Pride & Prejudice (2005) Movie – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my eleventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed but you can read the reviews and comment through 31 December 2013.

My Review:

I vividly remember sitting in the theatre in 2005 waiting for the curtain to rise on the new Pride & Prejudice movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. I was excited that one of my favorite Jane Austen novels was being trotted out as a major motion picture. It had been 65 years since MGM released their theatrical version of Pride and Prejudice and I was looking forward to two hours of sumptuous costumes and eye-popping settings that were not set in the Victorian era! I had been reading about the Focus Features production for months on the Internet, especially at Austenblog, where the editrix Mags had been following the media promotional machine very closely. I had no idea who the British actor slated to portray the iconic romantic hero Mr. Darcy was. My sympathy for him was already acute. How could he possibly fill those big, black, shiny Hessian boots that Colin Firth’s strode about in so effortlessly in 1995? Queue fanfare music and red velvet curtain rising at the theater.

Since this movie was released eight years ago and has been available on DVD since February 2006, is there anyone left in the world who has not seen it? Just in case you don’t know what it is about here is the blurb and cast from the production notes:

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Cast:

  • Mr. Bennet — Donald Sutherland
  • Mrs. Bennet — Brenda Blethyn
  • Jane Bennet — Roasamund Pike
  • Elizabeth Bennet — Keira Knightley
  • Mary Bennet — Talulah Riley
  • Kitty Bennet — Carey Mulligan
  • Lydia Bennet — Jena Malone
  • Sir William Lucas — Sylvester Morand
  • Charlotte Lucas — Claudie Blakley
  • Mr. Bingley — Simon Woods
  • Caroline Bingley — Kelly Reilly
  • Mr. Darcy — Matthew Macfadyen
  • Mr. Wickham — Rupert Friend
  • Mr. Collins — Tom Hollander
  • Lady Catherine de Bourg — Judi Dench
  • Colonel Fitzwilliam — Cornelius Booth
  • Mrs. Gardiner — Penelope Wilton
  • Mr. Gardiner — Peter Wight
  • Georgiana Darcy — Tamzin Merchant

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet dance in Pride and Prejudice 2005

Adapted from Jane Austen’s classic novel by Deborah Moggach, with a spit polish on the dialogue by Emma Thompson (un-credited), director Joe Wright had a definite vision of what his movie version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would be—and it is entirely different from what we had seen on screen or television before. Even though he assembled a fine cast of British actors, and a talented production team to relay concept, my first impressions were ill favored. However, the movie was appreciated by many and received four Academy Award nominations, including best actress for Knightley. Some Austen fans absolutely adored it—others not so much. I remained in the grey zone. Even after many years and several viewings, I was ambivalent, and that is the problem. The good stuff seemed to cancel out the bad stuff and left me in Switzerland.

Comparing it to its predecessors is unfair, but it is inevitable. This movie is only two hours and nine minutes long, versus the five hours plus 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries. For those who enjoyed the Colin Firth version, which attentively followed much of Austen’s plot and included many lines of her dialogue, the transition to a shorter length will seem truncated—and rightly so. Wright’s version is set in the late eighteenth century and not in the prettified early nineteenth century of the 1995 miniseries. Honestly, the fashions in the late eighteenth century are not as striking as the Regency era. Are we swayed by pretty things? Heck yes! The most disturbing difference in the two versions is in the social distinction between the two Bennet families. The 2005 version’s clothing, furnishing, attitudes and manners are decidedly lower in station, bordering upon peasant class. This stark contrast makes the chasm between the heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s lower-class landed gentry upbringing and the very wealthy and refined upper-class Mr. Darcy very wide indeed, and all the more amazing that he chooses her as his bride. Love truly wins the day. Austen still has the final say on many social issues she was chiding in her novel, but the Byronic depths that screenwriter Moggach and director Wright use to achieve their vision of the story were disappointing. Of note: Austen would have cringed during the first proposal scene with Elizabeth and Darcy. Her hero was never meant to be a wet, sad-eyed puppy, nor her heroine tempted to kiss him.

