Now we’ve come to the last adaptation of Pride & Prejudice and the second film version (films like Bride & Prejudice, Bridget Jone’s Diary are variations of the novel and I didn’t review them as they are not true novel to screen adaptations, though Bride & Prejudice is a great Bollywood take and highly recommended if you’ve ever wanted a musical version). The 2005 version was adapted by Deborah Moggach who was going to remain faithful to the novel, but was then told to not be by the director Joe Wright. This was a huge mistake.Joe Wright also decided he wanted a “muddy” Regency world and not a clean version. I have no idea what he means by that, but I think it means he decided to not use the novel as a resource and just do whatever the hell he wished to do. And it shows.
Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet
There are those who absolutely love this version. I believe it’s because they’ve never bothered to read the novel and approve of the utter ruination this movie is and to all the other adaptations out there. Bride & Prejudice is more accurate and it’s a Bollywood film set in the modern day. So yes, this film IS this bad. First, let’s go with the terrible script. the Bennets are shown to be filthy, poor, uncouth, and ill-mannered. Lydia comes off as being half-inebriated at all times, which should be a concern considering she’s only 15 and, therefore, should be drinking lemon barley water, tea, and hot chocolate, not all the booze that’s available (even though, historically, the alcohol was watered down). Farm animals would not be let loose in the Bennet household. They are also shown to be living in almost abject poverty. If they are that poor, then why would Mr. Collins even ant to inherit the place? In the novel (and in every other adaptation), the Bennets are landowners. Mr. Bennet owns land, of which he rents out to farmers and probably has people work his own land. This generates a comfortable income and according to the novel, Mr. Bennet earns 2,000 a year (modern equivalent is 160K). That’s not a pittance nor is he a poor man. To show him and his family as such is a slap in the face to Jane Austen herself. In comparison, Darcy has 10K (or 800K in modern terms), Lizzie will get about 40 a year (4K), Wickham inherited 1,000 (80K) from his father and received an additional 3,000 (240K) from Darcy to dissolve his claim to the clergy living being held for him, Georgiana’s inheritance of 30K (2.4 Million) know makes much more sense if you see the potential it had.
A pig allowed to wander the Bennet home is completely wrong. Also notice the flilth evidence everywhere-the floors, the walls, the doors. There is no way Darcy would even consider Elizabeth Bennet as a potential spouse as it shows she is extremely beneath him socially. The Bennets are not shown to be of the gentry class, but of the poor.
Another major issue is the casting. I love Donald Sutherland, but his Mr. Bennet was so poorly written that is was beneath a man of his talents to take on the role. Brenda Blethyn is likewise a terrific actress. She is always wonderful, but in this, the script did her no justice as Mrs. Bennet. She comes off with weird one liners that are not based at all on anything written by Jane Austen. She’s made into a character to be ridiculed for her lowness. While Mrs. Bennet is funny in the novel, she should not be made into a caricature. This is an adaptation here, not a pantomime. Keira Knightly as well was completely miscast. I don’t like her Lizzie-she’s cruel, she’s a bitch, and has nothing to recommend her to any man, let alone Darcy. I don’t see anything abut her portrayal which would attract Mr. Darcy or even George Wickham. And as for Mr. Collins proposing to her, while that’s in the novel there’s nothing about her character that even remotely makes sense as the wife of a clergyman. Dame Judi Dench is always lovely, but Lady Catherine seemed to be written to be almost exactly like a previous role she played, Lady Bracknell. there are so many talented people in this cast that because the script was so terrible, their performances suffered.
Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike), Lizzie, Lydia (Jenna Malone), George Wickham (Rupert Friend), Kitty (Carey Mulligan).
Other issue is the costumes, which were designed by Jacqueline Durran. Because there seems to be no set time period for the film, she used fashions from before 1790s to fashions from 1813. In the same film. While I respect Ms. Durran as a fellow Costume Designer and for winning a BAFTA for her designs for Vera Drake, the costumes for this film were atrocious to put it mildly. While I can potentially see Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine sticking to the fashions of their youth (1750-1770 apparently), it still doesn’t make any logical sense. Now, I can see a woman wearing clothes from her youth that she thought flattered her better than modern fashions. I’ve written a character who does this in my novel, but I also stress it’s because she prefers that style BECAUSE it’s a way for her to hold onto her memories of youth. Yet I have her children dressed in fashion benefiting the time period. For this film, you have fashions from all sorts of time periods existing in one film, in one family, and it’s sloppy design work. Because they all ready messed with the Bennet’s finances, the clothing the family wears is all over the place. Mr. Bennet dresses like a Georgian man, just without the wig, so his style is probably about 1760s. His wife dresses from about 1770s, possibly 1780s at the latest. Jane has a silhouette of the 1810s, while Lizzie is wearing the futuristic silhouette of the 1820s, yet also dresses in clothes from the 1790s (that’s a forty year span).
One of Lizzie’s dresses with a waistline that wouldn’t appear until the mid 1820s, but a dress that feels more 1930s. The novel was published in 1813. Let me repeat that. The NOVEL was published in 1813.
Based on the neckline, I would guess this is an attempt to do a round gown, which was sometimes worn with a sash. Except the sash was worn under the bust, not at the natural waist. Also, the corset she is wearing is Victorian, not Georgian, not Regency. Victorian (yes, they show it in the film and it was Victorian).
A compilation of the costumes worn by Kitty and Lydia. their outfits are more Little House on the Prairie than Jane Austen. Plus they have hair down, which since they are OUT in society, would be up.
Kelly Riley as Caroline Bingley. Her outfits were more correct in terms of waistline. She’s not wearing period undergarments and her ball dress is sleeveless. Sleeveless indicates an under dress, so where’s the rest of her dress?
