My 100 Favourite Films In Review – Number 89, Pride & Prejudice

89 – Pride & Prejudice:
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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So opens one of the most iconic novels from famed English author Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice is one of those stories that everyone knows. Even if you haven’t read the book or the seen the adaptations, you know the story already. Every romantic comedy ever made has felt its influence in some way. It’s a classic love story; girl meets boy, girl and boy detest each other, girl and boy come around, girl and boy fall in love. The book has been adapted plenty of times – the first of which being a film in the Golden Age of Hollywood starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. The second most notable adaptation took the form of a BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as the leads. It’s been immortalised in comic book form by Marvel, made into a Bollywood musical and even a modernised video blog series. But the adaptation I’ll be reviewing is the one that introduced me to the story – Joe Wright’s Oscar nominated version released in 2005.

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The book is set during the Regency Era in England (1810-1820), but Joe Wright chose to set the film a few decades earlier – in order to show an England that was still feeling the effects of the French Revolution. We’re introduced to the Bennets – a family of landed gentry. They live somewhat comfortably, on a working farm in the countryside. There are the parents Mr and Mrs (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn respectively) and their five daughters. They are as follows:

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Jane (Rosamund Pike) – the ideal English Rose. Possessing classical beauty and the grace of a lily, Jane is the perfect sister. She has just as much inner beauty as out – being kind and gracious to everyone she meets. Having not seen Rosamund Pike in many things before, this feels like a role that was made for her. If I see her in anything else, I just think of her as Jane Bennet. She has the classic image of Regency Era beauty, making her the perfect fit for Jane’s status as the pretty one. Jane also has a strong desire to see the good in anyone, and will never think ill of another living soul if she can help it. Aside from being too nice sometimes, she’s pretty flawless. And if she were the main character, the story would be incredibly dull. This brings us to…

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Elizabeth or ‘Lizzie’ (Keira Knightley) – the second-eldest daughter and our main character. Lizzie represents the Daria/Lisa Simpson/Hermione Granger of Austen’s era. If you’ve ever seen conflicting sisters in fiction who represent Beauty vs Brains, chances are they’re inspired by Jane and Lizzie. All of Jane’s perfections usually put her in comparison to her younger sister in some way. As such, Lizzie is more flawed but then again also more interesting. Uniquely for the archetype, there’s no actual conflict between these two sisters. Jane and Lizzie are both smart and beautiful, though Jane is favoured as the beauty of the family and Lizzie has her intelligence to fall back on. Much like with Rosamund Pike, Lizzie Bennet seems like a role that was made for Keira Knightley. In real life she describes herself as “a real scruff” and a bit of a tomboy. Joe Wright was initially reluctant to cast her, fearing she would be too glamorous for the role. But once he met her and saw her tomboyish nature he knew she was the right fit. Or listen to Keira’s own version of events:

But the Bennet sisters have the bad luck to have two good ones, and three brats. They are as follows.

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Mary (Talulah Riley) – the ‘plain’ one of the family. Sandwiched between prettier sisters, Mary turns to books and the piano to make up for it. You may be wondering why she counts as a brat, and there are some cultural differences at work. But mostly the other adaptations are to blame, this one included. The adaptations like to file off Mary’s more unlikeable qualities and present her as a poor misunderstood shrinking violet – in the same vein as Daria, Lisa or Hermione. But Mary embodies their negative traits more than the positive ones. She’s someone that loves to quote passages from her books just to show off that she’s read them, even when she doesn’t understand them. She also forces her opinions on others, taking every opportunity to lecture and moralise. So essentially Mary is that annoying loner who whines about how she hates people and brags about how much better she is. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made her an emo. But since this film softens a lot of the cast, Mary’s unlikeable qualities are still there but downplayed. Even so, she’s not as bad as…

