Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Media Mom After Dark: Pride and Prejudice

We continue our February romantic movie month with another Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. I could have done a Take Two comparing the Colin Firth miniseries with the Keira Knightly movie, but opted not to (at least for now) since one is substantially longer than the other and it would almost be like comparing apples to oranges. So, we'll just stick with the 2005 movie version for the time being.


I normally save the spoilers for later in the review, but this story is so complex and involved, there's really no way to do this without having spoilers all the way through. So...
The story revolves around the Bennet girls, five daughters of a cash-poor land owner in Georgian England. Jane, the eldest, is the shy beauty, a delicate flower of a woman who is so sweet and kind, she can never think ill of anyone. Next is main protagonist Lizzie. Her father's favorite child, Lizzie is a strong, stubborn, but well-meaning spitfire with a sharp wit. The classic middle child is Mary, the plainest of the daughters, who is studious, pious, and a bit self-righteous at times. Kitty might be the older of the remaining two, but she often follows youngest daughter Lydia's lead when it comes to mischief. Both girls are silly, flirtatious, and immature with no sense of propriety or decorum.

Mrs. Bennet, the matriarch of the family, is nearly as silly and improper as her youngest daughters, and only thinks of marrying them all off to wealthy, handsome men. Mr. Bennet, well...he just wants peace. He spends a good deal of time holed up in his study trying to avoid the antics of his overbearing wife, but also failing to properly discipline his daughters.

The entire family is turned upside down when Mr. Charles Bingley moves in to a neighboring estate. Bingley is wealthier than anyone else in the county...and he's single. Instantly, Mrs. Bennet determines that Bingley is going to marry one of her daughters, he just doesn't know it yet. At the next public ball, Mrs. Bennet practically throws Jane (the family beauty) at him. Fortunately for everyone, Bingley takes a shine to Jane almost immediately. They have very similar temperaments and Bingley is nearly as shy and reserved as Jane is. But he's also easily influenced by the opinions of his closest friend Mr. Darcy. And Darcy is not easily impressed. He does, after all, own half of Derbyshire, making him far richer than even Bingley. And Darcy isn't the only person non-plussed at this party. Charles's sister Caroline wants nothing to do with these simply country folk, who may have some property and title, but are a far cry below the nobility she's used to rubbing elbows with.
This Caroline...judging you.
Jane may be a beauty, but her family is hardly suitable to be united with a man of status such as Bingley. All except...Lizzie. For some reason, Darcy can't shake the woman from his mind. And that will never do. In an effort to try and dismiss the notion of any redeeming qualities about the Bennet family, Darcy insults Lizzie to Bingley's face. Unbeknownst to him, though, Lizzie has overheard every word and has a few verbal barbs of her own to hurl at this proud, pompous man. It's hardly the beginnings of an amicable relationship.

In time, life gets even more complicated. Lizzie soon finds herself in the early stages of a relationship with Mr. Wickham, a soldier currently stationed in town with the rest of the militia. It seems ideal. Wickham despises Darcy as much as Lizzie does. Darcy and Wickham grew up together and Wickham regales Lizzie with a tale of misfortune at the hands of Darcy that left him forced to join the military to support himself.

At the same time, the Bennets are being visited by Mr. Collins, a preacher, and Mr. Bennet's closest male relative, making him the future heir of the estate. Collins is an awkward man, who weasels his way into the good graces of others to try and elevate his status. He's come to select one of the Bennet girls as a wife in an effort to keep the girls on the family estate when he inherits it. After being steered away from Jane, who has already formed a close attachment with Bingley, he selects Lizzie as the object of his, erm...affections. After a bungled proposal, Lizzie refuses his advances, and Collins opts instead to marry Lizzie's best friend Charlotte, who is already on the verge of becoming an old maid.

Before long, Jane receives news that Bingley has vacated his residence and returned to London, possibly for good, with little to no explanation as to why. Lizzie surmises that Bingley is being manipulated by Caroline and Darcy and sends Jane to visit her aunt in London to try and win Bingley back.

Soon afterward, Lizzie goes to visit the newly married Charlotte Collins. The rectory that she and Mr. Collins lives on is part of the property of Lady Catherine, a haughty, proud socialite...and Mr. Darcy's aunt. Darcy and Lizzie spend most of their time verbally sparring with one another, until one rainy day, Darcy declares his love for Lizzie and proposes. Lizzie is horrified and summarily rejects him by throwing his past transgressions at him: separating Bingley and Jane and ruining the life of poor Wickham.
Yeah, your timing could not be worse, dude...
Later Darcy comes to leave her a note explaining his actions: he truly believed Jane to be indifferent to Bingley because she is so shy she never showed any strong attachment to him. He recognizes now, thanks to the passion of Lizzie's words, that that was a mistake, but still stands by his actions as he was only protecting his friend. And as for Mr. Wickham...well, let's just say the story he told Lizzie is far from true. Wickham turns out to be a fraud and a scoundrel.

As Lizzie starts to reconsider her prejudice against Mr. Darcy, Jane returns from London having not seen Bingley at all, but putting on a brave face and declaring herself "over him" so as not to worry her sister. Lydia is invited by some friends to go to the seaside and Lizzie is invited by her aunt and uncle to visit Derbyshire. While there, Lizzie again meets up with Darcy, this time on much friendlier terms. But their visit is cut short by news that Lydia has disappeared... with Wickham!

Will the Bennets find Lydia before she ruins the family reputation for good? Will Jane ever be reunited with Bingley? Will Darcy and Lizzie ever overcome their pride and prejudices against one another? (Well, I can't spoil everything! You're lucky I told you this much!)
I love this movie. It's one of my favorites. And surprisingly enough, it's one of my husband's favorites. He likes the witty repartee between Lizzie and Darcy. He likes the soundtrack. It's not often you get a guy to like a chick flick. My husband's the kind of guy who isn't happy unless something's exploding. So for him to like this film as much as he does is a pretty big deal.

The film itself doesn't deviate too much from its original source material. A few secondary plot lines and characters are dropped, but it does nothing to alter the overall story.

The chemistry between Knightly's Lizzie and Matthew McFadyen's Darcy is strong. You spend the entire film just waiting for them to get over themselves and get together already, and the many near-misses keep that good tension going.

All of the acting is superb, but I feel the need to call out two in particular. I can't picture a better Mr. Bennet than Donald Sutherland. I'm not normally a big fan of his acting, but he straight up owns this character. And as far as Lady Catherine...Is there anyone better at playing uptight, cranky British aristocrats than Dame Judy Dench? I would say no. Emphatically.
This is Lady Catherine...also judging you.
The soundtrack to this film is gorgeous. I don't often focus on a film's score, unless we're talking about an actual musical, so for me to praise it is a special thing. Seriously, if you need some music to listen to while you study or read a book, or heck, even clean the house, I'd recommend adding this one to your playlist.

All told, what we have here is a perfect little period piece that, like Sense and Sensibility, is as chaste as can be, so no worry about watching it with your teens. There's a kissing scene right at the end, and the only other physical contact in the whole film is one particularly sexy hand-holding.
 How's that for 18th century puritanical values? Hand-holding is hot.
If you haven't watched it before now, good grief, what are you waiting for? Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Get yourself a copy, snuggle up with your man, and enjoy what many have called the most romantic novel ever written. And if you have seen it...you know you're gonna watch it again. No one watches this movie just once. When I got the DVD, I watched it 5 times that week. That may sound foolish to some, but, as Charlotte observed, "We are all fools in love."

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