Monday, November 14, 2005

Rave of the Week

Even before I saw all the promos and commercials for the new version of Pride & Prejudice (ampersand their addition) I was prepared... well, not to dislike it, because it would be impossible for me to dislike anything even tangentially Austenian, but not to love it. The stupid tagline (The greatest love story ever told...Sometimes the one person you can't stand is the one person you can't live without") the promos that kept pushing a line that wasn't even in Austen ("You have bewitched me, body and soul") and the presence of the irritatingly thin and chipper Keira Knightly sort of repelled me.

I was so, so, so wrong. It was just utterly, perfectly lovely. In some ways even better than the Ehle/Firth version. Maybe that last part's the head cold talking, but I don't think so.

I'm feeling a bit better, but still tired and weak, so I took another day off work. I went to the 1:45 showing at the theater a few blocks away, figuring it would be empty. It was completely full and I was the only person under 65 there. There were walkers lining the aisle.

So, what was to love...I liked Knightly's take on Lizzie. She wasn't as bracingly smart and superior as Ehle's Lizzie. She's a younger, livlier, laughinger Lizzie. She has moments of real insecurity, confusion, just feeling ill equipped to deal with the changes her life throws at her and her feelings for Mr. Darcy. Ehle's Lizzie always seems in command, and I think I like this version a little better.

The casting was perfect. Lydia actually looked and behaved like a 15 year old (something no one would buy Julia Swahalla as in the BBC version, as good as she is). Jane is actually kind of prettier than Lizzie is, for once! And has the exact amount of sweetness and placidity in her disposition without being too dull. (Incidentally, Kate, the actress who plays her is the perfect Calla...Rosamund Pike. Just see it and tell me she isn't. And I think I might have been channelling Mr. Bingley when I wrote Peter.) Donald Sutherland is a very good Mr. Bennett, and the film plays up his complicity in his daughters' downfalls by his absentee parenting, rather than just his wittiness. Even Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins get some sympathy.

And the film is GORGEOUS. The cinematography, the landscapes, everything. Even though it's only 2 hours, they manage to hit every major scene, though the final scenes require more condensing than I would have liked. There's even a coda that reminds me of the perfect ending to the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version of Persuasion, my favorite adaptation of my favorite novel.

So, go see the movie and be prepared to walk down the street humming the film's musical theme (another improvement over the last version. I now want to write only to the movie's soundtrack) and pretending that you are walking through English hillsides rather than past the 2nd Avenue bus.

I just want to make sure everyone knows that I'm well aware of the historical/character inconsistencies in the novel and many, many, many lines that were added by the screenwriters. I would have loved to see the lines about Lizzie's "fine eyes," "We neither of us perform for strangers," and many others. But I can look past that, if the movie did a good job of conveying the characters as a whole. And I don't expect any movie version to supplant the book.

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