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Catherine or ‘Kitty’ (Carey Mulligan) – even though Mary is the plain sister, Kitty is really the odd one out in the family. Mainly because she doesn’t have much character at all. And when the adaptations feel the need to cut the cast down, Kitty is the easiest one to eliminate. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made her into a literal cat. What’s also fun to note is that this is Carey Mulligan’s film debut, retroactively making this a nice line-up of fine British actresses. Carey Mulligan doesn’t really get much focus in the film, given that Kitty’s role in the story is to be badly influenced and easily led astray by…

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Lydia (Jena Malone) – played by the lone American in the cast doing a flawless accent, Lydia is the worst of the lot. She’s a loud and careless little brat. She spends half her time embarrassing herself, and the other half embarrassing the rest of her family. But Lydia is pretty much Jane Austen’s commentary on the values of the time. That society wanted women to be nothing more than silly and vapid, more concerned with gossiping and maintaining their good looks. Austen was saying “this is what they want us to be; you can be better” – and encouraging women to actually think and cultivate their mind. And rather refreshingly she doesn’t fall into the trap of ‘bookish=good’ – as Mary is bookish too, but she just uses that in the same way Lydia goes about her actions. They’re still focused on attracting attention and trying to make themselves seem impressive. A lesson that is all too relevant today.

Anyway we now have to get to the very essence of drama, which is conflict. So what is the conflict in the Bennet household? Good old fashioned money worries. And I mean old-fashioned. Austen’s England had a rather sexist view towards money and property. Essentially when a woman married, she would no longer be considered part of her family and instead part of her husband’s family. So any wealth or property she owned would go to them. And in those times, wealthier families had to depend on what their ancestors managed to hold onto. So in order to try and keep the wealth in the family, gentry would sometimes place an entailment on their property. This meant that any inheritance could only pass through the men. If the family was unlucky to have only daughters and no sons, the heir would be the closest male relative. So with five daughters, no sons, and an ageing father – the Bennet daughters are in a bit of a predicament. They have to each secure husbands and quickly, or else none of them will be provided for when Mr Bennet dies. This causes a lot of conflict with Lizzie – who has always wanted to marry for love. Having seen her parents’ unhappy marriage, Lizzie is ahead of her time by wanting something more than just getting a comfortable life. So the fact that she has a time limit on finding the man she wants to spend her life with doesn’t sit well. Even worse is that there’s another huge obstacle between the girls and their future husbands…

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Mrs Bennet is the queen mother of all embarrassing parents. She’s what Lydia is destined to grow up into, and represents the very worst of English high society. Well that might be going a bit too far. The book is from Lizzie’s perspective and she doesn’t care much for her mother’s silly behaviour. Like Lydia, Mrs Bennet was Austen’s way of criticising the social conditioning England did to a lot of its women. Although Mrs Bennet has good reason to want her daughters married off, most of the time she seems more concerned with worrying about how everything will affect her. In fact, I’ve just started re-watching the classic British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances and noticed some similarities…

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“The Ben-eh residence, lady of the house speaking.”

I realise I’ve gone past seven paragraphs and not actually started the film yet. We open with a beautiful shot of the misty countryside of Hertfordshire, which is where I was born and raised. It’s not quite that beautiful any more, since the main attraction is the Big Brother House. What’s interesting to note is how Joe Wright presents the story visually. The Hollywood film opted for stunning finery and looked like a pageant brought to life. The BBC miniseries presented a squeaky-clean polished view of Regency England. This film opts instead to make the area look slightly dirtier. It plays up the remoteness of where the Bennets live, which is a way of underlining them being country people. The director and screenwriter described it as “the muddy hem version”. The Bennet house is grand but also a little shabby in places. But it works, and feels like a house that a family of seven would actually live in.

