Pride and Prejudice and Hollywood

Okay, I love Jane Austen. I especially love Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely adore the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Today, I decided to watch the 2005 movie version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.

And now I need to blog, because otherwise I will explode into incoherent spluttering. AGAIN.

I’m not really against any adaptations of Pride and Prejudice that are not 100% true to the book. I still hold a great love of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube, which I consider to be one of the only good modern retellings. But this, my friends… this movie. THIS MOVIE. It took the heart and soul of one of the greatest works of English literature and ripped it out, and replaced it with Hollywood asshattery. It has tainted me, and now I must purge it by ranting at length.

(I’ve already spent a while swearing at Netflix. My husband thinks I’m ridiculous.)

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen

WHY. JUST WHY.

The whole problem, and this is just one of many here, is that Knightley can look the part but she can’t fucking well ACT the part. She’s not Lizzie Bennet. She can’t hold a candle to Jennifer Ehle in the same role. She’s got this amazing tendency to simper all the damn time and I kept wanting to shout at her that LIZZIE DOES NOT SIMPER, YOU TWIT. Lizzie Bennet is smart, witty, loyal as hell, and sensible as a rock.

Matthew Macfadyen is not Colin Firth, basically. Colin Firth brought this… intensity to Darcy. Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud, but he’s not a robot. Macfadyen played Darcy as if he had no feelings at all for at least two thirds of this stupid movie, and then gave us the most INDIFFERENT anguished declaration of love I have ever bloody well heard.

The two of them together equals a wooden performance that would only be more wooden if both of them were actually carved out of a block of wood.

Taking Liberties with the Plot

So… adaptations mean changes. But what really bugged the shit out of me is that the liberties taken with the plot added nothing and made everything worse. There was screen time wasted on gratuitous butt shots of marble statues – I WISH I was kidding. Gratuitous. Butt. Shots.

marble butt shot
Netflix screenshot of marble butts

The hell is this?! Who decided this was a good idea?

The movie literally skips over some important parts, and then uses shit like this to beat it over the audience’s head that HEY THIS DUDE IS RICH AND SEXY.

I just – I can’t. My ability to can is gone.

Compression and Dumbing It Down

My major, MAJOR issue with the movie is this: some goddamn idiot executive decided that taking a complex, nuanced and immensely rich work of literature and squashing it down to a two hour movie was a good idea. And then, that same idiot decided that whatever nuance or richness that survived should be also be squashed because Americans Might Not Get It.

Result: Lizzie Bennet is reactionary and stupid, Darcy is a non-entity, their relationship has all the tension of a wet noodle, and the sparkling wit and life that Jane Austen brought to the original book has been shredded. The actual lines of dialogue from the book that remain actually sound out of place, if you can imagine that.

I’ll give Knightley and Macfadyen this much – if they’d had longer than two hours, maybe they’d have given the roles what they deserved. As it stands, this movie is going to be compared to the 1995 BBC version constantly and unfavorably.

The only highlights: Dame Judi Dench does an amazing job as Lady Catherine for the minute or so she’s onscreen, and there were some nice moments between Lizzie and Darcy where you could sort of see the real Pride and Prejudice underneath all the terrible acting and rushed storylines.

In short, watch this if you’re a real Austen fan, but be warned you’ll want to watch the 1995 version immediately afterwards just to get the taste of Hollywood out of your mouth.

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