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy in the rain PandP 2005

At the risk of sounding like sour grapes, I will say that there were changes and interpretations that I did like. The family dynamics were interesting to watch in both the Bennet and the Bingley household. The Bennet sisters seemed more in tune with each other and concerned for their welfare. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are more affectionate and logical. While this seemed more agreeable over-all, it made the dynamics rather bland and countered what Austen achieved in her characterizations. There were a few performances that held the dictum. Simon Woods as Charles Bingley really gave the standout performance of the film adding an empty-headed and open-hearted suitor that was truly endearing. Judi Dench is by far the most imposing and imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh to date. Her hot laser stare sent chills up the back of my neck during the scene at Longbourn when she asks Elizabeth to deny an engagement to her nephew, Mr. Darcy. Matthew Macfadyen as the proud hero had a fabulous speaking voice which was really a plus, but what the director made his character do really canceled out his finer qualities. Keira Knightley as the decidedly impertinent Lizzy Bennet did have her moments of spark and fire, but an Oscar nomination? Hardly. I understand the “you have bewitched me body and soul” ending was added for the benefit of American audiences. One assumes by this addition that we did not like how Austen had written it? We were not amused. The music by Dario Marianelli saved the entire film for me. Happily it is the last thing we hear as the credits roll.

Lizzy and Darcy in a field PandP (2005)

This review would not be complete if I did not mention the pig in the kitchen scene. Honestly, it was the low point in the movie for me. Why it was added I shall never understand. May I speak for Austen fans everywhere and say we are appalled? Now the tomato throwing may commence.

PandP (2005) DVD coverThere is an excellent blog devoted to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice that contains more information than I could ever begin to relate here. Be sure to visit and vent your spleen or sing its praises. You will not be alone in either of your opinions.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Universal Studios (2006)
DVD (129) minutes
ASIN: B000E1ZBGS

Cover image courtesy of Universal Studios © 2006; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley (Audible Audio Edition) – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my tenth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review:

This Pride and Prejudice variation asks readers “What if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Mr. Darcy’s first proposal?” After reading this question in the book’s description my first reaction was, ACK, why would she?

Like the two other novels by this author that I have read, the story begins on familiar ground at a certain point in Austen’s novel and then quickly takes a left turn—changing the course of the plot and the characters’ lives. In this case it starts at a very critical moment, the first proposal scene when Mr. Darcy so arrogantly assumes that the less-socially-endowed Elizabeth Bennet would jump at the chance to accept his generous offer of marriage. Reynolds’ Lizzy is still repulsed by the thought of this man as her husband and frozen with disgust. Since Austen’s last sentence in Elizabeth’s refusal contains the title of this novel, I was all anticipation of reliving Elizabeth’s famous put down:

“From the very beginning — from the first moment, I may almost say — of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

But no—this is where the road veers and Reynolds’ twist begins. Darcy misinterprets Elizabeth’s hesitation as acceptance and kisses her, witnessed by his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam and a gamekeeper. Unaware of her true feelings, Col Fitzwilliam congratulates Darcy while a panicked Elizabeth spins the reasons in her mind why she cannot deny it: her reputation has been compromised and if she does not marry him the future happiness of her family, and her sisters prospects will be dashed. Trapped, she cannot decline and agrees to marry him.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds Audio (2013)Their one-sided marriage begins on rocky ground. Wrought with misunderstandings: his cold indignation, and her fear and depression, Elizabeth is hindered in her attempts to fit in and learn her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. She is not allowed to be very useful—in fact, anything she does seems to anger and annoy her new husband. After Mr. Darcy is involved in a life-threatening riding accident she dutifully cares for him day and night until she is past exhaustion. During his illness she comes to realize that she really does love him and tells him so when he is finally conscious. They are reconciled, until the laudanum wears off and he returns to his sour and confusing self. When she learns from a servant that he is leaving for London, even though he has not fully recovered and fit for travel, she is crushed blaming his dislike of her. While he is away she learns of her younger sister Lydia’s elopement with George Wickham and their subsequent marriage, facilitated by her husband. She is thankful to him for helping her family out of this devastating scandal, but he again misinterprets her gratitude for wifely obligation and not love. Her unhappiness continues until she reaches the point where she feels the only solution to their dilemma would be her death—relieving him of the disgrace of her inferior connections and releasing him to marry another.

