Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fems rule: I loved the new "Pride and Prejudice" movie

I just saw the new movie of Pride and Prejudice, the most popular novel in the English language -- the Casablanca of novels, if you will.

Of course one’s instinct is to judge the movie against the book, so here are the differences that jumped to mind, some bad and some good:

1) Lizzie is far too pretty in the movie.

2) The two rich aristocrats, Darcy and Bingley, are not romantic-looking ideals of leading men: they look like blokes recruited from the local pub. The women look like the big catches, not the men. It reverses the whole aim of the thing: it's the women who're supposed to be twittering after the men, since they're in dire need of financial security. Only the bad guy, Wickham, looks like a heart-throb.

3) Mrs. Bennett is actually an old shrewdie in the movie, unlike the foolish woman of the novel. This is a mistake, because it destroys the alliance of smart daughter Lizzie and smart dad Mr Bennett, who are joined together by a mutual tolerance of dopey mom/wife. We don’t get that father/daughter relationship, so the scene of Lizzie and Dad at the end, great as it is, doesn’t carry as much freight as it could.

4) The quality of felt life is more palpable in the movie. The novel is a formal drawingroom-bound comedy of manners. The movie is full of ducks and horses and servants and landscape. The dance balls don’t look like huge Visconti-type spectacles of clothes and artifice: they’re more like closeup snapshots of a country hoedown; very realistic and jolly. There are some remarkable scenes: one of Lizzie spinning round in a swing and watching farmworkers tending the horses as they spin around her, until her spinning stops on her friend Charlotte who tells her she’s going to marry the foolish parson, and demands that Lizzie not judge her. Then there’s a scene where Lizzie, after she’s turned down Darcy in a very emotional rain-sogged encounter, visits Darcy’s magnificent estate in his absence, and sees what she gave up. She walks past many white marble statues in an incredible art collection, which includes a bust of Darcy himself, with blind white eyes.

5) The movie sweeps out of the drawingroom into a teeming world, and into an epic form. Two scenes of epic grandeur woo the eyeballs: Lizzie standing on tall cliffs, the wind blowing her clothes, aching or yearning for something she doesn’t have, grandly dwarfed yet majestically female; and Darcy walking towards her at the end, his long coat billowing in the wind, like a figure from myth emerging out of the mist. These two scenes remind one of how romantic the wind can be.

6) The dialogue has the sparkle and high wit of the book; the makers didn’t dumb it down, even if -- for the American market -- some of Brit wit may fly over viewers’ heads.

7) There are beautiful touches of humor, like when a bunch of ducks get as agitated as Mrs. Bennett when Lizzie rejects the parson, and when Mom and girls scurry to make themselves and their room more presentable when the two men unexpectedly drop in on them.

If you love the book, go see Pride and Prejudice. It’s bloody good. I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes a deserved ton of money, so that its bargain with the audience brings it financial security -- just what Mrs. Bennett craves for her daughters from the bargain of marriage.


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