Pride and Prejudice 2005 Movie Review

Let's say up front that the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley as Lizzie and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy, is not meant to be a 100% accurate adaptation of the book. Trimmed down to a mere 2 hours, the story had to be cut up a great deal. It's also set in the late 1700s - when a 21 year old Jane Austen first thought up the story, instead of the early 1800s, when 38 year old Jane finally finished and published the work.

That all being said, this movie is amazingly well done. In some ways, it's much more realistic than other depictions of the story. Many movie versions of P&P have the characters set up almost like cartoon characters. They are squeaky clean, their world is pristine, and they float through it. While many in the early 1800s had nice manners, their life was certainly not Lysol-clean!

It was really nice, then, to see the quiet English town actually appear like a live, working English town. The story clearly has Lizzie show up with a ton of mud on her skirts after hiking across miles of marshy English countryside. In most movie versions, that means there's a hint of brown on her trimly pressed outfit. In this version, it's much more realistic. I've hiked around England - you get muddy!

In some ways, the movie is like "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" - where you hear snippets of dialogue and if you know the story, you realize what is going on in the background. It really does cater strongly to people who know the full story well and don't need all the details filled in. Again, this is to be expected given there are only 2 hours of story here. Many of the backgrounds and details are shaved or missing. The characters, however, are still quite solid and fully done.

Lizzie and Darcy of course are the main characters here, and they shine with a freshness that is really great. These aren't "story members" just walking through and trading barbs. You really get a sense that Lizzie is a flesh and blood woman who is feeling the powerful loves, hates, and other emotions. Darcy feels the same passions, reigning them in under his family training. Many of the scenes with the two characters are just amazing - when they are dancing, when they are in the gazebo in the rain.

In some ways, I even feel the movie adds to the story, helping to elucidate scenes that might otherwise go over viewers' heads. Often, Charlotte's choosing to marry Collins is seen as a quiet, calm decision made without any emotion at all. I always found this depiction to be unrealistic. In this version, Charlotte makes it clear that this wouldn't be her ideal choice - but what else can she do? Does she really want to be a spinster and burden on her family? She's full of angst, but she's done the best she could with a bad situation.

Also, it's always bugged me that in some movie versions, they made a big deal about Lizzie's "revelation" in Darcy's home that she really would have been happy as his wife. She feels this way because his servants love him so much, a sign of a truly "gentle man". However, some movies turn it into a gold-digging Lizzie looking around saying "Wow, I could have lived HERE". I was very happy that in this movie, Lizzie is touched by the gorgeous sculpture and the way Darcy's sister loves him.

Even some of the minor characters are done amazingly well. I love Sutherland and Dench, they are simply wonderful. Others are less stellar - Wickham springs to mind as being an "elf lookalike" - but it's hard to expect every single cast member to be stunning.

Highly recommended as a must-see for anyone who loves a romantic story full of incredibly fun dialogue.

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