One thing that readers new to variations must embrace immediately is change. The point in re-inventing the plot in a “what if” is the experience of revisiting beloved characters in new scenarios. You are not reading a sequel or a continuation of Austen’s story, but a re-imagining of what her characters might do if the action changed. Logically those characters would exhibit the same personality traits that Austen awarded them, but that can be changed too. Just think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. You are not in Kansas anymore. If you are open to change and can accept tinkering with Austen’s creations and complete changes in her plot, then variations are for you.

In this sub-genre of Austen paraliterure Reynolds reigns supreme in her level of creativity and fluent prose. She is very skilled at crafting tension between lovers and can think up innumerable ways to keep them apart to prolong our anticipation. Her ardent love scenes were passionately rendered, reaching the blushing point for me every time. One of the major challenges I found with the premise of this story is that I did not like Reynolds’ Mr. Darcy. He was not the honorable man that Austen had crafted, nor a man that I was attracted to. He had duped Elizabeth into marrying him (albeit ignorantly) and he is pretty oblivious to his wife’s feelings, misreading her kind intentions continually. Or so it would appear on first impressions. The couple are at continual crossed purposes, going in circles of misunderstanding and rejection, to a glimmer of brief reconciliation, then back to total despair and unhappiness. After about the third time I was as depressed as the heroine. Once I got over my fixed notions of how Austen’s characters should deport themselves and accepted Reynolds’ alternate universe for Elizabeth and Darcy, I began to enjoy their twisted, tormented souls. It was like Jane Austen morphing into Charlotte Bronte, even though neither author would approve of each other’s style.

This audio edition of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World was aptly read by Rachel E. Hurley with entertaining variations in voice to character and scene. Reynolds has crafted a clever love story and applied familiar characters to suit. That dear reader is what variations are all about. If you are prepared to be taken down the yellow brick road, this is a great introduction to the genre.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley
Audible Audio Edition (2013)
Digital, unabridged (6 hrs and 27 min)
ASIN: B00BCXCZCU

Cover image courtesy of Audible © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Giveaway Winner Announced for Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure

Lady Ann's Excellent Adventure by Candice Hern (2012)24 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure, by Candice Hern. The winner drawn at random is:

  • Vesper who left a comment on September 26, 2013

Congratulations Vesper! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by October, 9, 2013. Ebook shipment internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013. It has been great fun. This concludes our reading challenge for the year. I hope you can join us again in the future.

Book cover image courtesy of © 2012 Candice Hern; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure: A Regency Short Story, by Candice Hern – A Review & Giveaway

The Regency Romance Reading Challenge (2013)This is my eighth and final selection in the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013, our celebration of romance author Candice Hern. We have read all of her traditional Regencies over the last nine months, discussed her characters, plots and Regency history. Her next novel Social Climber was scheduled for release in October but has been extended to January. Participants in the challenge, please leave comments and or links to your reviews for this month in the comment section of this post.

My Review:

Have you ever read a short story and wished it was a full length novel? That is how I felt after completing “Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure.” Short and sweet at 43 pages, Candice Hern has introduced characters that I instantly loved and wanted to know more about. What grabbed me so immediately you ask? The humor and effervescent theme.

In this brief format an author must use every word and sentence to advance the narrative quickly to its conclusion. Hern wastes no time by introducing the two main characters in an outrageous and humorous way: our hero, the Earl of Evesham, is test driving his new curricle down Park Lane in London and spies a young woman perched in a tree attempting to make her way over a fence. Caught by her skirts on a branch, she is  prevented from progressing and literally up a tree! The unusual sight of a finely dressed woman in such a predicament is quite intriguing to the lord, but the fact that she is attempting to escape from the garden of the royal owner that he was appointed to meet the next day to make a formal offer for his daughter’s hand is even more interesting. It is an arranged marriage since his boyhood and he has not seen his future fiancé since she was a child. Could this pretty young lady be his intended? No. It was highly unlikely that Lady Ann of Gloucester, daughter of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and niece to the king would be dangling from a tree in the fashionable Mayfair district. Was she instead a housebreaker escaping with the family silver? Who could this “adorable sprite” be?

