A Disappointing Adaptation
It was inevitable that fans would compare this to the much loved 1995 BBC version, however, if we try to view it separately, how does it fare? In many ways it tries hard, but ultimately falls flat on its face in many respects. The traditional length of just over two hours running time, is not a lot, when trying to condense material of this size and nature. However, when the right director and script writer are teamed, it can be achieved. Sadly, this is not the case, with Pride & Prejudice. Instead, we are given a story that feels like it is on fast forward. Things often happen in one scene, that would otherwise have occurred over several. As a result, it often doesn't flow naturally, and instead appears forced. Conclusions, decisions and emotions seem leapt to, without due reason.
Then we have the filming style. True, the tones of the film are lush and vibrant, with lots of detail, however it seems that they borrowed a camera man from NYPD blue. It's toned down, but we are still treated to that 'documentary' style of film making so popular today, intended to make the viewer feel as though things are being filmed live. The camera shifts constantly, just tiny subtle moves, a slight pan to the left, a slight zoom, etc. It is quite simply inappropriate to the tone of the film, and jars the viewer out of the atmosphere. The composition of a shot no-longer seems important, when instead the director can just keep the camera on the move rather than think about what is going on film.
Finally, there's the casting and script. Characters like Bingley are portrayed as a wild haired buffoon, rather than simply a shy and naïve gentleman. The Bennets, while not a rich family, were certainly not poor. However, here they are portrayed practically living in squalor on a collapsing farm. Characters act in ways that seem far too modern, which is admittedly perhaps the goal, to draw in those who couldn't cope with subtler dialogue. Last but not least, we have Keira Knightly. A proficient, and pretty enough actress, but far too lightweight for a nuanced role like Elizabeth Bennet. She would have been far better suited to the role of Lydia, and indeed almost comes over as a flighty, 'giddy teen'.
The rest of the cast do what they can with their roles, in most cases well enough, with Rosamund Pike and Tom Hollander standing out. While the normally reliable Donald Sutherland tries his best, in a dreadfully miscast role. Macfadyen plays his part mechanically, but well enough, simply coming over as a different take on Darcy, rather than especially better or worse than others.
Yet to round it all off, we are given a conclusion straight out of a bad Mills & Boon novel (either the American, or British end). Ultimately, it is a disappointment, to see such strong material, simply raced through, and 'spiced up' to appeal to a contemporary audience, who are probably just being under-estimated in their ability to enjoy something with depth and subtlety.