I have two confessions to make: this year, I asked for the 2005 Pride & Prejudice on Blu-Ray (because I do not own it) and… I have actually come around to liking it. That might not seem like such a big deal to some of you, but when it first came out, I could not stand it. I hated everything about it minus how pretty it was. It felt way too condensed, the situation with Lydia and Wickham did not take nearly enough screen time, and I thought Matthew was all wrong for Darcy.
Okay, maybe that hasn’t changed; he doesn’t embody the part in my opinion, but instead seems to be “playing at Darcy.” It feels stiff and unnatural, as if he doesn’t quite know what to do with Darcy, and cannot understand him, his motivations, his personality, or his feelings for Lizzy. You know how evident the difference is between someone who truly understands Shakespeare and someone who has just learned the lines? That’s how I feel about Matthew’s Darcy, as if he is merely quoting lines that he doesn’t fully understand. (And before you hang me up by my thumbnails and torture me, I do not dislike Matthew – in fact, I really adore him in Little Dorrit, among many other roles he has undertaken. It’s just that… he’s not my Darcy, not even close.)
But other aspects of the movie have grown on me. I like how pretty Jane and Lizzy both are, but Jane is more so than Lizzy. That was the one major thing that always bothered me in the miniseries, how the obviously much prettier Lizzy was always talking about how gorgeous the ultra-plain and rather dour looking Jane was. I like how very young everyone seems to be, both in their mannerisms and their behavior – even Bingley comes across as very young and inexperienced, besotted by love (and with a goofy expression most of the time), a harsh comparison with his dour, grimacing best friend. Even though the modern mannerisms still make me groan (and why is it that Caroline Bingley has no sleeves on her dress?), I think the subtle nuances of the period still stand out: such as the gasp-worthy moment when Mr. Collins has the audacity to approach Darcy without an introduction and blather on about Lady Catherine.
Then there is that glorious moving camera arc through the house, in which every actor and actress had to be in a certain place at a certain time, all on their marks, and we see everything that is happening in the ball, from Darcy avoiding Lizzy to Collins searching for her, Mrs. Bennet making the typical fool of herself, Mary crying because she’s been pulled off the piano, Lydia and Kitty drinking up a storm, and various flirtations and such going on. That is a masterful shot. I still lament that it is so short in comparison to the miniseries, but on the other hand, at times that is something of a relief. I sat through the six hour version a few weeks ago and while it was as always an enjoyable experience with a real spark between the leads, I found that also as usual, the plot began to drag a bit in the last hour. This adaptation propels right through to the end, even if it does end on an unbearably sappy note.
Much complaining has surfaced about Keira Knightley as Lizzy, but I like her in the part. Is she the very sweet Jennifer Ehle with her “fine eyes”? No, she isn’t, but I think she is a mischievous and delightful Elizabeth, painting her into someone I would very much like to be friends with. I think this adaptation has settled quite comfortably on the same level as the miseries; they are different but equally enjoyable, in much the same way I enjoy both the long and shorter versions of Emma and how the new Jane Eyre adaptation has been growing on me over the last few months. (I find it ironic that my “firsts” in each instance are the preferred actors in the lead, and the same goes for Sense & Sensibility adaptations. I like Firth, Northam, and Rickman over MacFayden, Miller, and Morrissey.)
So, did this movie wind up in the stack of presents for me under the Christmas tree? Yes, it did. It is beautiful on Blu-Ray, and it was a lovely way to spend my Christmas afternoon.