She quickly shares that she is running away from her life—for a day—her last day of freedom before her life changes forever and she sacrifices herself to the “altar of duty.” That cinched it. She was his intended. He offers to help her down on one condition: that he be allowed to escort her on her adventure. She agrees and an unlikely alliance begins: and before it’s merry conclusion we are take on a grand spree through several amusing sites in Regency London: to Hyde Park to watch a balloon accent, to Black Friars Bridge to eat oysters, to Ludgate Hill to admire the shops where he buys her perfume, to Pasternoster Row to browse print and book shops where he purchases The Picture of London for 1802, Being a Correct Guide to all of the Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibitions, Public Establishments and Remarkable Objects in and near London, for the use of Stragers, Foreigners, and all Persons who are not acquainted with the British Metropolis. In short, a tourist guide book! She is delighted with all that she experiences, and most importantly him.

Lady Ann's Excellent Adventure by Candice Hern (2012)Assuming a name to hide his true identity and the connection to her family, along the way they inadvertently run across his friends who want to meet this pretty young lady; one even thinks she is his new ladybird! But, he is determined to keep up the ruse. “As the day progressed and he’d grown increasingly fond of her, even a little infatuated, he’d begun to feel a tad guilty at his deception. Even so, he was oddly reluctant to give it up. He was enjoying himself too much.” And so are we.

What a fun romp through some unusual sites in London that the Ton may not have frequented – and that was the point. Lady Ann wanted to experience life of the common man; to see their entertainments and live her life as a commoner in one day. Lord Evesham is a capable and charming guide, enjoying her wide-eyed amazement with a fresh perspective and a growing appreciation for the woman who would hopefully become his wife. But now how will he ever transition into the earl who she is pledged to marry, and will she be too angry and embarrassed to accept him when she discovers his deception?

A delightfully breezy and upbeat glimpse at two aristocrats playing hooky from duty and decorum, “Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure” is all that its title promised. It is Roman Holiday meets Georgette Heyer and I could not be more enchanted with this reverse fairytale of two strangers who climb down from the their high perch and enjoy the simple life and each other without inhibitions or preconceived assumptions. I was so captivated by each of the protagonists that I did not want their story to end. Like the conclusion of the delightful movie Roman Holiday, they do have to face the reality of their return to royalty, but their lives will never be burdened with regret.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure: A Regency Short Story, by Candice Hern
Candice Hern (2012)
Digital book (43) pages
ASIN: B00ASF1CC2

A Grand Giveaway

Author Candice Hern has generously offered one digital copy of “Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure” to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this story, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is or what spot they visited in London that you enjoyed most by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 02, 2013. Winner to be announced on Thursday, October 03, 2013. Digital copy delivery internationally.  Good luck!

Cover image courtesy of Candice Hern © 2012; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Mr. Darcy’s Diary (Audiobook), by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my eighth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review:

Ever wonder if a book you read several years ago and loved still stacks up? I did, and was tempted to revisit one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice sequels, Mr. Darcy’s Diary, in audiobook for my summer listening. Read by Mr. Darcy himself—well not quite—but close, the narrator is British actor David Rintoul who portrayed Mr. Darcy in the 1980 BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. After a second pass “my affections and wishes are unchanged” and I am incorporating my original review (slightly amended) and finishing with my impression of this audio version.

If Jane Austen thought that her novel Pride and Prejudice was too light, bright, and sparkling and wanted shade, then author Maya Slater has made up for any deficit by crossing over to the “dark side” in writing her re-telling of Austen’s classic tale of  misunderstandings and reconciliation. Not only are we privy to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s most intimate and revealing secrets, we see the story of Pride and Prejudice told wholly from the male perspective, and gentle readers, be prepared. It’s a man’s world in Regency England, and dare I say, Fitzy is no saint!

