Sunday, March 05, 2006

In Vain Have I Struggled

Sorry for the lack of recent posts. I've only now dragged myself away from my DVD player since the arrival of the new PRIDE AND PREJUDICE movie in the mail earlier in the week.

As a hugely obsessed fan of the 1996 BBC/A&E miniseries and the owner of almost all of Colin Firths available films, I think my creds as an aficionada are pretty much self-evident. Therefore, I'm as shocked as I can be to say that I think Matthew MacFadyen made a lovely Darcy, one who is coming to rival Firth's Darcy in my affections.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen it, turn away now...

The miniseries definitely hewed more closely to the book than the feature film. Because of the time constraints, the two-hour movie, of necessity, had to conflate several scenes into one, trim out characters (Bingley has just one sister in the movie) and give shorter shrift to others (Wickham's role, while pivotal, is much shorter). That said, there was a lot about the feature film that I liked better than the miniseries.

I always thought Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth was too mature and self-composed for her age. Keira Knightly captured the girlishness of Elizabeth that Jennifer lacked, which I think added to the moral of the story: that Elizabeth's pride and vanity--common and universal flaws especially in the young--led to her gravely mistaking the characters of both Darcy and Wickham.

And speaking of Wickham, I always thought the casting of Wickham in the miniseries was a weakness. I didn't find that Wickham physically attractive to begin with, and the actor's choice of how to play him made him seem far too smarmy to ever attract a girl as sensible as Lizzie. However, the feature film's Wickham, Rupert Friend, is, well, pretty hot. Friend played Wickham as a subtle charmer, and it worked much better for me than the Wickham of the mini.

Finally, the chemistry between Knightly and MacFadyen was sizzling. Every scene between them sparked, especially the doomed proposal scene. In the miniseries, this is one of the most excruciating scenes, one I usually cringe my way through. In fairness to the mini, the scene is much more true to the book than the one of the movie. However, I'm going to forgive the movie for straying from the book because the way the proposal played out on screen made my palms sweat. Even as Lizzie and Darcy argued and antagonized, the sexual tension between them set my TV ablaze.

On the whole, the romance worked better, for me, in the movie because it was not so rigorously constrained as it was in the miniseries. Even though there was no kiss until the very end, in a coda that gives us a brief, lovely glimpse of the newly married couple at home, the passion between Elizabeth and Darcy pulsed in every scene between them, growing inexorably until they meet early one morning and confess their love in a sweetly understated moment that throbs with emotion.

My first time through the movie, I found myself missing the things that had been in the miniseries but not in the movie. However, on second viewing, I really appreciated the elements the movie chose to highlight and illuminate that the miniseries didn't.

Lovely, lovely adaptation. I highly recommend it.


MaryF said...

I ended up buying it despite my protests. I really loved that last scene, and they DID have some great chemistry!

Paula said...

Mary, when I first started hearing rumors of a new P & P movie, three or four years ago, Brad Pitt was mentioned as Darcy. I was horrified; no offense to Pitt, but I can't remotely imagine him as Darcy.

When I read that Matthew MacFadyen had been cast as Darcy, I was relieved. I'm a big fan of his work in the first season of MI-5 (aka SPOOKS), the British spy series. He was a revelation in that role, and I had no trouble imagining him as Darcy.

I was glad to see my faith in him was well-deserved.

MaryF said...

I was emailing a friend who just got the movie and has watched it FIVE TIMES since Thursday!