A Recipe for a Wonderful Film

Take five unwed sisters, a flighty mother who says that "the business of her life was to get her daughters married", add a brand new bachelor neighbor who has loads of money, mix in a dashing and proud aristocrat, sprinkle with plenty of wit, passion, beauty and plot twists and you've got the brand new incarnation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. All right, now hold it right there. I know what some of you are thinking. You're rolling your eyes and you're thinking "chick flick", or "period piece", or "English novel of manners" and you're thinking "blech, I would not see this movie if you paid me to do it." But I'm telling you, whatever bad thing you're thinking is wrong. The most important things you need to know about this movie are that it's laugh out loud funny, it's charming, the acting is superb and the cinematography is lush and beautiful.

Keira Knightley is luminous as Elizabeth Bennet, a witty, intelligent, loving young lady struggling to balance her own wants with her family's. Matthew Macfadyen is shockingly swoony as Mr. Darcy, the aristocrat who starts off on the wrong foot and never quite regains his balance.

Because Mr. Bennet has only girl children his estate, and income, will go to a distant (and incredibly annoying) cousin, Mr. Collins, when he dies. Therefore it's terribly important that at least one of the girls marry for enough money to support the rest of the family. This is why practically the entire family goes nuts when the wealthy and unwed Mr. Bingley rents a nearby house. They all set off to a party at his place where Jane, the oldest daughter, conveniently falls in love with Mr. Bingley, leaving Elizabeth free to lose her heart to the seemingly cold and proud Mr. Darcy.

The entire cast is brilliant. Donald Sutherland does such a good job as Mr. Bennet that I cannot imagine anyone else playing him. He's gruff and sarcastic and kind of spineless but it's obvious how much he loves "Lizzie." Brenda Blethyn is perfect as the strident and clueless Mrs. Bennet. Tom Hollander does a sterling job as Mr. Collins. Who knew you could be pompous and obsequious at the same time?

This is the first time that director Joe Wright has directed for film, although he's certainly done well in British television, winning a BAFTA (the British version of the Oscars) for Charles II: The Power & the Passion. He absolutely takes command of the big screen and creates wonderful, beautiful scenes. He did things like listen to music from the soundtrack through headphones while filming the opening sequence so he could get the effect of a dance. He had never read the book before he was given the script and had dismissed it as too posh, something he wouldn't be interested in. He was surprised by how emotionally involved he became in the story and has described Jane Austen as the first British realist. It was an easy decision for him to make Pride and Prejudice realistic and gritty instead of the typical picturesque stiff period piece that viewers dread. This film has mud, dirt, and rain everywhere as well as a huge pig that wanders around in one scene.

I heard a very odd complaint from a gentleman while on our way out of the theater. He said that there was no lust in this film and that the Bennets were only interested in Darcy because he has a big house. I'm not quite sure what film this man saw but the one I saw was positively bursting with chemistry. There's one beautifully done very short scene where Darcy comes calling on Elizabeth. He slams the door open, sees her all alone, bows and greets her and then takes his leave quite abruptly, causing Elizabeth's friend to ask what she's done to poor Mr. Darcy. It's pretty clear that he's so smitten that he can't even talk to her. Sure there's no rolling around in the haystacks in this movie but there is plenty of passion.

Now I've heard a rumor that the American version has a different ending than the British version. I'm curious what this means. It is an adaptation of a book written two hundred years ago so I don't think we're being treated to a Hollywood happy ending while everyone across the pond watches terrorists blow Elizabeth up. I think the endings must be similar, but I'd love to know how they're different. If you've seen the one in England shoot me an email and let me know and I'll let us all know.