Pride & Prejudice

SPOILER ALERT - don't read this entry if you have yet to see the movie and want it to be entirely fresh.

Here's a pretty good review of the new Pride & Prejudice in my opinion. If the link doesn't take you directly to the right entry, page down - it's the November 30 posting.

Daily Blah

As for Yours Truly, I know adaptations must need entail certain changes and adjustments. I am ready for them. But they can be done in good ways and bad ways. Good ways of adapting include omitting various things w/o making too many changes to essentials. It is always better to amputate a problematic plotline than to scrunch and twist it into the notch of space one has for it in the movie version's story or to invent outright new ways to connect all the dots. P&P did rather a mix of various combinations of these adjustment styles.

I was happy about or at least understood some of their decisions. Obviously much of the dialogue seems hyper-condensed to those of us who remember the book too well or whose heads are still filled with Colin and Jennifer and the 1995 BBC gang's version, yet despite the shortening I felt this adaptation did an excellent job of exhibiting Lizzie's verbal playfulness. Perhaps my biggest rave is for their less glossy look of the 18th century--more akin to the 1995 Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds Persuasion than the polished too-cleanness of many Austen adaptations - even of those I adore text/story-wise.

Some changes left me quite stymied though. For example, how many extra nanoseconds would it have taken during Elizabeth's reading of Darcy's explanatory letter to go ahead and say that Wickham did not simply have a finance-inspired yen for Georgiana but had actually convinced her to elope with him? We came away thinking Wickham was simply Not a Very Nice Guy rather than the true blackguard he was.

My serious displeasure was invoked by a few aspects of this film. Numerous social comportment violations are in evidence, like Jane's admitting Bingley to her sickroom without the slightest concern for propriety. Granted all of my 18th century expertise has come simply from literature, but I am confident in saying that NEVER would a young lady allow a potential suitor into her room, period, let alone when she is languishing in bed (all romantic-y, back of the hand to the brow, alas, sigh, sniff) in her bedclothes!

My biggest outrage is reserved for this film's leading the audience to believe that Lizzie really has some emotional regard for Darcy even before his first proposal. I was so alarmed by this that I decided to reread P&P a tenth time to make sure I hadn't simply missed this earlier. My verdict is that as you read the novel if you squint your eyes and say all of Lizzie's lines in your head with a lovey dovey voice and imagine lots of swelling violins and picture everything happening against a misty lavender Wuthering Heights-y backdrop, you STILL won't believe that Lizzie thinks there are any redeeming qualities whatsoever in the person of Fitzwilliam Darcy, even secretly in her heart, unbeknownst to the reader, even unbeknownst to her. That said, yes, I would say that almost immediately after Darcy's letter (which, of course would never have been delivered by Darcy's walking straight into the Collins' house), and certainly upon seeing him in other contexts later with her aunt and uncle, her regard begins undergoing certain adjustments, almost despite herself.

Unlike some of the comments I've read online, I thought the casting was pretty good. Any problems I had with characterization I believe were the fault of the director, not of the actors. For example Donald Sutherland's Mr. Bennet was a little milk toast for my tastes, but having seen Mr. Sutherland in many other roles where he was much more dynamic I have to think that this was a direction problem. As for Matthew Macfadyen, I was quite ready to dislike him, especially having read that he opted not to read any of Austen's work in preparation, seeing it as unnecessary to understanding the role. (!!?? I know! Sacrilege!) But I stand, or rather sit because my legs are still too wobbly, here still recovering from his smoldering Darcyness. I love Colin, oh how I love Colin, but I was utterly thrilled by this shiny new Darcy.

All of this notwithstanding, it got me. My heart overruled both my head and my Austen Reader Self-importance and I bawled my eyes out at both viewings. While my mind was aghast at the venue of the first proposal and screaming about the characters' proximity while the audience was teased with the oh-so-improper kiss leanings, my heart was breathlessly yelling KISS HER KISS HER KISS HER! I guess if this inspires yet another generation of people to start reading Austen's wondrous body of work... well there are much worse things that could happen in the world, and do.

Bottom line: at once despite and thanks to all of this, based on Susan's Austen Feature Film Adaptation Scale* of 1-10, where the 1995 Persuasion is 9.5 and Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park is -30 (don't get me started) Joe Wright's P&P is a solid 6.5. (Oh give me a break, I admitted I cried, for heaven's sake, plus anything over 5 is tremendous given that the majority of the JA adaptations barely clear that.) Plus I find I'm quite content that there now be TWO quite exemplary dark, proud, troubled, good, noble, bewitched, and enamored Darcys in our consciousness. Matthew Macfadyen's for every day and Colin's for Sundays.

*'cause of course it's really not fair to put mini-series alongside pieces with much more restrictive time constraints, altho I must admit that however much I adore the 1995 BBC P&P, I think it runs neck & neck with the 1995 Persuasion which says a lot for the latter, think you not?

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