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The house is introduced with a lovely one-take tracking shot first showing Lizzie walking through the backyard, Mary playing the piano inside, Kitty chasing after Lydia, and Jane just being her graceful self. Four out of five sisters crowd around the door when their parents start discussing the news that nearby Netherfield Park has been let to a rich bachelor called Mr Charles Bingley. The Bingley family represent something called ‘new money’ – which started popping up after the Industrial Revolution. People who had got their money through trade and business instead of inheritance. Thus making this Mr Bingley an ideal choice for any of the five daughters to marry. When the girls hear the news, they immediately excite themselves at the possibility of meeting him at tomorrow’s ball. And within this first scene, all five girls are believable as sisters. Joe Wright has done a great job of making them feel like a modern family. Part of it was changing things around so that the girls don’t get to make as many long speeches as they do in the book; Wright felt that a family of five sisters would be fighting for attention and talk over each other as much as possible. He got some good help from none other than actress Emma Thompson, a gifted screenwriter herself – who won an Oscar for her work on the screenplay of Sense & Sensibility.

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The ball is being thrown by the father of Lizzie’s good friend Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakely) and it’s impossible for me to watch the scenes at said party without grinning. The mood perks up even more when the guests of honour arrive. Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) is seen as quite the catch by the girls, and he has two people with him – his sister Caroline (Kelly Reilly) and his friend Mr Darcy (Mathew Macfadyen). Bingley has two sisters in the book, and Charlotte has a sister too. But given that they’re even more interchangeable than Kitty Bennet, they’re often dropped. And really it’d be a shame to have another person trying to steal Kelly Reilly’s thunder. She absolutely nails Caroline Bingley’s bitch in sheep’s clothing attitude. Simon Woods meanwhile plays her brother as the complete opposite; a sincerely nice guy who’s a little bumbling but still a perfect match for Jane. You can guess that this excites her mother very much.

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“The beast smells blood in the water.”

Mr Darcy however has a face like a dog chewing a wasp, and turns down Lizzie’s offer to dance. She and Charlotte overhear him and Bingley talking about Jane in a way that suggests Bingley might like to put a ring on it. Darcy refers to Lizzie as “barely tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” – which you can bet pisses her off just a bit. She’s pissed off even more by Mrs Bennet getting a bit drunk and insulting Charlotte’s looks. And when Darcy tries to start a conversation with her, she calmly lets him know that she overheard his insult, and walks away with a shit-eating grin on her face.

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Jane and Lizzie are in bed later talking about the ball. Lizzie assures Jane that Bingley is definitely interested in her – “he danced with you for most of the night and stared at you for the rest of it” – and they even talk about Darcy a little. Lizzie swears she’ll put him out of her mind but we’re only fifteen minutes into the film, so we’ll see how well that goes. The next morning, Jane gets an invitation to tea with Caroline Bingley. Mrs Bennet gets her thinking cap on and sends Jane to Netherfield on horseback – in the middle of a downpour. Her line of thinking says that Jane is sure to catch a cold and have to stay the night. She does just that and thankfully does not die (colds were quite the problem before penicillin was invented) but to quote Lizzie “she may well perish with the shame of having such a mother”

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Lizzie decides to walk over to Netherfield – which is a lot grander than their home. Mr Darcy is there to greet her, and he seems to be trying to be nicer to her than he was at the ball. Mr Bingley also appears to be quite pleased that Jane is staying with them. Lizzie stays too for a while, to have a little bit of verbal ping-pong with Darcy. Although the exchanges of lines between Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen are suitably witty, the real show-off in the scene is Kelly Reilly. Her performance makes me wish Caroline was in the story a lot more. She solidifies that wish when the rest of the family arrives and she complains “are we to receive *every* Bennet in the country!”

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Claire alas was not able to attend.

