Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tell me not that I am too late

A real review of P&P 2005

After reviewing P&P 2005 without having actually seen the movie I thought I should probably watch it so that I would be able to talk about it intelligently. It wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. Although given my expectations, almost anything would not be as bad as I had thought it would be. Here are my thoughts, the bad first.

A minor note. Since someone involved in the 2005 movie decided to change Elizabeth’s nickname from Lizzy to Lizzie, I have seized on their (odd) change. Througout, “Lizzie” will refer to the Elizabeth of the 2005 movie, “Lizzy” to the book or the 1995 miniseries.

Spoilers, somewhat obviously.


Major problems first. The dialogue is…well, I wrote abysmal down while watching it. Perhaps not wonderful would be kinder. I simply don’t understand many of the changes made. For instance, one of the very first sentences we hear from Mr. Bennet has been stripped of its charm. Compare, “You wish to tell me and I have no objection to hearing it,” to “As you wish to tell me, my dear, I doubt I have any choice in the matter.” What? How do you go from one to the other? And why was such a change made? There is no reason that I can see. This is Jane Austen we’re talking about, not some unknown and still untested writer. In fact, messing with her work is only going to make Some Folks Very Unhappy. (I’m done channeling A.A. Milne now. I promise.)

In this screenplay Lizzie turns from a witty and intelligent young woman to a pouty and bitter girl. I am still not sure why this line was added: “Humourless poppycocks, in my limited experience.” Lizzy would not have given voice to such a sentiment and I am highly doubtful as to whether she even would have thought it. The men in her world are not perfect but they are not all humourless poppycocks either. Again, after Mr. Collins proposes to Lizzie, she refuses to marry him saying, “You cannot make me.” Lizzy certainly refuses to marry Mr. Collins but she does not do it in such juvenile terms. I can respect Lizzy; I cannot respect Lizzie despite my agreement with her position.

She is also highly vocally critical of her parents. In the book we see Lizzy’s criticism and share it but we only know her criticism because we are privy to her thoughts. She never expresses it except to Mr. Bennet when he allows Lydia to go to Brighton and then in mild terms under extreme provocation.

Speaking of her parents, I feel that no one involved really understood the Bennets. They come off as an almost-happily married couple. Wha-at?? Mr. Bennet is particularly butchered, not so much by Donald Sutherland’s acting (although I still like Benjamin Whitrow better) as by the strange changes made to his character in the script. For instance, why is he at the Meryton ball? While he does attend the Netherfield ball, I hold that he is not really a ball-goer. He is a gentleman most at home in his library (“In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house, he was used to be free from them there” Ch. XV) and one who is a master of snark and sarcasm. One lovely example from Chapter VII:

“After listening one morning to their effusions on the subject, Mr. Bennet coolly observed,

‘From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced.’”

Where is the 2005 sweet, bumbling, diskempt Mr. Bennet in that statement? If more proof is needed, just look at his treatment of poor Mr. Collins.

Another set of major faults I find with the film are the gratuitous historical inaccuracies. A great deal of ink has been spilled about these but I’ll spill my own bottle willingly. Honestly, one would assume that if one is going to set a film in another time period one would do some research into that time period and it’s social conventions. Wouldn’t one? This one would at any rate. I cannot see much evidence of any such research. There is a general sense of the time period—the sort of general sense you get from a superficial glance at a textbook. A friend of mine pointed out that a large portion of the general public won’t really care one way or the other. This is true. But that other portion is quite vocal and will be ever so much happier with everyone if they know what they’re talking about. Here are the glaring inaccuracies that I spotted, in chronological order:

1) Why the livestock all over the place at Longbourn? The Bennets may have had a farm but this does not mean that they were incapable of keeping their animals properly sectioned off, nor does it mean that they roamed through the house.

2) At Netherfield, why oh why oh why does Bingley come into Jane’s room? What on earth were they thinking? Bingley is a gentleman, Jane (to steal her sister’s phrase) a gentleman’s daughter. He simply would not have done this. Period.

3) Why is there only one Bingley sister? Mrs. Hurst actually serves a very useful purpose. Caroline can say things to her that should not possibly, with any propriety, say to either Bingley or Darcy. Taking her away leaves Caroline confiding in Darcy, of all people and telling him the most inappropriate things, as in the breakfast scene at Netherfield after Lizzie comes in. (And where is Bingley in this scene, might I ask?)

4) Wickham is not a foot soldier. He is an officer. See Chapter XV: “Mr. Denny [an officer] addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps.” Unless they are interpreting “foot soldier” very loosely as anyone-who-is-not-cavalry I’m not sure where they got that idea from. And they evidently don’t see the implications. If Wickham really is a foot soldier then he is not a gentleman and the Bennet girls probably would not have been on the same level of intimacy. We can, of course, argue that he is not really respectable given his actions, but until he runs away with Lydia he has standing in society. Not a very high standing, but a standing none the less.

