Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Watch-a-thon: Pride and Prejudice 1995

I have finally arrived at the final movie in my Pride and Prejudice watch-a-thon that may be the last, but certainly not the least. Many people, including myself, consider this the definitive movie version of Austen's great novel:

Here Colin Firth stars as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle plays Elizabeth Bennet.

As usual I shall provide a link to the IMDb page so you can take a look at the whole cast listing and read some of the rather interesting trivia:

While I have an intense respect for this film version, like any reviewer I can't ignore the few cons that do exist and as much as it pains me to admit them I will stop myself from gushing over the pros to point them out.

Now here is where you would usually find the first Con bullet, but within the first 5 minutes of this version I noticed something that so utterly disgusted me that I just can't help but vent my frustration. What has me so angry you ask. Well I'm going to ask that you do something before I tell you.

Open up a new tab and make your way to youtube. First I want you to watch a clip, any clip of Jennifer Ehle's performance. Then I want you to watch any clip from Keira Knightley's performance, bearing in mind that Ehle's version was released to the public 10 years before Knightley's. Notice anything?

Maybe it's the fact that Keira's performance is a SAD and POORLY EXECUTED KNOCKOFF OF EHLE'S FABULOUS LIZZIE!!!!! It had been at least 2 years since I had last seen the 1995 version, so when I rewatched the 2005 version I didn't catch it. While I hated Keira's performance, I was under the impression that it was still hers. Now I just lack all respect for her or that movie. An adaption can be really terrible, but even the worst have some originality going for it. In fact I can applaud originality because it holds my attention. I'm of the opinion that the 2005 version really should be outlawed.

Anyway, back the original movie topic of this blogpost. Enjoy this delightful pallet cleanser before I get to the actual cons of the movie. Feminist Ryan Gosling eat your heart out!

  • Mrs. Bennet: The representation of Mrs. Bennet in this movie version is like the book version of her on drugs. Her physical appearance is spot on, but her voice makes me want to rip my ears off. I think if her performance were toned down just a little she would have been the perfect Mrs. Bennet. This has to be her most annoying incarnation and by the 3rd hour into watching I was hoping for a surprise plot twist where one of the men of the regiment had a mental breakdown and went on a murderous rampage, killing Mrs. Bennet in the process. (note to self: If I ever get into fanfic this shall be my jumping off point)  

  • Mary: Another character that has been overly acted to a point that makes them ridiculous. Poor Mary in this version is socially awkward, annoyingly bookish, a terrible singer and piano player, inept at catching social cues, and has pimples and a lady moustache. I have never felt more sorry for Mary and it was just sad to watch everyone put Mary down.

  •  Jane: This version of Jane just isn't dynamic enough and I thought the performance was lacking quite a bit. All I can say is that it's completely understandable that Darcy would doubt Jane had any true feelings for Bingley because she rarely has any facial expression and her voice only has one tone: a calm almost catatonic murmur. I can't tell if her lack of expression was done on purpose, but either way I'm not a fan.

  •  The Darcy Phantom: The most corny and hilarious moments in this version have to be when Lizzie is thinking back to her conversations with Darcy. Usually there is a voice over and then a semi-transparent Darcy head appears to apparently drive home to the audience that Lizzie is in fact thinking about Darcy. I think the voice over was sufficient enough, I don't need random Darcy heads popping up.
  • Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy: In high school when I first read Pride and Prejudice the image in my head of what Mr. Darcy looked like was exactly like Colin Firth. I remember rewatching the movie What A Girl Wants and thinking to myself that the perfect P&P adaption would star Firth and to my delight I discovered that he had in fact stared as Darcy. My expectations for the character were met to the fullest extent. Firth perfectly captures Darcy's transition from prideful, upperclass haughtiness to a caring friend, brother, and eventual fiancĂ©. Honestly I don't think there could ever be a better portrayal of Mr. Darcy.

  • Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie: Ok so as I predicted a few posts back, I did change my mind about my favorite Lizzie and Jennifer is still my favorite. Other than my occasional doubts as to Greer Garson, she really is the best actor for the job. Ehle demonstrates the appropriate amount of emotions when called for and she has great chemistry with Colin Firth on screen. She also has an ease with the other supporting actors on screen like Jane and her father.

  • The lake scene: A young Colin Firth in a wet shirt. Need I say more?

  • Faithfulness to the book: What is wonderful about this version and just BBC versions in general is the fact that the run time is not limited. I think one of the real reasons why we can't get a great Hollywood version of a classic book is because the run time is limited to about 2 hours. That is not enough time to include all of the important plot points plus have believable character development. This version includes everything from the book and has the time to fully develop the relationships between the characters. Nothing feels rushed like in the other versions.

  • Caroline: Like I have brought up before Caroline is not meant to be the villain of this story and in this version she is represented as Austen intended. While I prefer the 1940 Caroline, this version comes in as a close second.

  • Mr. Collins: Collins is also not meant to be the villain of this story and this adaption portrays this intention correctly. I'd like to think he is the perfect mixture of the 1940 Collins and the 2005 Collins. He is both socially awkward and a little of the bumbling fool, which is the right type of Collins for me.

  • Lizzie and Wickham Interaction: One complaint that I had with other versions is the fact that Wickham usually makes only one on screen appearance where he relays his fake sad sob story to Lizzie and she just readily accepts it. That 5 minute interaction is apparently supposed to form the basis of Lizzie's dislike of Darcy. This version takes the time to develop Lizzie and Wickham's relationship. It becomes reasonable that Lizzie would believe the story of a seemingly innocent friend and the audience gets to see how Wickham just feeds into Lizzie's prejudice against Darcy. This version illustrates how a successful adaption needs to have Wickham be an active character.

  • The Netherfield Ball Scene:  GAHH!! This scene was so cringe worthy that I felt sorry and embarrassed for Lizzie the entire time. It was like the 1940 scene amped up to the extreme. This scene made it 100% clear how damning a bad family really can be and that was even before the Lydia scandal. This scene perfectly preps the readers for Darcy's botched proposal which brings us to my next pro...

  • The Proposal Scene: After watching Knightley scream insult Darcy in her The Notebook-esque rain proposal scene, watching Ehle's performance was like a breath of fresh, life giving air. She is curt, direct, and mindful of propriety when Darcy proposes to her. She only concedes to raise her voice a little when Darcy is so taken aback by her refusal and insists upon an explanation. The back and forth is exciting and incredibly well done. I also love that directly after the proposal the two engage in moments of self-introspection. They have pointed out each others faults and it is only logical that they examine themselves to see the truth...unlike the 1940 version where Lizzie immediately regrets having turned Darcy down.

  • Mrs. Gardner: I never realized how much of a difference she would make until I watched this version. In all of the adaptions I've seen, she either never makes an appearance or if she does, she never leaves an impression. I was shocked by how amazing Mrs. Gardner is in this version. She is like the levelheaded mother figure that Lizzie never had who points out to Lizzie that Darcy really isn't as bad as she had built him up to be.

  • Pemberley Visit: There is nothing quite like a well executed Pemberley visit. The 1940 version felt incomplete without it and the Knightley version's felt awkward and ill-represented. The plot point is so important to the book. This is where Lizzie's change of heart becomes actualized. She speaks with the housekeeper and realizes that Darcy is a kind master who treats those socially beneath him in his estate with respect. Lizzie gets to view Darcy without the taint of his pride and audiences start to understand Darcy better as a character. This is also the point in the film where I get a little jealous that I don't have an impressive estate with a beautiful pond/lake in the front. Or as Amanda from Lost in Austen puts it, a place big enough to "park a bloody jumbo".   

With that last bullet point my review is complete. I hope that you got some enjoyment out of these posts and maybe they inspired you to watch or rewatch some of these movies just to see what I'm babbling about. Tomorrow I will do a wrap up post where I discuss some of my favorite actors for the roles and rank the adaptions that I've seen.

To conclude this post, let us all rejoice that Austen has now made her way onto British bank notes and that this statue legit exists: