It's the end of summer, and time for therapeutic movie watching. Either the kids are still out of school and driving you bonkers, or they are back in school and you are madly filling out backpacks full of forms, or you are in your cubicle lamenting the days when you actually had a real summer vacation, or, you are on a yacht with a billionaire playboy pirate sheik, in which case, we all hate you.
Anyway, I've been on a Pride and Prejudice ( A | BN | K | S | ARe ) binge lately and although we don't normally review movies here at Smart Bitches, SB Sarah has made a late summer exception. (SB Sarah: This is easily the most expensive guest review I've ever run, as I ended up buying nearly all of Carrie's recommendations. Darn it.)
Here are a few adaptations for you to try in case you need to escape to the English countryside for a while. Of course there are many adaptations I haven't reviewed, for instance: the 1940 film with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier, the BBC mini-series from 1980, and Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy, a film from 2003.
Brilliant and fun, this sets Pride and Prejudice in modern day India, with Bollywood numbers. You'd think it would be terrible but it's a perfect fit. Aishwarya Rai is a suitably feisty and funny Elizabeth (Lalita), Wickham is gorgeous and charming, the sister who is analogous to Mary (Maya) does a snake dance that is…interesting, and my beloved Naveen Andrews is irresistibly cheerful as Mr. Bingley (Balraj).
The only problem is that Martin Henderson has no charisma to speak of as Mr. Darcy. Also, when sparks fly, there's this whole falling in love montage – in fact if memory serves there are two, and during this there's a lot of hugging and hair-kissing that Jane Austen would not have approved of in the least. Overall, although the movie looses some of it's grip towards the end, it is still an absolutely frothy yet insightful delight and not to be missed.
Here's the trailer if you'd like a visual taste:
Starring Kiera Knightly's huge eyes, and co-starring lovely English scenery, both human and geographical, this adaptation is one long swoon. From the dance scene in which all the dancers disappear except Elizabeth and Darcy to the smooching at the end (Austen would be shocked!) this is a dizzyingly romantic production.
The hand of Hollywood lays heavily upon it (would Mr. Darcy really ask Mr. Bennet for Elizabeth's hand with his cravat off and Lizzie in her night dress? I should hope not!) but I have to admit that the sight of Matthew MacFadyen striding across the moors is not one to be soon forgotten. Great performances by everyone.
Also starring Judi Dench as Judi Dench (AKA Lady Catherine de Bourgh).
This movie is an adaptation of a novel, which is an adaptation of a newspaper column, which was a very loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, setting it in modern day England.
I'm a huge fan of the Bridget Jones novels and I was crushed that all my favorite parts were missing from the movie.
As far as adapting Pride and Prejudice goes, Bridget is a great character, and Renee Zellinger is adorable in the role, but in no way does she resemble Elizabeth Bennet. As evidence I will point out that Elizabeth would never get drunk and belt out “All By Myself” (although Jane might have, which I would pay good money to watch).
On the other hand, Wickham, AKA Daniel Cleaver, AKA Hugh Grant, has never been more funny and charming and devilish and completely slimy, and when Colin Firth as Mark Darcy showed up to save Bridget's dinner party I seriously thought I was going to pass out. Wow.
I love, love, love this BBC mini-series!
Amanda lives in modern day London and is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. When she discovers Elizabeth Bennet in her bathroom, and Elizabeth shows her a connecting door that leads to Elizabeth's house, the two trade places and hi-jinks ensure.
I refuse to tell you anything else except to say that I had no idea how attached I was to the Pride and Prejudice story until it went all to hell.
The ending, alas, is full of huge holes but for the most part this series is a delight. I believe some purists on the Internet were horrified, so don't watch this unless you're willing to bring a sense of humor and suspend your disbelief – it's well worth the effort. LOVED IT!
This is the iconic BBC adaptation.
Most of the script is verbatim from the book – it is by far the most faithful adaptation I've seen. If you love the novel, this is a huge plus. If, like me, you find the novel to be a bit dry and inaccessible (more on that later), then this adaptation is not wildly exciting – but it does bring the book to life.
Jennifer Ehle does a nuanced performance as Lizzy – she really brings out Lizzie's frustration with her family and her circumstances. Colin Firth is, of course, Colin Firth – no one scowls or smolders quite like him.
(Alas, there isn't a trailer on YouTube that isn't a fan-made version, but there are many clips of this miniseries on YouTube, including MANY of Colin Firth smoldering and scowling.)
I have a dark confession to make – the first three times I read Pride and Prejudice I was not thrilled. It's only now, on my fourth reading, that I feel that I am starting to get it.
Reading Austen, as refined and genteel as it is, is actually a lot like reading science fiction. Austen describes a society that, to modern eyes, is an alien one, even though the personalities are like those we meet every day. It is ruled by strange customs and strict social and economic hierarchies. Everyone speaks in an alien language – not only because the language is slightly archaic, but also because characters deliberately speak in code. I didn't get that until I sat through these adaptations – when I could see actors speaking and reacting to the dialogue, and see their body language, new layers of story opened up to me. I'm grateful to the adaptations that have opened this book to me!
What is your favorite adaptation?