half redeems itself A BIT. 3 stars
4/10/06 Haven't read the book but hope it's better Totally unclear on what wonderful deeds hero did for heroine's sisters! 2 stars
3/31/06 Priscilla Postlethwaite But what will Liz do about her aunt-in-law from hell? 3 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar I loved this film. Can we have more please? 5 stars
3/04/06 gary PLEASE, keira knightley -- don't you ever change! 5 stars
3/04/06 Cristyne Vasquez I love Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy; he's far more romantic than Colin Firth 5 stars
3/03/06 bizenya wonderful on every level. 5 stars
3/03/06 Rick Burt Beautifilly filmed,and passionately acted 5 stars
3/03/06 Naomi Valentine Dooky? DUH! Nobody goes to the bathroom in Jane Austen novels! 3 stars
3/03/06 The Great Squizzaloon Rosamund Pike is eye candy, but Judi Dench would be attractiver wallowing in her dooky! 3 stars
3/03/06 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne EYE CANDY, but 1st half is ear torture. 2nd half redeems itself A BIT. 3 stars
3/03/06 Haven't read the book but hope it's better Totally unclear on what wonderful deeds hero did for heroine's sisters! 2 stars
2/28/06 Priscilla Postlethwaite But what will Liz do about her aunt-in-law from hell? 3 stars
2/26/06 Yesim it was wonderful and really romantic 5 stars
2/16/06 Christina awesome movie!!! (especially mr.darcy :)) very well played by Matthew MacFad... and keira) 5 stars
1/25/06 Asina A beautiful movie. Knightley was great. 5 stars
1/23/06 Monika Luy A wonderfully casted romantic movie, not very much JA though. 4 stars
1/23/06 nelly mendel magnificent, beautiful landscapes, romantic. 5 stars
1/05/06 Elisa G Okay, but not brilliant 3 stars
12/24/05 Mike V Waaaaay too melodramatic and precious. 3 stars
12/23/05 katsat MacFadyen pales next to Colin Firth. Butchering of Austen. Knightley too modern, skinny. 3 stars
12/18/05 Emily Popp I have seen the movie 8 times, and I'm not done yet. Need I say more? 5 stars
12/18/05 Aaron Smith Awesome cinematography and solid acting. Knightley a pleasure to watch. 5 stars
12/08/05 deeza Perfection_this is what they call 'chemistry' 5 stars
12/08/05 raewyn loved this movie!!! 5 stars
12/08/05 Kat Stacy Hideous 2 stars
12/04/05 Heather An exquisite movie-I'm buying it the moment it comes out. 5 stars
12/03/05 goldengirl Absolutely fantastic! Has there truely been another romantic movie? 5 stars
12/02/05 Holle I've seen it 4 times; this film is brilliant in its own right, w/ or w/o the book's detail. 5 stars
11/29/05 Melina beautiful cinematic version - captured the essence of Austen's story beautifully! 5 stars
11/28/05 melissa A wonderful movie. Loved everything about it. 5 stars
11/26/05 moorefam221 I've never seen a movie in the theatre 3 times before, but this one is definitely worth it. 5 stars
11/14/05 Sylvia Galimore awesome in it's own way! 5 stars
11/13/05 Asina Absolutely beautiful. LOVED it. 5 stars
11/12/05 bizenya knightley was great. a new take on the classic novel. me likey. 5 stars
10/27/05 Steven Absolutely stunning cinematography. Excellent adaptation of the novel. 5 stars
9/16/05 Vodkabite A sadly dumbed down version of Jane Austin's most popular novel. 2 stars
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  11-Nov-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Feb-2006



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