Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

I first read the book "Pride and Prejudice" in my first or second year of college, for an English class, and it not only stands out as the best part of that course, it is to this day among my favorite works of literature. Today I was pleased to find out that the new movie rendition of this book with Keira Knightley is probably the best film rendition of a good book that I've ever seen. I did not have the greatest of expectations for this movie, since no movie lives up to a book's standards, and I rarely enjoy Hollywood dramas, due to their inability to be discreet and their sacrifice of romance for sex. I know this may sound like I am such a girl, but if I watch a movie, I'd much rather see something emotional than something sexual.

Let me begin by saying that I should be in bed right now, but I wanted to write down my thoughts on this film while they are still fresh in my mind. In my opinion, this movie has not gotten nearly enough acclaim as it deserves, which is evidenced by a packed room at the two-dollar theater in Hopkins, at which this film has already been playing for weeks, heightened by the fact that it is already out on video. But let me explain several reasons I absolutely loved this drama.

Let's start with the characters: Keira Knightley - I had no doubts that Keira Knightley could look beautiful. She has great poise, which is, believe it or not, something I find rather sexy and very alluring. But beyond good looks, this was the best I've seen her so far, though that is rather limited as of yet. She plays Miss Elizabeth Bennet superbly; she's entrancing, emotional, fiery, thoughtful, and everything Miss Bennett should be. Elizabeth's sister Jane is likewise fit for the part. She successfully plays the beautiful oldest daughter, who is not in the least full of herself, but is difficult to really read, comes across as rather unemotional in public and reserves her expressiveness for her closest sister - she's the perfect Jane.

Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are likewise perfect for their roles. The gradual insights we get into Darcy's character are wonderfully done, starting off with the first impression of the "miserable" man, and moving on to the somewhat shy, witty, compassionate lover.

Perhaps the most wonderful surprise to me was the appearance of Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet. It was interesting to see a somewhat softer side of Donald, but still have the great talent and that look in his eye that tells you there's much more than what's on the surface. He was also very entertaining.

Now on to the story. What I loved about the story, in addition to the glorious scenes of nature and of castles and manors, was the way it stayed true to both the plot and the themes of the book, which is what made it one of my favorites. The thing is, there is this tendency in people to make judgements and have stubborn opinions about other people. These opinions and judgements are rarely based on personal knowledge and experience, but rather find their roots in gossip, appearance, and first impressions. It happens all the time, and is nicely expressed near the end when Elizabeth tells her father how wrong she was about Darcy, how foolish she had been, how foolish Darcy had been. It comes up everywhere. Darcy dismisses Elizabeth at their first encounter as "not handsome enough to tempt me." Likewise she believes he is a "miserable" man who owns the "miserable half" of some important place or other. (Not up on all the details - bad jake). He does not smile; he does not dance; he avoids conversation. Then of course there is Mr. Wickham, who convincingly lies about his misfortunes and passes himself as a sort of gentlemanly type of man. Everyone thinks well of him, except Mr. Darcy, who of course is not well-esteemed by the misinformed Bennets. The truth comes out over time. Wickham is a bit of a wastrel, taking advantage of a good thing when he can, running away with a young Bennet and causing a scandal, which is in turn patched up by the generous Mr. Darcy, though no one knows of it. It turns out Darcy is compassionate. He didn't dance or talk with anyone that first night, not because he was mean or hates people, but because he is shy and he is not good with strangers. Elizabeth rightly suggests that he practice. Elizabeth, Darcy finds, is more than meets the eye, and her "tolerable" beauty becomes hypnotic and stunning, as her quick mind, her stubborn fiery nature, and her strong assurance come to the surface in their various encounters. Mrs. Bennet, likewise, is assumed to be a ridiculous woman who cares about nothing but status and wealth. But we learn that she is a poor woman who cares deeply for her five wonderful daughters.

Not only did this movie touch on all the important points of the book that I remember, but these themes I have expressed above were masterfully delivered. Even though I am a guy, who usually enjoys Action and Adventure, Sci-fi and fantasy, I have no reservations when I say that Pride and Prejudice is now among both my favorite books and my favorite movies. If you have not yet had the opportunity, watch this movie. I won't promise it will change your life. But I will promise that it is beautiful and captivating. I did not get bored and I did not lose interest. I give it three billion stars... or... whatevver the highest one is.

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