For those who hadn't naturally gravitated towards this Jane Austen classic, Pride And Prejudice was probably heavily annotated, compulsory reading at their convent schools. Others simply curled up in bed with a bag of crisps and lost themselves willingly to the placid, airy human drama. It had none of the hysterics of Wuthering Heights or the brooding seriousness of Vanity Fair.
This one was effervescent, and the characters went through the tribulations in their life with superficial responses, no one really deeply broken by what transpired. This novel was a soap with style, an enduring romance, a girl-flick (if I may be politically incorrect) that would enrapture readers for ages to come.
The movie adaptation captures some of the essence, but a lot of people won't be able to help pointing out flaws, given how much they own the book and the story. Keira Knightly might have been selected for Lizzy's role because she looks impish and tomboyish, but sometimes she looks too much that way, baring her teeth affectedly while laughing, something you wouldn't have imagined on the mature Elizabeth.
Another trivial contention - weren't Victorian women, in general, less anorexic than their 21st century counterparts? All the ladies in this movie hardly seem to need their corsets, they look painfully superfluous clamped down on their wafer-thin bodies.
One also wonders if the dialogues should have been adapted for the movie, but then the charm would have been lost to all those who remember lines from the book by heart. So one has to settle for the quick spewing of neat, complex, beautifully constructed sentences being uttered in unnatural extempore.
Conversely, that is also half the fun of Pride And Prejudice. When you are able to catch, unbroken, Lizzy's admonishment of Mr. Darcy - "And those are the words of a gentleman. From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit to your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry." - you are quite elated to see the book come alive.
Mr. Darcy too is unfortunately a little disappointing to girls who have taken to fantasising about Colin Firth as the delightfully snobbish and incredibly sexy Mark Darcy of Bridget Jones. This one (Mathew McFadyen) is the poor man's Colin Firth, looking sullen and spoilt rather than stylish and snooty.
Rosamund Pike as Jane with large, staring marble eyes is probably the best fit for her role. Kitty (Carey Mulligan), Lyida (Jena Malone) and Mr. and Mrs. Bennett (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethlyn respectively) are mighty believable too, while Charles Bingley (Simon Woods) looks a step away from being a clown with his wisp of golden hair and artlessly eager smile. Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine De Bourg is just perfect as well.
The music is the highlight of this movie as Dario Marianelly composes for the waltzes, piano-playing and scenes of romance, abandonment and re-union. It adds incredible depth to some scenes that might otherwise have seemed rather humdrum.
Overall, this film is still terribly charming, but the credit probably goes to Jane Austen foremost, and only then to Joe Wright, followed by the cast. The author rules with her enduring characters, and the cast are brilliant as much as they lend themselves without resistance to her imagination. They do manage most of the time.
Joe Wright's Pride And Prejudice is an adaptation that maintains the sanctity of the story. So there seem to be no attempts at all to make contemporary, adapt or re-interpret any of the popular perceptions. While there are small imperfections and goofs in the look of the movie, the overall ambience makes it a 'Pride and Prejudice - Just Like You Imagined It.'
The archetypal Jane Austen quintet - a headstrong Lizzy, a somewhat bovinely calm and beautiful Jane (almost a perfect dumb blonde), a sulkily intellectual Mary, and the two over-the-top, coquettish sisters Lydia and Kitty, are all around, book-perfect. As far as the roles are etched out, this is the Pride And Prejudice of the classics, the one that is quoted and commented upon.
For all the romantics and readers of the novel, Joe Wright's version will make for very easy watching. It is fast paced, predictable and yet stimulating as it brings alive a 1700s story. Do watch.