Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I read Pride and Prejudice for a core requirement literature class back in college, and I really liked the story.

My sisters read this novel over and over again, and after that class, I understood its appeal.

(In fact, I was cleaning out my bookcase on Christmas Eve and realized I had Wuthering Heights but not Pride and Prejudice.)

I’m also quite a fan of Dame Judi Dench, mostly for her work on the British comedy As Time Goes By. So previews for Pride and Prejudice which prominently featured Dame Judi in full Victorian bitch mode was enough to sell me.

This Kiera Knightley woman, though — is she supposed to be this decade’s Helena Bonham-Carter? That dark-haired, dark-eyed, headstrong beauty — I keep thinking if this film were made in the ’90s, Helena Bonham-Carter would have been cast as Elizabeth Bennett.

As it turns out, Dench has only a few minutes of screen time to work her magic, and the film itself packs in a lot of story but still manages to feel a bit incomplete.

The pitfall of any adaptation is how well the film captures the experience of reading the book — which is the Holy Grail of filmmaking seldom ever achieved.

Pride and Prejudice, the movie, strikes me as faithful enough to the story to convey the stratification of classes in England, and how marriage is treated more like strategic planning than codification of love.

There’s a lot of information to digest — the carelessness of Lydia and Kitty Bennett, the snobery of Caroline Bingley, the bad blood between Mr. Darcy and George Wickham, the desperation of Mrs. Bennett in finding suitable husbands for her daughters.

The film hits as many points as it can, perhaps trying to cover too many bases.

Although the transformation of affection between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth is at the heart of this busy plot, the development of Mr. Darcy’s affection is never made as clearly as Elizabeth’s discovery of Mr. Darcy’s character.

Mrs. Bennett and her two youngest daughters, while never being incredibly multi-dimensional in the book, come across as flatter — and more annoying — on film.

A person not immediately familiar with the plot of Pride and Prejudice may get lost in the parade characters — I heard quite a bit of whisper in the audience of people explaining what’s going on to their friends — while a person who knows the story may get the sense it was glossed over.

I left the theater feeling the story could have been handled better, even though I couldn’t really so else it could have been told. (Save as a mini-series on PBS.)

I’m not sure where the marketing forces for this movie are getting its glowing quotes. Pride and Prejudice would make for a nice rental if you’re in the mood for a costume drama, but I wouldn’t consider it a remarkable film.