3. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

...and washing it down with Red Bull.

So you couldn't hack 6 hours of people standing around talking in drawing rooms and at dances. I understand. There is hope, though, in the form of this 2 hour 9 minute Pride and Prejudice Express.

As much as I enjoy the Austen dialogue and fine acting of the 1995 version reviewed above, I can't help but admire what this version accomplishes. There is a breathlessness to it that modern audiences can appreciate, but more than that, there is a seamlessness in the way it fits very modern expressions of emotion into a mix of (semi)-antiquated and modern language, attractive but almost period appropriate clothing, energetic and crowded and dirtily period appropriate crowd scenes, and a few very pretty outdoor scenes that are slowed down just enough to have their affect. The opening dance below is a good example. You can almost smell the sweat. We meet dark-haired Elizabeth, her plain friend Charlotte, eldest sister Jane, all blonded up, played by "Doom" and James Bond alumnus Rosamund Pike (finally, a Jane who's actually pretty), get some non-Austen approved dialogue about men, and meet Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley, who is down to one sister. And yes, that's Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet.


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Later we get the very funny Tom Hollander as the set-to-inherit cousin, Mr. Collins, who has come to tidy things up by marrying one of his cousins so that her sisters may remain on the estate after Mr. Bennet dies.

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In a later hamfisted scene Mr. Collins is seen pulling petals from a flower in a "she loves me, she loves me not" bit while standing in the middle of a gala ball. Stupid, but short.

The framework of the story is unchanged, of course, but the screenwriter has jettisoned ANY character who doesn't advance the story, several times combines dialogue from 4 or 5 separate scenes in the book into one burst of story advancement, spackles in the cracks with chunks of rapid-fire modern parlance, and then the director has literally sped up the line readings. This works for most of the female characters because they are supposed to be spirited and sharp, but it's a problem for poor Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy.  Macfadyen has been great as the deadly serious MI-5 agent, as a sincere but ambitious monk in Pillars of the Earth, as a childish manipulator in The Way We Live Now, but here he is almost overmatched by the speed with which the tongue-tied, misunderstood Darcy has to spit out his lines.

Below we continue with the (slightly chopped) rain scene from a previous review where the (fucking) rain is necessary to cover the spittle that must be flying out of his mouth as he morphs into Darcy Express. I think he even trips over the word "endeavor". To be fair, Keira Knightley is great as she jumps between viciousness in her refusal, and the briefest flashes of little girl horror when she realizes how the world sees her family. And, as 14-year olds go, she's pretty hot. Just kidding.


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To those overly-familiar with the original sacred texts, it is impressive how the script pulls bits of dialogue from this original scene, from a letter to be written later ("the lack of propriety shown by your sisters, your mother and sometimes even your father"), from the 21st century ("that's because she's shy") from out of nowhere ("Mr. Bingley didn't seem to vex himself about that" - not in the book or the 21st century). It may be irritating to purists but this train keeps a-rollin'.

Below we get another example of an old story with flashes of perfectly placed modern sensibilities. Darcy's connections-obsessed aunt has come to express her outrage at the rumor of his possible engagement. As the cloddish Bennet's eavesdrop and then try to question her, Elizabeth hollers "leave me alone" and runs upstairs. An inconceivable scene in 1810 but one that every 16-year old in the audience will instantly identify with.

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Director Joe Wright made the over-rated misery of "Atonement" and there is much I don't like in speed-delivery of the dialogue, but in this late scene he wins me over with a perfect evocation of what early morning really feels like. Having had a few jobs that required me to be in the field at dawn, I appreciate the few movies that get it right. There may be an overly assertive smudge pot on the left behind some plants, and I kept thinking, "Madfadyen's great coat must be soaked", but still, this is nice.

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I will skip the portion where the Darcy who previously managed "I love you" without a stammer, now has to say, "I luh...I luhv....I love you". Yuck.

And then there is the notorious final scene - reportedly added for American audiences - in which our lovers ponder the miracle of pre-industrial revolution roller pumps that manage to make Darcy's fountains shoot water about 30 feet in the air like we're at the Bellagio - all while jabbering about happiness or something.

So why might this be the best version for a young man? Speed. Like "Persuasion" reviewed above, you collect a lot of bonus Austen points for a very modest time investment. There is snappy dialogue as well as very good and very pretty actresses. Unless your viewing partner is an Austen absolutist, she probably won't care how much the flow and pace of the story is altered. Subtract one sheep for the insulting American ending. Otherwise, a pretty good investment.