Last night I watched the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. You can never have too much romance and costume drama, right?
I soon realized that the only reason why I watch this movie is because of the costumes and the music. Let's be honest, once a person has watched the 1995 BBC version enough times, the new version becomes unbearable. And no, it is not merely the absence of a "lake scene" that makes me feel this way about the 2005 version.
At first, I didn't like the 2005 version as much because it was so much shorter. One really does need an entire mini-series to fully develop the story line. However, it really hit me this time how much the general acting just bothers me. No, I am not referring to those completely improbable situations like rain-drenched marriage proposal scenes, midnight visits from angry members of the gentry, or random rendezvous in the meadow in the wee hours of the morning, or even the extremely awkward "Mrs. Darcy" scene in the alternate US ending. Rather, I am referring to the rushed nature of the dialogue: Matthew Macfayden's fastest proposal ever ("IhavestruggledinvainandIcanbearitnolonger."), and Keira Knightley's declaration of her love for Mr. Darcy to Mr. Bennet, in particular.
To be fair, I much prefer some of the actors in this film to the ones in the BBC production. A clear winner is Mary Bennet, portrayed as just a lost and awkward girl, too shy to be a part of her older sisters' special club and too intellectual to join in with her feather-brained younger sisters and mother. (I could see myself as a Mary here - not the pompous fool depicted in the 1995 version). Less important is Caroline Bingley, whose statuesque features and aristocratically glacial manners make her seem more competitive in the marriage pool than the unibrowed, openly mocking (and pathetic) Miss Bingley seen before. On the subject of pure looks, Rosamund Pike makes a much prettier, less horse-like Jane. I'm still determining which Mrs. Bennet I prefer. While the newer Mrs. Bennet is certainly less irritating, there is something painful and fascinating about the completely ridiculous older Mrs. Bennet. After all, she is supposed to be a comic figure.
And the film itself does have some real gems. The screenplay and cinematography is appropriately romantic. I especially like the scene after Darcy hands Elizabeth into the carriage, and then the camera zooms in on his hand (obviously tingling from having touched the hand of his love). And Dario Marianelli's seemingly simple score is definitely the highlight of the movie. One of my favorite scenes is the very first one, with Keira Knightley walking through the meadow and "Dawn" playing.
The Pemberley scene follows close behind, with just the right combination of regret and awe as Elizabeth wanders through the sculpture room; the haunting melody adds so much depth to the marble figures (and even, dare I say, the rather flat acting of Miss Knightley).
The scene in which Darcy helps Bingley practice his proposal to Jane redeemed Matthew Macfayden in my eyes. Poor Bingley is so nervous, and Darcy is so encouraging and supportive!
Finally, I love the costumes. (Of course, the costumes would weigh in as a heavy factor for me). The 2005 version is set in 1797, when Jane Austen wrote her first draft of what was then First Impressions. This means lower waistlines and a generally more comfortable look than the later period of 1813 (for the 1995 version), when the book was actually published. No more unnatural push-up bra look from Jennifer Ehle (1995), and extremely short spencers. On an unrelated look, the trousers for the gentlemen also fit a lot better. ahem. And the white ball gowns are a particular favorite of mine. The only thing that really got me was what Caroline Bingley wore. It has practically no sleeves! Was that allowed?
Overall, the film scores all very well for non- Pride and Prejudice fans, but the more I watch it, the more I think that I would rather watch the BBC miniseries.
Oh, and the film began in a meadow. Why couldn't they have ended it in a meadow, as well? That would have saved us from the extra unnecessary and badly acted bits at the end, and given more time for character development in the middle.