Universal // 2005 // 129 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 15th, 2007
"He is not proud. I was wrong, I was entirely wrong about him."
The 2005 take on Jane Austen's masterpiece of 18th century matchmaking hits the HD world and it's a looker.
Stop me if you've heard this before. Lizzie Bennett (Keira Knightley, Bend it Like Beckham) and her eclectic group of sisters are struggling to find love and marriage in the dog-eat-dog world of nuptials negotiation.
Then along comes Mr. Bingley and his BFF Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFayden, MI5), flashing their wealth and boyish good looks and sending the Bennett sisters loopy with delight. Darcy immediately rubs Lizzie the wrong way and she believes him to be a pompous ass.
But as they two find themselves entangled in each other's lives more frequently, their feelings transform and suddenly Lizzie is neck-deep in a vortex of emotions: revulsion, attraction, confusion, they all collide into a tasty, turbulent love frappe.
Pride & Prejudice is the @#$%. In all its iterations, as far as I can tell, thanks to its flawless source material. If Troma released an adaptation that too would likely be awesome. My wife got me hooked on it when she convinced me to watch the legendary BCC miniseries. And though I tend to flee the immediate vicinity of anything that can be remotely categorized as a "chick flick," I was so down with the Darcy-Bennett saga. And I'm down with this most recent of remakes, slickly helmed by director Joe Wright and starring the most beautiful neck in the world, the lovely Miss Knightley. Then you've got MacFayden, an hombre I dug during his tenure on MI5, bringing the goods as the iconic Mr. Darcy. The fruit of this labor is a great addition to the Pride & Prejudice stable of works and a film I would heartily recommend to anyone, even the hapless boyfriend who owes his significant other dearly for having to watch Transformers and Commando two weeks in a row.
While I think the BBC miniseries stands as the be-all of P&P treatments and Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle have laid a firm claim to the roles of Darcy and Lizzie, Joe Wright's treatment is no slouch. More a condensed version of the humongous story, this film hits all the high notes of the story and maximizes the emotional wallop of the crucial scenes: Darcy's confession, Lizzie's realization of his character, Bingley's proposal, Mr. Bennet's blessing. The script from Deborah Moggach is tight and literary at the same time, and Wright's direction never feels rushed, despite the sheer amount of material that has to transpire by the end of the two hours. Wright also manages to sidestep overwrought sentimentality, though he comes close with Darcy's triumphant entrance at the end of the film...but Darcy's so kick-ass it wouldn't have made a difference even if there fireworks in the shape of a heart or flying unicorns behind him.
The acting is all top-shelf, from Donald Sutherland hitting the Mr. Bennet character perfectly to Judi Dench's sinister Catherine de Bourg. The film belongs to Knightley and MacFayden, however, and both deliver. While not eclipsing their BBC predecessors, their takes on Lizzie and Darcy are both faithful and distinctive and the two have chemistry.
This is a great example of a film made for high definition. Boasting great cinematography and a varied color palette, Pride & Prejudice looks fantastic in its spiffy new 1080p 2.35:1 transfer. Noteworthy scenes include the expansive outdoor shots of Lizzie walking through the countryside or staring out pensively over a hilltop. The exquisite production design, especially in Darcy's house, benefits from the boosted picture quality as well as does the excellent costume work. With Universal finally making TrueHD tracks a regular feature on its catalog releases, these re-issues bring even more to the table now. This audio mix (also in Digital Plus) sounds great, despite the heavy reliance on dialogue. But there are moments where the sound design will rock. Darcy's march through the twilight stands out as real crowdpleaser.
The extras have been recycled from the DVD release, but they're still fine. A subdued but honest commentary from Joe Wright is supplemented by a handful of brief, but entertaining featurettes: "Conversation with the Cast" features interviews, "Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time" is a feature on the author's influence, "The Politics of Dating" offers a historical perspective on the rules of courtship back in the day, "Stately Homes" examines the architecture and production design of the homes that appeared in the film, "A Bennet Family Portrait" takes a closer look at the Bennet brood and the HBO First Look is a short promotional documentary.
Any romantic period piece that gives me goosebumps is worthy of a recommendation. The 2005 approach to the literary classic is a splendid adaptation, well-executed from top to bottom. And it's never looked or sounded better than it has on HD-DVD.
Not guilty. Nice boots.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Director's Commentary
* Cast Interviews
* Jane Austen Feature
* Bennet Family Portrait
* HBO First Look
* The Politics of Dating
* Stately Homes