Saturday, November 26, 2005

Will the real Mr. Darcy please stand up?

I just saw the new Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. Now don't get me wrong. Mediocre Jane Austen (and we're talking really mediocre, here) is better than no Jane Austen. When you love a book as much as I love Pride and Prejudice, you're bound to be disappointed in a screen version. But does it have to be so off?

The 1995 BBC production featuring Colin Firth was great. That version rocked. Sure, it was 6 hours long, but it paid off. It was true to the spirit of the book. Maybe the lesson here is that if you can't do something well, it shouldn't be done at all. But the problem is I think this shorter 2 hour version could have been so much better than what it was. I had no problem with them cutting some of the secondary characters (although it's the secondary characters in P&P that make the book so rich). But the chopped up dialogue in this big screen version was just short of blasphamy.

There are many wonderful and beautiful images in this film. We see Kiera Knightly staring off into space or out the window more times than I could count. There are images of the English countryside that are absolutely breathtaking. All this gives us a wonderful picture of Regency England, that imo, could have been done much better through Austen's spectacular dialogue. The filmakers actually tried to "explain" the story through additional dialogue, cutting out some of the best lines in the book. I guess they thought audiences wouldn't get it.

Then there was Mr. Darcy's portrayal as a wimp. Maybe they thought he would be too unsympathetic, but the truth of the matter is that Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy IS prideful and arrogant. It's through his love for Elizabeth that he changes into a different man. This version waters down those undesirable qualities and makes Mr. Darcy a "shyer" version of what he really is. Ugh. Matthew McFadden walks around the film looking like he needs some Pepto Bismal.

That all said, I'm still glad I saw the movie. I know, I know. I just spent the last twenty minutes blogging about why it's an inferior version to the BBC one. But like I said, mediocre Austen is better than no Austen. And Kiera Knightly did a great job as Elizabeth.

I just wish the film makers hadn't thought they needed to do Jane Austen for Dummies.

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