Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, UK) [B]
Could you guess that I’ve never read the book? Most of the attention this has accrued -- at least round these parts -- has had to do with the shocking news that it doesn’t in fact suck, a development they might as well brag about in the adverts. Unfortunately, Matthew MacFadyen, as erstwhile chick magnet Mark Darcy, does, doing what I can only assume is a shoddy Colin Firth impersonation. Luckily, he’s the only major misstep as far as I can tell. Even Keira, while still not proving that she’s an actress, uses her college-age gawkiness to her advantage. I have no clue what and how much was shorn from the source (let alone its much beloved 1995 BBC miniseries), but the film, to me, never felt rushed, and proved capable of replicating many of its presumed riches without breaking a sweat. Things rarely feel dilluted or made easily digestible. For one thing, Keira is never simply an Independent Woman Before Her Time, and nor is eldest sister Rosamund Pike ever punished for being the most attractive of the five sisters, as would be fashionable virtually anywhere else. (Which, okay, I’m sure is in the book. Still, it’s a nice touch.) Essentially, it manages to be passably deft without ever being self-satisfied about same, and the performances (excepting the aforementioned) are uniformly fine. Donald Sutherland, for instance, comes off as the coolest dad to five girls ever, and with only maybe ten minutes of screentime, if that. (As for Wright's cinematic fillips: they're welcome without ever feeling ostentatious, which is saying something considering the miraculous tracking shots.) Also, guess what? I’ve never read any Austen. This film, or at least the in-the-know discussions held by my peers, made me want to belatedly correct that.