The rest of the Bennet females embarrass themselves a little more, though Lydia and Kitty do persuade Mr Bingley to hold a ball sometime in the future. The Bennets have more important things to worry about – as they’re expecting a visit from one Mr Collins. Remember how none of the daughters can inherit the property when Mr Bennet dies? Well in comes Mr Collins, the relative who will get everything. And Mrs Bennet is clearly hoping one of her daughters will marry him. If you’re wondering if that’s possible – since they’re related – then yes, you’re exactly right. Marrying cousins or distant relatives wasn’t unheard of in those times, especially in the rural areas. People would often be limited as to what partners they could find if they didn’t move to a city. And in an entailment, having one of the daughters marrying the heir was a pretty good way of keeping the money connected to the family. The first season of Downton Abbey is driven by a crisis where the heir dies and they try to marry off their eldest daughter to the new heir. Anyway Mr Collins is a character that tends to vary depending on the adaptation. He’s very awkward and unpleasant but it’s entirely up to the director if he’s to be shown as good-natured or just a twat. This film seems to go for the latter.

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Mr Collins spends dinner bragging about his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh and pretty much making it clear he has a shitload of property – and hinting that any of the Bennet sisters would be lucky to shack up with him. But he’s got competition in the form of George Wickham (Rupert Friend) – a member of the militia who just marched into town. Naturally Lydia and Kitty have been bouncing around him ever since. It seems that women have been cooing over men in uniform for a very long time, as Lizzie is a bit taken with the young charmer. But when they bump into Darcy and Bingley, Wickham shares a look with the former that suggests a frosty history. When Lizzie asks Wickham about it later, he just says they used to be friends and he was raised by Darcy’s father. He was left some money when the man died, but Darcy denied it to him. Apparently due to jealousy, because his father loved Wickham more. After a bad first impression, Lizzie is about ready to believe any story about Darcy.

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The ball at Netherfield is that night, and we’re treated to a couple of nice single-take tracking shots to showcase the fun and frivolity. Poor Lizzie gets roped into dancing with Mr Collins. She spends half the dance talking to Jane and ignoring him, while spending the rest trying not to crack up. But she does get news that Wickham won’t be at the ball – due to an unnamed gentleman also being there. Lizzie guesses who said guy is – and bumps into Darcy. She finds herself having the next dance with him, and they predictably snipe at each other. Things switch to a sequence showing Darcy and Lizzie alone in the room dancing, presumably to reflect Lizzie realising that it might not be hate she’s now feeling for him – even if she’s “sworn to loathe him for all eternity”. Her night doesn’t get any better due to the antics of the rest of her family; Mary hogs the piano most of the night and sings quite dreadfully, Mrs Bennet drunkenly brags that Jane and Bingley’s engagement is a done deal, Mr Collins embarrasses himself with Darcy, and Lydia and Kitty bounce around giggling like hyenas. There is a silver lining in Jane and Bingley genuinely being interested in each other. Charlotte however warns that Jane needs to be more obvious in her affections – as it could be easy for the others to think she’s just being polite. Caroline clearly disapproves of the match, and looks as if she wants to put a stop to it.

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Sometime later, Mr Collins announces that he wants to speak to Lizzie alone. Her worst fears are confirmed – and he proposes. She turns him down quite decisively, and he is clueless enough to think she’s playing hard to get. He also shows he knows very little about women and tries the ‘take this offer, you’re unlikely to get another’ approach. Lizzie rejects this again, and this scene becomes even more hilarious if you’ve seen the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It literally opens with Tom Hollander (Collins) stopping Keira Knightley’s wedding. Mrs Bennet chases after Lizzie and tries to get her husband to persuade her to take the proposal. Mr Bennet has this to say:

“From this day onward, you must be a stranger to one of your parents…your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr Collins. And I will never see you again if you do.”

Although Lizzie is ecstatic at this, her spirit sinks when Jane receives a letter from Mr Bingley – that he and the family are leaving Netherfield for London and don’t know when they will return. Judging from the smug look on Caroline’s face, it seems that separating her brother and Jane was not just a happy coincidence for her. Jane goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in London in the hopes of bumping into them. Things don’t get any better for Lizzie when Charlotte turns up with the news that Mr Collins proposed to her – and she said yes! Has she been hiding a crush on him until now? Nope. She actually fell for the ‘take this offer, you’re unlikely to get another’ play. Charlotte says “not all of us can afford to be romantic”, which was Austen’s way of showing the uglier side of the woman’s position. Plenty of young women would sell themselves to the highest bidder just to avoid ending up on the streets. Charlotte has hardly any prospects; she’s bordering on an old hag at twenty-seven, she’s quite plain in looks and not exactly rich. Even these days, more people than you’d expect would marry people they don’t really love out of obligation or fear of ending up alone.

