Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by:Deborah Moggach
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen, Judi Dench, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Jena Malone, Rosamund Pike, Simon Woods
Released: October 20, 2005
Grade: A-

I’ll never forget the moment when Emma Thompson won an Oscar back in 1997 for her adapted screenplay of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility (a long time favourite of mine).  She thanked the producer of the film, Sydney Pollack, “for asking all the right questions – like, why couldn’t these women go out and get a job?”  For those familiar with the world of Jane Austen, you have to laugh at Pollack’s perspective.

Pride & Prejudice introduces us to Mr & Mrs Bennett (played by Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn) and their five daughters.  Unfortunately for the Bennett sisters, they’ve been born into an era where the word “career” has no meaning.  Their purpose is to find the best, mostly wealthy bachelor available and never let go.  There was nothing more important than one’s reputation and social standing in 19th Century England.

It is at a ball when the second eldest daughter, Elizabeth (Knightley) first catches a glimpse of a bored looking gentleman named Mr. Darcy (MacFadyen).  Inquiring about him, Lizzy is told that “miserable he may be, but poor he most certainly is not”.  The two exchange glances, some quick banter but Lizzy is unable coax him onto the dancefloor.  His cards are being kept very close to his chest.

Their introduction sparks a flirtation which spans over many months.  Fate keeps bringing them together but fate also finds a way of breaking them apart.  Truths are concealed, misinterpretations are made and time is never in their favour.  It all plays out like a great Shakespearean romance.  If you love you comedy mixed with tragedy and eloquent dialogue, you’ll find this film for you.

Unless of course… you’ve already seen the BBC’s 310 minute mini-series which was first screened here in Australia in 1996.  It featured Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in the leading roles and whilst I have never seen it myself, I’m yet to meet someone who speaks badly of it.  Those expecting a replica of the BBC version should prepare for disappointment.  This cinematic version clocks in at just 127 minutes and from what I’ve been told, provides a different spin on the characters and their personas.

Keira Knightley hasn’t impressed me as actress until now.  She brings strength to Elizabeth Bennett whilst delicately showing her inner insecurities.  My pick of the cast has to be Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies) who plays the mother, Mrs. Bennett.  She’s incredibly annoying and you’ll just want to punch her sometimes but her over-anxiety provided many laughs and reminded me so much of people I know.

I usually don’t advise that people read the book after seeing the movie but Pride & Prejudice may be a rare exception.  The film does feel rushed at times (particularly towards the end) and so a reading of Jane Austen’s novel will probably fill in many of the gaps.  It is a classic story.