Bride and Prejudice 2005 Movie ReviewLet's say right up front that Bride & Prejudice was never meant to be an "authentic step by step translation". It was meant to be a fun musical, with a ton of gorgeous Indian color, with the general theme of a famous book. I'll be doing this review from this point of view. It's silly to argue that "Darcy should have been more X to match the book" or that "Lizzie shouldn't speak with slang". It's the themes that matter - not the exact specifics.
The movie is interested because it was deliberately set up to appeal equally to English-speaking audiences as well as Indian natives. In fact, the first song is done completely in Indian. 99% of the actors and actresses are Indian. In fact, some scenes are very strongly pro-Indian and anti-West. But we'll get to that in a moment.
Darcy is a US friend of Balraj (Bingley), an Indian guy returned to India for a wedding. England/US is set up as the "elegant cultured" high class society of the book, while the small Indian town is set up as the "back water sludge" of Lalita's (Lizzie's) hometown. Lizzie has 3 sisters (not 4), a minor change. At the party, Darcy very clearly is "uncomfortable" with the culture he didn't understand - NOT "snobbish" and considering himself above it. He didn't know how to do the dances. In the book, the point was that he DID know how to (very well) but considered himself above it.
The mom really wants to go to America. It's not that she feels her town is "high class" - she feels the US is better.
Two seconds later we have another song, where the whole town demands more weddings to have fun. At this point I have to comment that with the VERY long musical numbers in an under-2-hour movie, it cuts down on the minutes you can have character development. Some musicals - like Chicago and Grease - have musical numbers that are incredibly important to the story and do amazing jobs of filling out a character's personality. These numbers here have color and glitz but pretty much no "story meaning". I really wish they could have made the musical numbers more integral to the movie itself.
Next comes one of the scenes I liked the least. After the wedding, Darcy comes up to talk to Lizzie. He mentions the problem's he's having at the hotel. She gets snappy and lures him into an argument by asking him questions and then arguing with his truthful responses. He dislikes arranged marriages, which I happen to agree with. She pushes him and he agrees that it was the groom's choice. So she fights with that too! Then she kicks up the fight to say all Americans are arrogant. She doesn't come across as intelligent. She comes across as incredibly grumpy.
On to the beach. Caroline teases Lalita about reading a big book and Lalita is nasty back about Caroline's make-up. When Caroline makes a dig about Lalita being accomplished, Lalita says proudly, "Maybe." She then jumps on Darcy as being an Imperialist, because anybody who builds a hotel here is obviously harming the local economy with such an action. Darcy tries to talk to her and she refuses. In comes Wickham, in a very funny parody (to me) of Venus emerging from the waves. He goes right for Lalita.
Soon arrives Kohli - "your father's sister's husband's sister's son". He's obnoxious in the sense that he wants a quiet, traditional wife and is proud of his accomplishments. He's not greedy for the family's possessions, nor proud because of inane connections to other people. In essence, a lot of his "bad character" from the book is missing. He does actually try to compliment people and make them happy. Interestingly, the following musical shows Lalita obsessed with blond, blue haired caucasians. The dream involves Darcy and it's really missing any "compelling connection". Darcy just doesn't have the brooding power of pretty much any other movie.
Wickham shows up at the house to stay - he's a run-down traveler, not a smart soldier. Off they go to a dance where Darcy has tried hard to learn the local dance. He tries to be nice, she is deliberately rude. She teases him about liking arranged marriages even though it's his mom that is doing it against his will.
In fact when Darcy shows up at the house, he defends India against Mr. Kohli - he says he really values the family closeness. Let's jump forward to when the group is in the US. Now Lalita feels sorry for Darcy because of his nasty mom, i.e. he has the exact same "family problems" that she has. This is completely not why Lalita is supposed to fall for Darcy. He complains to Lalita jokingly about her attacking him earlier and her comment is "you deserved it".
There's a scene at the US wedding where Darcy's "girlfriend" shows up - an introduced blonde character and not Caroline - and Darcy doesn't even speak up at all to explain. I found that to be a bit cowardly of him.
When Lucky (Lalita's younger sister) runs off with Wickham, it's not at all like Wickham "stole her". It was that Lucky deliberately tracked down and harassed Wickham constantly. It's not clear at all that Wickham had bad intentions! He just finally gave in to Lucky's pushing.
Suddenly, all ends well. Darcy hits Wickham. The couples pair up. Life is happy.
I realize of course this is a fun musical version. However, it seems like they made ALL characters much blander or much more worse. I admit that I feel very attached to the "Lizzie" character so to see her turned into a nasty grump really upset me. I normally love the Darcy character so to have him such a wimpy non-charismatic man didn't appeal to me. Wickham lost his "edge". Collins lost his "sleaze". I watched the movie several times to see if it'd grow on me. I adored the colors, dances and gorgeous Indian scenery - but I still just didn't connect with any characters in the story.
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