Lizzie forgives her friend and later goes to visit her in her new home. The new Mr and Mrs Collins live on Lady Catherine’s property – in a respectably sized house. It seems to be a comfortable arrangement if not a happy one. Charlotte does seem pleased to have her own household to run. She, Lizzy and Mr Collins are summoned to Lady Catherine’s house to meet with the grand lady. She’s played by the great Dame Judi Dench to absolute perfection. Joe Wright reportedly said to her “I love it when you play a bitch. Please be a bitch for me” – and here we are. Lizzie is introduced to her weedy daughter Anne and the Colonel Fitzwilliam. Also there is none other than Mr Darcy, as he’s Lady Catherine’s nephew. Dinner doesn’t exactly go smoothly, as Lady Catherine expresses shock at how the Bennet sisters have been raised (no governess and the younger ones out in society before the eldest have married? Scandalous!) – but Lizzie is more than able to stand up to the old woman. It’s entirely up to you whether Lady Catherine is impressed or not by this blunt and opinionated young lady.

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She hasn’t called Mr Bond yet, so we’ll say impressed for now.

After dinner, Lizzie finds herself commanded to play the piano. It is after all Lady Catherine’s opinion that excellence can only be achieved through constant practice. While Lizzie plays, Darcy and Fitzwilliam come over to try and talk. But after Lizzie gets in a barb about how rude Darcy was when she first met him, Fitzwilliam gets summoned away – leaving her alone with Darcy. He reluctantly admits that he’s not good at talking to people he doesn’t know. Lizzie suggests he listen to his aunt and practice. He seems to take that advice a bit too literally and abruptly bursts in on Lizzie one afternoon to deliver the most awkward attempt at small talk ever. Then he leaves. Lizzie can’t think what’s come over him, but Charlotte knows all too well.

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Lizzie ends up chatting with Col. Fitzwilliam about Darcy, and gets some startling news. Apparently Darcy recently stopped a friend of his from marrying a girl who had a problem with her family. Lizzie knows instantly who the friend is…

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Darcy approaches Lizzie in the middle of the rain and tells her that he loves her. Well he tells her that *after* giving a laundry list of reasons saying loving her would be such a horrid idea. And he’s surprised when Lizzie turns him down. She also calls him out for meddling in Jane and Bingley’s love life. He doesn’t deny it and admits he did it because he thought Jane wasn’t really in love with him – and was being pressured into going after his wealth by her family. And since Bingley actually did like her, he thought he was saving his friend from heartbreak. He also takes the time to call Lizzie out on her own prejudices – such as being so quick to believe Wickham’s story about him, just because of her own wounded pride. He’s got a point there, since Lizzie ignored his attempts to make amends for the first ball. Although they spend the scene shouting at each other, you feel as if they’re about to start kissing passionately any second. But we have nearly another hour to go in the film, so they leave it at that.

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The next evening, Darcy gives Lizzie a letter before leaving the estate. In it he explains the truth about Mr Wickham; he got his inheritance after Darcy’s father died, and gambled it all away within weeks. He demanded more money and was refused. So he instead tried to elope with Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana. Once it was made clear he wouldn’t get any of her inheritance, he left her and ran off. She was fifteen.

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This happening in the days before fifteen could get you twenty.

