- Rated PG
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
e all have weaknesses. For Superman, it’s Kryptonite. For every other man in the world, it’s Jane Austen. You could imagine my hesitation, then, when I was given the chore of reviewing the updated film version of the author’s masterpiece, “Pride & Prejudice,” a novel that never failed in putting me to sleep. Still, her painfully slow novels contain the type of rich characters that should be mandatory in every story you read. As a testament to this, it’s important to point out that Austen’s work has also been used as the basis for many current films I’ve enjoyed, including “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” This doesn’t change the simple fact, however, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a sane man who’s willing to run out and see this film with a woman. It’s relationship suicide – no matter how sexy you find star Keira Knightley – because you’ll never be as charming, or as sensitive, to your partner again.
For the lucky men who’ve managed to dodge the Austen bullet up until now, and for those that never quite understood what the heck was going on, the story opens in 18th Century England with the middle-class Bennet family preparing to give away their five daughters’ hands in marriage. The eldest daughter, Jane (Rosamund Pike), has already found a suitable husband in the wealthy Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), but when he unexpectedly loses interest, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn, respectively) look to their second eldest, Elizabeth (Knightley), in securing a future with a financially-secure gentleman. Elizabeth, however, is much too stubborn to worry about winning the heart of just any man, but when she meets her match in the equally tenacious Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden), an unexpected romance develops.
Ever since Colin Firth’s much-talked about performance in the television mini-series of the same name, the task of playing Mr. Darcy has become a near-impossible feat – as if no actor could ever outshine the British veteran in the role. It’s probably true, especially considering that Firth has played the role to perfection not once, but twice (“Bridget Jones’ Diary”) in a span of six years. If there ever was an actor who could pull it off, though, it’s newcomer Matthew Macfayden, whose own portrayal of Darcy feels like it’s been ripped straight from the pages of Austen’s novel. Keira Knightley is equally enchanting in the lead, proving why she's one of the best actresses of her generation.
It’s not surprising that she’s even managed to steal the show from such olds hands as Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench, both of whom deliver such entertaining supporting performances that it would have been nice to see them in larger roles. The story, however, isn’t about a couple old farts, but rather two beautiful youngsters falling in love. The material may not be that stimulating for the average male, but it’s a classic love story that definitely deserves to be told. I’m not saying you should love it; just respect it.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Joe Wright's "Pride & Prejudice" may come to Blu-ray under Universal's new Academy Award banner, but the special features are barely worth mentioning. The first three featurettes (“A Bennet Family Portrait,” “Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time,” and “Behind-the-Scenes at the Ball”) are summed up nicely in the “HBO First Look” special that includes all of the same interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Also included is a commentary with Wright, but listening to a guy talk about Jane Austen is like listening to a monkey talk about oranges. We know they’re not interested, so why even bother?