Hmm. Just finished watching the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice and am feeling very ambivalent about it. Which I knew would be the case from the moment I heard they were going to be making it a few years back. I’m very devoted to the 1995 BBC miniseries, which was not only true to the spirit and dialogue of the book, but also had the time and scope to give a very long book the coverage it deserved. This was obviously not possible in a 2-hour Hollywood film, so I was just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. The end result still feels very fast-paced, where we can kinda get character’s reasons and motives, but suspect that a lot of conversations and meetings went on in the backstory when the camera wasn’t on them.
Costume-wise, I did like how the Bennets were very obviously years behind all the fashionable people. Not just in fabrics and trims, like in some other films, but in the actual cuts of their garments. Though now that I think about it, the girls probably would have altered and updated hand-me-downs themselves if they were in any way fashionably inclined, so the fact that this Lizzie let her dresses look as old-fashioned as they did should be taken as yet another sign of her “unconventional” nature. Kind of like the way hipsters shop in thrift stores, only without the emo soundtrack. Huh. That’s true on more levels that I originally meant it to be. Keira’s Lizzie was very broody, internal and prone to fits of “artistically expressive” outbursts. Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzie was more vivacious, personable, and took much better care of her hair 😉 Both interpretations work, I suppose. I still do prefer Ehle’s rosy-cheeked, well-fed, down-home prettiness to Knightley’s doe-eyed, jutting-clavicled, fashionably gaunt sort of look. It’s slightly more believable in a girl of good country stock, and does fill out the pretty dresses so much better. (And this is coming from a Keira fan, I might add.)
And on a side note? What the hell was Caroline Bingley wearing at her own ball? The same Caroline who was supposed to be the height of fashion and always with the most proper facade? Because it looked like she forgot to put on the top half of her dress and had just walked out in her skivvies. For shame, wardrobe people, for shame! True, there was the rare and occasional sleeveless gown around at the beginning of the period. And true, the dresses in the Regency got pretty scanty, I’ll admit, but putting her in a nearly strapless, almost unembellished gown was really uncalled for. Even if the character was a conniving ho. *cough* Anyways.
The film itself was trying very hard to proclaim itself as “THE BIG SCREEN ADAPTATION!” All the actors were pretty. Too pretty, I would say. Mary was a cute round-faced girl whose only concession to the geeky, gawky, even homely Mary of the book was her choice of darkly-hued attire. The same people also seemed to think that the only thing needed to signify Miss de Bourg’s sickliness was to give her a black gown and glasses. (By which reasoning I should be on my deathbed this very minute.) Mr. Collins (PotC:AWE‘s Tom Hollander) was halfway cute and you almost felt sorry for him, which is something nobody should be thinking at any point in a normal reading of the story. Wickham was an Orlando Bloom clone and the only reason poor Charlotte Lucas looked plain was because she was tossed into a pile of teeth-whitened starlets.
Then there were all the moments of grand cinematography, strange transitions, odd lens tricks and assorted other aesthetic choices that would startle me just as I was getting into the story. All very pretty and well-done in their own right, but somehow besides the point. At its core, the story is about a small group of interconnected people having internal struggles in a series of small rooms. It was written in the corner of a crowded family parlor by a girl whose world consisted of confined spaces, small joys, and quiet gossip. The sweeping vistas, swelling musical score and constant weather effects (unless they were taking advantage of local weather. then good on them.) that leave the heroine flatteringly drenched and waif-like, floating ethereally in a sea of verdant countryside? And which seem to happen in just about every other scene? Sort of extraneous. Really. Like the articles in a paper bagged magazine. (Only, erm. Not. The opposite, really. Metaphorically.) I’d rather have had a nice chunk of character development, yo.
So yeah. That’s all I can think of right now, but I felt I needed to get that off my chest. I wanted to like it. I wanted to very badly. But the best I can say is, “Huh. There it is.” with the occasional “Oooh, pretty!” thrown in. I think I’m going to have to rent the miniseries and Bride and Prejudice now to get my head back in a good place with this book. Sigh.