November 14, 2005

The new P&P: Tolerable, I suppose

I was able to go see the new version of Pride & Prejudice this weekend. (It opens nationwide on Nov. 23, but opened in a few theatres in the DC area last Friday.)

I have to say, my expectations were in the low to medium range, and they were met. There were some things that surprised me -- I actually sort of liked Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett, which I didn't expect. And the filmmakers decided to show some of the dirt and grime of country life, which helped it feel realistic to me. (Though I think many Austen fans may find this over the top. As Stephen Hunter said in his review in The Washington Post, "Her world has been masculinized. . . . Wright's 1797 therefore is a boisterous, loud, dance-mad, crowded kind of place, full of ruddy-faced peasants, dirt and hay (everywhere), lots of animals waiting to be eaten.")

At any rate, one of the biggest drawbacks seemed to be trying to fit it into two hours. (Why is it this is possible with Emma, Sense & Sensibility, and Persuasion but not with P&P?) Wickham hardly makes an appearance. When Darcy proposes, he and Elizabeth have had so few interactions of so little substance that it seems completely out of left field.

But as my friend Kristine said after seeing it, not only did they try to masculinize Austen's world, they also tried to magical-ize it. (Is that a word?) I mean, sweeping, romantic Hollywood moments, like when Darcy proposed under some kind of collonade overlooking miles of countryside in the midst of a deluge, or when they meet on the bridge in the dawn mist at the end of the movie. That didn't sit right to me -- it's not Austen. Her magical moments happen in the midst of everyday life; they are somewhat ordinary, and very real.

I loved seeing Chatsworth as Pemberley, though, and then there's Burghley House, from the village of Stamford, as Rosings, which I'd love to visit.

At any rate, the movie gets a passing grade, it was a good Saturday night out, but for most of us Austen devotees it won't replace the BBC version.


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