The story opens with Mr. Darcy as a house guest of the Bingley’s at Netherfield Park the night of the Meryton assembly. Caroline Bingley is up to her usual kowtowing activities and insists upon embroidering slippers for Mr. Darcy, even though he inwardly fumes that he has no use for them. He is ruminating over his sister Georgiana’s letter and sees no solution to her predicament, the particulars of which are not yet known to us. The party arrives at the assembly rooms and there is little of interest for him there. Seeing the dance unfold from his perspective is an interesting vantage: the rooms, the music and the “superfluity of raw young ladies eager for dancing partners were all disenchanting to him.” His breeches are too tight so he does not sit down! Beyond the perfunctory dances with his two hostesses, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, he saw nothing in the room to tempt him. No mention is made of his slighting our heroine Elizabeth Bennet, but this is Mr. Darcy’s diary after all, and an event of no consequence to him would surely not be recorded in his personal diary.

Mr. Darcy's Diary, by Maya Slater (2008) audio And so the first few entries of the diary were pleasant enough. The language and style was respectful to Austen’s, the story line consistent with Darcy’s view, and the characters well thought out. A good beginning. My interest builds as I realize that I am reliving Pride and Prejudice from a new perspective, told by an author who understands the novel, is well researched in Regency history and can turn a phrase quite neatly. Better and better. Whoa! Darcy has just admired a housemaid’s “pleasing embonpoint” removed her starched white apron and tumbled her on his bed! (Okay, I just heard the pounding exodus of Austen purist as they run out the back door.) The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. This is not the Darcy that we know from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, and the author has just made her point.

Uncertain if I could get past this bit, I venture on. We follow Darcy to London with his faithful valet Peebles in tow. Their Jeeves and Wooster relationship is amusing. I smile. Darcy unknowingly crumples up his leather gloves in a coat pocket, scuffs his boots, and wants to wear the wrong clothes for the wrong occasion. It is of little consequence to this wealthy and overly confident man, but Peebles is beside himself. I laugh. In addition to Charles Bingley, we are introduced to Darcy’s friend, George Byron. Yes, the poet and notorious, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” Byron. He lives up to his reputation and influences Darcy into dubious deeds that most Regency men of his position in society amuse themselves with like cards, drunken debacles, and escapades with women. At this point we are experiencing Darcy from a totally male point-of-view, but the transition into events that Austen would never have included in her heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s female world, are more acceptable because this author’s skill at making Darcy’s diary so believable and amusing is effortless. By the midway point in the diary, it has become a page turner, and I am totally captivated.

So how did author Maya Slater woo a Janeite who openly admits contempt for renovators who sex up or steal Austen’s good name? She actually did not have to. Once I abandoned my expectations of reading another prequel, sequel or re-telling bent on ripping off Jane Austen’s stories or characters, I realized that this was not Elizabeth Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, but Mr. Darcy’s, and Maya Slater was not renovating Jane or sexing up Lizzy but telling a man’s story. What other authors have attempted in their Darcy re-tellings by mirroring Jane Austen’s text word-for-word has been replaced by sheer creativity and respect. Slater expands our understanding of the plot and characters that Jane Austen introduced making Mr. Darcy’s Diary unique and yet blend-able to the original story. It made me laugh-out-loud repeatedly as she expounded on the smarmy antics of Caroline Bingley whose continued attempts to worm her way into Darcy’s affections fall flat, fume over the officious arrogance of his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, hiss at the deceit and destruction caused by that lout George Wickham, and revel in a love story that I listened to as freshly and intensely as the first time this writer experienced the original many years ago. That, gentle Austen readers, is quite an achievement. Even Mr. Darcy might consider Maya Slater worthy of inclusion in “the half a dozen women in the whole range of (his) acquaintance that are truly accomplished.”

My original review of this novel was 4 out of 5 stars, but I am upping the audio version to top honors of 5 stars because of the captivating, velvety voice of actor David Rintoul. Wow. He is just perfection.

 5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Diary, (audiobook) by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul
AudioGO Ltd. & Audible.com (2008)
Unabridged digital download (8 hours and 33 mins)
ASIN: B001LNK94C

Please join us for next month’s Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge when we review Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll (2004) on Wednesday, September 11, 2013.

Cover image courtesy of AudioGo © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com