And did you hear Yanni was recently arrested for spousal abuse? This brings me one step higher on the Most Romantic Guy in the World scale, and still...
In a time in English History so very proper women called their husbands "Mister", the Bennet Family is a skosh down on their luck. Dear old Dad Bennet (Donald Sutherland) promises not to be around forever (he already looks like a cross between Gandalf, Alan Greenspan and Santa Claus), his land is going to a complete dink of a relative named Collins (Tom Hollander) in the absence of a male heir, and his wife (Brenda Blethyn) is positively hen-like in her nervousness about marrying off their five daughters in any succession possible.
Naturally there are suitors even without a dowry for each of the young ladies, being Hot or Homely. It's near scandalous that all the girls are on the proverbial "market" at once, not waiting for eldest (and textually hottest) sister Jane (Rosamund Pike) to... uh... Marry. Trust me, it shouldn't be too hard to get someone to Marry Jane! However, it's second sister Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet (Keira Knightley), the smart, witty, practical, bookish sister who gets our attention. For about ten billion reasons. At some of the many dance and mixing parties the girls attend, we're introduced to Simon Woods' Mr. Bingley and his yummy, if evil sister Caroline (Kelly Reilly, with all her clothes on), Mr. Wickham (Rupert Friend), and most maddeningly, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen).
In spite of an obvious underlying attraction, Darcy and Lizzie cannot stand each other. The true and undeniable science fiction of this adaptation shows itself in the common understanding that Lizzie is relatively unattractive. Uh-huh! Someone with a supermodel's body, cheekbones that could stand up to the very pyramids of Egypt, skin so fair porcelain dolls turn green with envy and eyes the color of the finest brandy is most certainly to wind up on America's Most Homely. While the film makers do their best to make such cuties as Jena Malone (as Lydia), Carey Mulligan (as Kitty) and Talulah Riley (as Mary) look unattractive, Keira Knightley still looks hotter than the face-melting finale of Raiders, and at her weakest glow still outshines Jane by a county mile.
However, it's her acting that makes her the PERFECT lead for Pride & Prejudice. The witty and cleverly charming prose of Jane Austen falls so trippingly from Knightley's tongue that the entire performance is positively enchanting. What's more, this is the tale of a smart and strong girl attempting to maintain her dignity and class in the face of daunting circumstances to say the least. Knightley balances that knowing half-smile we see so often on her with a breaking sorrow, especially when her family or "birth" are insulted. A lesser actress might not have been able to fully encapsulate the richness of Elizabeth Bennet, but Knightley does. And let's face it... being angelically beautiful is hardly a detriment, especially when it comes to the complexities of Lizzie.
Further, MacFadyen's portrayal of the handsome, rich, yet socially inept to the point of rudeness "Mr. Darcy" more than won my sympathy. The many soils his own nest a few times, and that's tragic, but when he pops the uncommonly surprising news that he is in love with Elizabeth against all surface evidence, the social ineptitude is balanced only by the longing of the heart that shows in his face. From this point on he shows his passion amid his propriety, as if he's separated from his true love by an invisible wall. MacFadyen pulls this off amazingly. We never get the blithering romance-deprived Britiot that we see in so many of these snobby aristocratic stories (well, we sort of do in Collins, but, hey! Ah? Hey!). No, the Darcy we get here is not only well-acted, this dude is proper, classy and paced. I mean, I can't really picture him on The A*Team, but I like him, I like him.
Naturally many are all too familiar with this story and will be hard-pressed to find too much surprising in this, which is why we need great actors to pull it off. Those who might also be so familiar with this one that you want to nitpick it to death, Jane Austen's classic novel was adapted by Deborah Moggach, but revised by Emma Thompson who might know a thing or seventy about adapting Jane Austen, right, baby? Besides, even though it makes the fact that Kelly Reilly remains "decent" all the more tragic, Judi Dench is fantastically evil as Darcy's Anally Retentive Auntie, Lady Catherine de Bourg.
The occasional flaw (there is a little too much story to be told in 127 minutes) is easily outdone by the universally fantastic acting, a great script and the steady directing by Joe Wright (which I think is also my milkman's name). The nomination for Best Actress had nothing to do with Looks... Keira is incredible in this role. Four and One Half Stars out of Five for the excellent Pride & Prejudice... it's both Sensible and Sensitive. Huzzah! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get together a gift basket for my wife, complete with flowers, candy, her favorite wine cooler (ice cold), and this very DVD for us to watch together. Unfortunately, she's watching that "A*Team" episode of Family Guy right now, and like an Savings and Loan in the '80's she's just not interested. Man! I try, kids, I try. See you in the next reel. By m'self!
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