5) What on earth is Lady Catherine doing visiting the Bennets in the middle of the night? The book clearly states that she visits during the day (Ch. LVI: “One morning, about a week after Bingley’s engagement with Jane had been formed….”) and it would beyond all bounds of propriety for her to visit in the middle of the night. Couldn't she have stayed the night a) with the Bingleys or b) at an inn? Besides, since this scene is now set in the middle of the night and Lizzie and Lady Catherine’s conversation takes place in the house, the wilderness remark becomes meaningless. Why was it left in?

6) Second proposal scene anyone? I spent the entire scene asking myself, the air around me, and my roommate why Darcy would even be near Longbourn that early in the morning and dressed like that. Gracious, couldn’t the man put some clothes on before traipsing over the three miles? And when he sees Lizzy wouldn’t he turn around and go home to return later in the day? Oh, but he was too enamoured of her! How unutterably sweet. He can’t even wait a few hours to propose.

My Brontë point from the first review still stands.

Minor problems. Some of these will probably make some ask what on earth is wrong with me. But they bothered me, so here they are in all their prejudiced and geeky glory.

What is up with the costumes??? I could forgive the inaccuracies if they were at least pretty. They aren’t. Caroline Bingley wore red with her carrot-y red hair for heaven’s sakes! And Lizzy was kept in a depressingly drab palette throughout the movie except for the Netherfield ball and the visit to Pemberley (the only dress of hers I actually liked). Jane’s costumes weren’t bad but all in all the costuming was quite sad. In my opinion.

And on a similar note, “The hair, Louisa, the hair!” Why was Lizzie’s hair down so much? It may have been tousled on the walk to Netherfield but there is absolutely no indication that it was fully down. Also, I could tell KK was wearing a wig in the last bits and I usually miss any and all goofs.

I thought Mary was very pretty to be Mary and could easily have pulled off Lydia. In the same vein, I thought Jena Malone was mis-cast. Not flirtatious enough, and not obviously pretty enough either. (I’m not saying that I don’t think Miss Malone isn’t pretty. I just don’t think she’s Lydia pretty.)

I missed Sir William Lucas and his ridiculous funniness. I know that for a two hour movie they had to make cuts but he is honestly one of my favorite minor characters and I was sad that he didn’t make it into much of the film. And what little he was in wasn’t very funny at all.

Why the red hair for the Bingleys? Was this just a, “Oh we cast Simon Woods. We should find a red haired actress to play his sister,” or was there some deeper significance that I missed? (The Scarlet Hair: Or Caroline Bingley as Secret Adulteress.)


I did have some, believe it or not.

The beginning. If they had kept that mood up throughout the movie I would have been a happy camper. It was intimate, lovely, and Austeny.

The laundry at Longbourn was fine with me. The animals I object to. Strenuously.

Rosamond Pike as Jane. I thought she did a lovely job and gave Susannah Harker a major run for her money. In fact, she may even have beaten her. She radiated a sweet and lovely composure that concealed a depth of feeling which I thought fit very well indeed with the Jane of the book.

Matthew MacFadyen was not bad as Darcy. He wasn’t amazing either (in my opinion) and Colin Firth still owns the role, but he had his moments. He redeemed the first proposal from utter abyssmalness. If he had come before the 1995 version I’m sure we would all have thought him very good indeed. The fact that he’s married to Keeley Hawes, one of my favorite actresses, only helped his case. (Yes, I am that shallow, in case you were wondering.)

Mr. Bingley is dorkily cute. Crispin Bonham-Carter still gets the award for bringing a smile to my face whenever he comes in the room—a very Bingley characteristic—but Simon Woods was not at all bad. I especially liked the part when he practices his proposal, extraneous and non-book as it was. And his line when Jane is ill at Netherfield: “It’s a pleasure. I mean, it’s not a pleasure that she’s ill, of course. But it’s a pleasure that she’s here…being ill” (Paraphrased, so please don’t come at me with cries of rage and copies of the script if I’m wrong. Although gentle correction is always appreciated.) had me in tears of amusement.

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone could come close to David Bamber. I was wrong. Tom Hollander was superb. I almost fell out of my chair several times. Osbourne, what have they done to you? (If you got the reference, cyber chocolate points come your way. If you got it without looking him up on IMDb, you get more cyber chocolate points.)

The music was all I had heard it was. Now I can enjoy TWO P&P scores!! Aren’t I a lucky girl? I do wish they had used period instruments but otherwise it was loverly.

Judi Dench’s delivery of the “shades of Pemberley” line made me laugh quite a bit.
The UK last scene with Lizzie asking Mr. Bennet’s permission to marry Mr. Darcy. That was lovely and the best acting from Miss Knightley or Mr. Sutherland in the entire movie. I especially liked the “He has been a fool, but then so have I” line. If they had taken that concept and run with it I would be a much happier person.

All in all, I’m not going to buy it. The 1995 version will remained enshrined in my heart as THE version to go by. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be either. The acting was very good in parts, especially the supporting characters, and it redeemed some of the horrible dialogue. I didn’t swoon and gush, but I didn’t (quite) throw up either.

1 comment:

MissElinor said...

I certainly enjoyed reading your review, Maureen -- late as it is. ;) I'm not sure that my list of "Likes" is quite as long as yours, but on most of the points your opinions were parallel to mine. Definitely not one for my collection!