Pride & Prejudice
It's true Jane Austen's lush and romantic Pride and Prejudice has been adapted too many times to count, but this latest film version can take pride in being one of the best.
Considered the most popular of Austen's novels, Pride and Prejudice examines the class struggles of England's 19th century. It revolves around the spirited Bennet family: the headstrong and intelligent Elizabeth (Keira Knightley); her older and more serene sister, Jane (Rosamund Pike); their three younger sisters (Jena Malone, Talulah Riley, Carey Mulligan); their doting father (Donald Sutherland); and their mother (Brenda Blethyn), who's obsessed with finding the girls suitable husbands. When Lizzie finally meets her match in the aloof Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFayden), she immediately dismisses him as an arrogant ass. But ever so slowly, it dawns on Lizzie she may be entirely wrong about Darcy. Is it too late to tell him?
An Austen adaptation naturally lends itself to a gathering of fine British actors (or actors who can pretend to be British). Leading the pack is the very lovely Keira Knightley. A far cry from the shotgun-totin' bounty hunter in Domino, the actress certainly gives her most layered performance as Elizabeth. But she's once again playing a spirited woman who doesn't adhere to the rules. Guess nobody's gonna ever put Keira in a corner. As her Mr. Darcy, MacFayden plays one of literature's more enduring romantic figures with style. He gives Colin Firth--who's considered one of the better Darcys after playing him in a 1995 TV miniseries--a run for his money. The rest of the stellar cast is just as refreshing as ever, including Pike (Doom) as the modest beauty Jane, and Sutherland as the elder Bennet, who is the reason Elizabeth is as independent as she is.
This feature film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is entirely different from the last one--the 1940 glossy production, starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Newcomer Joe Wright gives Pride and Prejudice a definitive indie feel by using the camera in very intimate ways as we watch the fun-loving Bennets interact. Of course, filming in the flourishing English countryside doesn't hurt either. Wright delivers amazing displays of breathtaking beauty, from Elizabeth standing on a cliff in Brighton to watching Darcy stride across a field at sunrise to claim his love once and for all. Pride and Prejudice does move a little slowly, and it isn't as rich as the 1995 Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility, but it's been awhile since we've had Austen done in such a wonderfully romantic way. And who couldn't use a little 19th-century romance?
Hollywood.com rated this film ***