He’s Stony, She’s Bennett

It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a person who craves a classic romance story, must be in want of a Jane Austen novel. Well, the Brits seem to think so anyway. Look at the Austenmania on the screen. For the last decade, there has been different versions of “Pride and Prejudice:” the successful BBC mini-series, the contemporary “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and the Bollywood musical “Bride and Prejudice.” The latest “Pride and Prejudice” stays true old-school, but gives it a fresh twist called Kiera Knightley.

Knightley is fine and fetching as Lizzie, the second oldest daughter of the Bennett family. She and her older sis Jane (Rosamund Pike) are at the ripe age of marrying and their mother (Brenda Blethyn) is eager to match them with wealthy bachelors. Among the rich suitors are Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFayden), whom the Bennett ladies meet at a pahty. Bingley and Jane are totally crushing on each other, while Darcy and Lizzie clash. The handsome Darcy has a stony demeanor, which Lizzie assumes to be a product of pride. Lizzie goes all out to be verbal monstrous to him, under that subtle and respectable English tone. Poor emotionally challenged Darcy, he goes to a ball and his balls get crushed by a feisty woman. Yeah, totally crushing on each other.

I’m guessing that people most interested with the movie are the ones who already know the story. In that case, familiarity hardly brings suspense to the outcome of this twisty romance. However, if you have no idea or are compelled to watch because you’re too lazy to read it for a book report, then you might be in for a treat. I don’t like romance stories in general, because writers tend to ineptly separate a couple just so they could inevitably reunite. Usually, it’s about a stupid misunderstanding. “Pride and Prejudice,” on the other hand, is quite credible, despite some alluring developments. Austen zeroes in on men’s and women’s judgmental mentality when it comes to finding “the one.” First (even if false) impressions are critical. It’s true then and it’s still true now.

The novel Pride and Prejudice is a romantic comedy in my opinion. It bothers me that this movie adaptation had little comedy to laugh about. It aspires to be more dramatic. And because of this, critics (who tend to praise drama more than comedy) approve. This puts a spin on the Lizzie character. She’s sometimes shockingly revolting with her mordant tongue. When I read the book (“read” the last chapters in Cliff Notes), I found her to be utterly beguiling creature. As fitting as Knightley in the role, there’s something askew in the interpretation. Or am I complaining too much for adhering to my own strict vision of the novel?

Indeed, the best scenes are the dramatic confrontations, where Knightley shows just enough raw talent to be in contention for Best Actress. The chemistry between Knightley and MacFayden is alarmingly tense. As for the rest of the cast (with the exceptions of Blethyn’s comical performance and Dench’s powerfully stern role), they are average at best. The movie could have been better. This “Pride and Prejudice” might become forgettable among with the other Pride and Prejudices. I bet you that this romance story will be depicted again in a movie, in one form or another. Or is this just my pride and prejudice speaking?

Grade: B+

Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Simon Woods, and Judi Dench
Screenplay by
Deborah Moggach
Based on the novel by
Jane Austen
Directed by
Joe Wright
Rated PG for some mild thematic element