Before we get into Pride & Prejudice, I want to make it known that originally I planned on my wife and I doing a Valentine’s Day review of what some consider the “greatest romantic comedy of all time,” Annie Hall. It has its merits and was very ahead of it’s time, but it just doesn’t hold up. We had to turn it off, it had no appeal for either of us. You should skip it.
So instead I decided since I wanted my wife to be involved, we should do her favorite movie. The 2005 film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn and directed by Joe Wright. I’m not going to bother with a plot summary. If you don’t know it by now, head over to IMDB and get caught up.
I am not opposed to films that are clearly aimed at women. I’m a sucker for romantic comedies and I have an appreciation for a story that talks about love, if it’s done well. I suppose I’ll need to give my girly credentials. I like You’ve Got Mail, 27 Dresses, The Princess Diaries and I’m a huge Gilmore Girls fan. So it’s not all Arnold Schwarzenegger and Seinfeld for me.
First, the praise
This movie looks amazing! I specifically bought the Blu-Ray for this review because I remember it looked good, and I was right. This is Ridley Scott-level beautiful. Every single scene in this movie would be a welcomed portrait in my home. Other than the Bennett home, this movie covers tons of landscape in pouring rain, sunshine, fog, moonlight, and all of it looks incredible.
I also loved the dialogue for the first half of the movie. This was most likely serviced by my love for Gilmore Girls. Wordy people being as eloquent with their sarcasm as possible… yes please! This was only a problem when they got heavy into cultural expectations of 18th century Europe. Thankfully my lovely wife was able to catch me up.
The lead character Elizabeth Bennet is played masterfully by Keira Knightley. I really love that she was a sharp, witty, confident woman that remained a woman. The character was not belittled by the modern notion that true feminism is when women become more like men. She retained all the unique qualities of a woman but stood out for her quick whit and intelligence. And her quiet but understood relationship with her father was enjoyable to watch. While everyone else squabbled at the dinner table, they were able to sum up everything with a private glance toward each other and a devilish grin.
My final praise goes to the director, but not for his direction. This movie is worth the price for the commentary track alone! Hearing this soft-spoken Brit reveal interesting insights about the filming process while also making fun of his efforts was so satisfying. No disgruntled husband has taken this film to task quite like its director has, while still displaying a true love for the project.
Now the faults
Mr. Darcy, I hate you. He shows up with the most sour look on his face, only to “redeem” himself in the final 10-15 minutes. So he dresses in all dark colors, has no social skills, and likes to be seen brooding… this guy was emo before we knew what emo was and hated it. He makes Dashboard Confessional and Fall Out Boy look like Pantera and Iron Maiden. I cannot stand this guy, and his “slow burn” approach to love in this movie is my ultimate deliberation for the film. It’s too much of a slow burn.
Perhaps it’s my fault for expecting this to be the ultimate love story template. If I’m going to watch a story about love, I want it to be CAPITAL L-O-V-E LOVE! This is why I have respect for The Notebook. I don’t agree with it every step of the way, but it has the overall picture of what I want to see in a story about love. You have the two people that meet, they have a passionate love in their youth, trials through life, and at the end you truly see what it means to have a servant’s heart. How that man loves his wife in the latter years of his life is a biblical love. It’s an unshakable, knows-no-bounds love.
I don’t know how the original Jane Austen book handles the subject. I don’t know about the BBC series. I am not familiar with any of that. For this movie we are reviewing, I just wasn’t moved. Its subtlety went too far for too long. I enjoyed the beginning, was indifferent in the middle, and felt let down by the end. I’ll take The Gladiator as a love story over this. That man fought wars, survived slavery, led a rebellion, defeated a king, and wanted nothing more than to be with his wife and child- in this world or the next. That movie will get a tear out of me. Pride & Prejudice isn’t a complete failure and for being the director’s first feature film, he deserves great praise. But overall, I was let down by the lackluster heart. It was too restrained in its passion.
And this is the part where I jump in and tell my loving (albeit snarky and sarcastic husband) how wrong he is. While he is correct in his assessment that this movie is clearly aimed at women, he misses the mark in that he is interpreting a woman’s movie like a man.
I too have an appreciation for the scenery recorded in this film so I will give him credit where credit is due. I imagine if I lived in a place like Elizabeth Bennett, I too would be fond of walking. The addition of such an elegant soundtrack (done by Dario Marianelli) makes for a stunning auditory and visual experience.
Perhaps its my likeness in personality and temperament (or maybe growing up in a house with all girls) but this movie does a fantastic job of drawing me in to view the story as if I were Elizabeth Bennett. And that, I think, is very telling as to why I view this movie the way I do.
The relationship Lizzy has with her father is not too dissimilar to my relationship with mine. The conversations they hold with each other simply with a look or a smirk and the affectionate, yet honest interactions they have leave me endeared with Mr. Bennett. Elizabeth’s relationship with her sisters, and especially Jane, is something only a sister can fully understand. It is easy to see why Elizabeth is so dedicated to her family through all the chaos.
Now on to Mr. Darcy… Ryan, love, I’m sorry but you are wrong. While Mr. Darcy may not be Noah from The Notebook or Gladiator‘s Maximus, he holds his own in a very different way than these men. From the very beginning we see a man who comes off as proud and stiff but slowly softens to reveal who he truly is. Rarely do love stories begin as “love at first sight” or continue on as a fiery and passionate relationship as we see in most movies today. Pride and Prejudice tells a developing story of love, one that has ups and downs where affection grows. It is in the subtle growing of this love that the audience (ie. me) is captivated. It’s in the glances the other person doesn’t see and the lingering touch of a hand that you see this relationship begin to form. Where words do not speak, actions say, “Something is happening. Something is changing.”
Women long to be sought after. And while I can’t speak for every woman, this rings true through the movie. We get a front row seat to Elizabeth being sought after, even after she has refused Mr. Darcy’s initial proposal. He still fights for her, to right the wrongs he’s laid against her and to show her she is more important than the cultural expectations of the 18th century. He fights against his own prejudice and lack of social skills to meet Elizabeth where she is at. That, is what is so endearing about Mr. Darcy.
We get to watch each step Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy take to develop their relationship and after seeing how hard they fought against each other and for each other, we also get to see their much anticipated union in the end. Mr. Darcy may not fight battles with a sword or build a house as an act of love, but his constant and never-wavering pursuit of Elizabeth is more than enough to keep this movie in my top ten list.
Back to me (Ryan). Blogging is a difficult medium to put multiple perspectives forward like this and make it flow. Feel free to send us money and we’ll start a podcast.
I just wanted to wrap things up and point out that this is why Tim and I are so invested in the idea of stories communicating worldviews. My wife and I sat down and watched the same movie and came to completely different conclusions because we have different starting points on what love looks like. Hopefully not too different, having been married for eight years now.
I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as we did writing and discussing it. And for more couple’s perspectives, head over to the book side of WorldReViews and read Tim and Alex’s review of Austenland, a Jane Austen inspired novel.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @World_Re_Views, where we do mini-reviews and talk about worldview trends in movies and literature.
Post by Ryan and Stephanie