Lizzie returns home around the same time as Jane, who insists that she’s over Mr Bingley. Lydia is ecstatic because she’s been invited to Brighton with the militia. Lizzie tries to persuade her father to forbid it, but Mr Bennet thinks the experience might be good for her. He’s pretty much hoping that her attempts to flirt with the men will amount to nothing and knock her down a peg. But Lizzie thinks he’s merely letting her go to avoid having to put up with her whining. Lizzie confesses to Jane that she saw Darcy, but does not tell her about the proposal or the Bingley stuff. This is in contrast to the book, where Jane and Lizzie tell each other everything. Joe Wright thought it would be better for Lizzie to keep secrets to herself. She’s next seen going on a trip to the Peak District with her aunt and uncle. They also turn out to be near an estate called Pemberley. As in the home of…

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Aunt and uncle want to visit and see what it’s like. And it turns out to be every bit as grand and lavish as you’d expect of a man who owns half of Derbyshire. Things turn very awkward for Lizzie when she bumps into the man himself – the first time she’s seen him since she turned down his proposal. This time it’s her turn to babble like a love-struck schoolgirl, and she ends up invited to dinner against her will. She is happy to meet his sister though. Georgiana Darcy is a beautiful little creature full of love and warmth – and it’s clear that her brother adores her. He’s likewise very kind and civil to Lizzie’s aunt and uncle, startling them since they’d only had Lizzie’s rants on him to go by. But through the rule of drama, there’s a letter waiting for them back at the inn. Lydia has run off with Wickham.

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Just a bit of historical context here. When you hear of a young impressionable girl – known for being a notorious flirt – running off with a man she barely knows, what do you assume she’s doing? Place those thoughts into an era where it would be scandalous for a girl to even be seen alone in public with another man. If word gets out, Lydia will be ruined forever. And by extension, so will the rest of her family. So if this continues, the Bennet sisters can say goodbye to any future marriage prospects and hello to life on the streets. Lizzie’s father and uncle go to London to try and find her. Meanwhile just in case you think Mrs Bennet is worrying about her daughters’ futures, she spends most of the time fretting about how this will affect *her*. She goes on about Lydia doing such a thing to *her* and not the family.

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“If you prick us, do we not bleed-“
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“Well how could you bleed in front of me? What about my poor nerves?”

But a letter comes from their uncle – saying they’ve found the couple and bribed Wickham into marrying her. This is probably the only part of the novel that hasn’t endured well. Any time a modern adaptation is made, there’s usually a more direct comeuppance for Wickham and they play Lydia a bit more sympathetically. It’s said in the book that they try to get Lydia away from him but she refuses – so the bought-and-sold marriage is the only way to save the family. When the newlyweds arrive at the house, the silly and foolish girl doesn’t seem sorry for all the distress she caused her family – and Jena Malone does her best to make you want to shout at her for how horrible she’s behaved. Lydia does let slip that it was actually Mr Darcy who found them and paid for the wedding.

The final shot of Lydia and Wickham leaving the house implies that their marriage is not going to be a happy one. Joe Wright pretty much says that it’s likely to end in domestic abuse – thus giving Wickham and Lydia some form of karma. But there is news that Mr Bingley is returning to Hertfordshire! He calls at the house with Darcy, and we get a hilarious scene of the Bennet women bustling around trying to appear as natural as possible. There’s another charming scene of Mr Bingley rehearsing what looks like a proposal. Apparently Simon Woods improvised it and they let the camera run for as long as possible because he was so good. Anyway Bingley calls at the house to see Jane, and needless to say the scene ends with him getting down on one knee. Is this a bad time to mention that Simon Woods and Rosamund Pike dated for two years before this film was made?

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That night they get another visitor: none other than Lady Catherine! She has come to ask Lizzie about rumours that she is engaged to Darcy. This greatly offends her – as she has wanted Darcy to marry her own daughter Anne. Lizzie does the unthinkable and puts her ladyship in her place – telling her that no she is not engaged to Darcy. But that if she should wish it, there is not a damn thing her ladyship can do about it. That statement is about to be put to the test, as the next morning Darcy approaches her. He tells her that his feelings have not changed since the last time he proposed. And Lizzie replies with a kiss as the sun rises between them.