A better look at the incorrect and inappropriate dress Caroline is wearing. Unless it’s the 1970s.
Lady Catherine is more Marie Antoinette than Austen. While I don’t mind the hair and jewelery, I don’t think Lady Catherine would be that out of date in terms of fashion.
So, you may be wondering, are there any good points? I make an effort to find the positive in all of the adaptations. Wickham’s outfit was period correct (it was also worn by the previous Wickham Adrian Lukas-yes, it’s the same exact coat folk from 1995). I thought Andrew Macfayden’s costumes were fairly decent. His hair irked me as it seemed more appropriate for Mr. Collins than Mr. Darcy. If they wanted something different from the previous three Darcys, then a nice, short a la Titus would have looked nice and nice on him. I actually enjoyed his portrayal of Darcy. He seemed less arrogant than Elizabeth and came across as being more of an intellectual, more of a Romantic (think Wordsworth, Lord Byron) than others have portrayed him. He tried so hard to have any sport of chemistry with Keira Knightly is was quite painful to watch. I have always been of an opinion Keira would have excelled in the role of Caroline Bingley and I think she would have enjoyed that role much more and made more of it.
Fitzwilliam Darcy; instead of a pond scene, we get the Romantic man crossing the moors, which I actually like. Its more Bronte than Austen, but I think Austen would not have minded this.
This shot really shows by what I mean by his hair did him no justice. Macfayden has a wonderful profile and beautiful eyes. the hair and the use of black on him wash him out. He deserved better because he was a decent Darcy.
Portrait of a Man 1809; this kind of choppy, but loose and textured a la Titus would have suited Macfayden. Curls would not have to be there, but the rough texture would have been really great looking on him.
Rosamund Pike is a lovely Jane Bennet, but her relationship with Bingley is regulated to the background as to be almost non existent. This novel is about Jane and Lizzie for the most part, but the focus was on Lizzie and Darcy. And that’s a shame.
Jane, in a gown made to appear to be around 1810, though the waistline is still too low (I believe that is Mary in the background)
Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Lydia, and Mary (Talulah Riley); Mary is about 20 years too early for true Gothic aesthetic.
Other fine points is the dancing as it’s accurate. It’s fast, loud, rowdy, vigorous and seems to be enjoyed by those participating in it. Another fine point is they show a large breakfast being served around 10AM, which is accurate (for more details, please find my blog about Breakfast). For a family that has been written in this version to be so poor, it’s then weird to have Mrs. Bennet inform Mr. Collins that they have a maid. there are so many contradictions in this version it truly does bother me. If you look at the extras in the film, you can see they are all wearing fashions with waistlines from 1808-1810, which I find a bit humorous that the extras are more period correct than the cast.
The Netherfield Ball; Jane’s dress is more of a round gown, but the waist sash is too low. Lizzie’s dress is too modern. the person right next to Lizzie is wearing a gown with a waistline right under her bust, which is period correct.
Hair, like costumes, is an issue. Wickham’s hair has a greasy ponytail for some reason. Men weren’t wearing ponytails after the 1800s. Again, there is nothing about this film that makes sense. Lizzie walks to Meryton with her hair down, which is just wrong on so many levels. She also goes to see Darcy in her nightgown, so there’s that as well. Bingley’s hair is straight from the 1980s meets Harry Styles. It makes no sense. His hair also goes from being a dark red to a reddish blond, which either indicates the scenes were filmed at different times or the lighting was just as weird as the script.
Charles Bingley (Simon Woods)
The 1940 film version
The 1940 Film Version: I recommend this version. It’s still charming and fun. Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson sparkle as Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. While it’s not very accurate, it’s more accurate than the 2005 version and has a much better script. Plus every Darcy since Olivier has been made to look like Olivier (except Macfayden), so there’s a reason for that.
The 1980 (UK) or 1983 (US) BBC Version
The 1980/1983 BBC Version: Again, I recommend this version. While it’s the longest version out there, it’s worth it. We have costumes that were trying to accurate and they succeed for the most part. We have a wonderful script and terrific cast. A few odd choices here and there, but we also get the only (in my opinion) age appropriate Lady Catherine. It’s by no means perfect (no adaptation is), but it still holds up over 30 years later.
1995 BBC/A&E Version
1995 BBC/A&E Version: This really is one of the most perfect adaptations of Pride & Prejudice to date. We have an excellent script, wonderful cast and crew, lovely costumes and breathtaking locations. While the dancing in it isn’t always period correct, it’s still lovely to watch. This is a very hard version to find any flaws with. Colin Firth was worried he would not be taken seriously as Darcy because of Laurence Olivier (you did well Mr. Firth).
2005 Film Version
2005 Film Version: If you are looking for an adaptation that adheres to the novel, this film is not it. The 1940 version has a better script than this one. And I wanted to like this one because I have admired Andrew Macfayden ever since I saw him in Spooks (I watch a lot of British television). But I think a poor script, poor direction, a lot of errors in casting, and all the wrong historical elements (as in being ignored) made this film painful to watch. While Pride & Prejudice is not my favorite Austen novel, it’s one that I do enjoy. If this film was called Lizzie Bennet or Lizzie & Darcy with the premise that this would be a very loose adaptation of the novel, I could see it an enjoy it for the extremely loose usage of the novel in the script. But this was presented and advertised as a fresh new adaptation of the novel. So, while I love Andrew Macfayden as an actor and really did think he made a very decent Darcy, I cannot recommend this film in good conscious. It is a disservice to Jane Austen and the other adaptations that exist out there. Not even the 1987’s Northanger Abbey was this bad (and that adaptation had serious issues of which I have all ready written about).