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Cut to Lizzie explaining to her father how she no longer hates Darcy and wishes to marry him. She also admits that she was wrong about him, and explains what else Darcy has done for the family. And by God, Keira Knightley is simply adorable when she explains how much she loves him – and her father even tears up and gives her his blessing. The film ends there without saying the fates of the other sisters. Mr Bennet keeps refusing to let Kitty visit Lydia, so she ends up spending more time with Jane and Lizzie. She matures and grows out of her silly behaviour, enough to attract the eyes of a respectable country gentleman. Mary meanwhile becomes her mother’s companion and so she’s forced to socialise more. With her other sisters not around as much, she’s no longer thought of as the plain one and becomes much happier. She even ends up married to a clerk. So essentially they all live happily ever after.

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…just as long as you forget about these two.

So there we have it. After a BBC miniseries that was universally adored, this adaptation of the novel had its work cut out for it. As someone who has never seen the BBC version, I feel that this does the story justice. I mean, I saw this film and really enjoyed it – so much that I don’t want to watch any other version. This is what I think of when the words ‘Pride & Prejudice’ spring to mind. The only other version I’ve seen is a certain zombie story – which you should all see, because it’s awesome. It’s probably the odd film out on my list, but I’m allowed right? The story is simple, and it in fact popularised many of the clichés we’re so used to in romantic comedies. The word ‘cliché’ tends to get thrown around as an insult. And sometimes it is. But I’ve always felt that there’s nothing wrong with a cliché, as long as it’s done well. And that’s what this film does. You know from the start that Lizzie and Darcy will fall in love, but the strong performances from the two leads make you enjoy their journey. Coupling that with Joe Wright’s excellent direction, a lovely set of visuals and a stellar cast, and you have a film that’s easy watching – but still affects you on an emotional level. The film was reasonably successful – netting four Oscar nominations. It kick-started the career of Joe Wright, who only had a few TV credits to his name beforehand. Keira Knightley’s Oscar-nominated performance as Lizzie helped her drift away from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and solidify her in critic-friendly films. It doesn’t seem to be as beloved in pop culture as the BBC version, but its lack of a soaking wet Colin Firth didn’t help its chances there.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a film such as this is in want of some grades.

*Story? It’s cliché now but this story was the codifier for romantic comedy as we know it. Joe Wright doesn’t bring anything new to the story itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s unpleasant to watch. B

*Characters? Lizzie Bennet – spirited young lady ahead of her time – is one of the most popular heroines in English literature. So influential that she’s been ripped off and homaged too many times to list. Fitzwilliam Darcy meanwhile codified the ‘awkward guy with a heart of gold’ to a similar extent. The film reduces a few characters to extras – Mary, Fitzwilliam, Georgiana – but not enough to hurt the story. B

*Performances? It’s rare to see any kind of project where all the cast play their roles so well. Even the ones in the background such as Carey Mulligan, Talulah Riley, Claudie Blakely and Tom Hollander nail their characters. Jena Malone and Donald Sutherland do impeccable accents. Judi Dench is her usual ridiculously awesome self. The person I enjoyed the most however was Kelly Reilly as Caroline. Everyone else of course was top of their game too. A+

*Visuals? The film had to set itself apart from the BBC production, and doing so visually was the best choice to take. The “muddy hem version” provides a nice contrast to the pageantry of the Hollywood film and the gleaming sets of the BBC miniseries. Some shots just make me want to pause the film and stare. At the scenes, not Keira Knightley. Well not just Keira Knightley. A+

*Special Effects? N/A

*Anything Else? Joe Wright uses a lot of great single take shots that really enhance the feeling. He also made the Bennets feel like a real family and help connect them to the audience in a way that’s very hard to do. Music was used to great effect as well – especially in the ball scenes. A+

It seems to be a theme of marriage-related movies this week. But don’t let your sons near the two in the next movie; it’s Heartbreakers.

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