Ah yes, this tasty number, the book that launched a thousand adaptations. Before I reveal my favourite, let me start by saying I love ALL OF THEM. Every. Single. One. This was my favourite Austen book in my youth (it was also my first Austen book) (you always remember your first) and though my order of favourites frequently changes, Pride and Prejudice consistently remains in my top 3.
Whether it’s my favourite book or not, it’s always the story I most enjoy seeing on the screen. If you tell me that a movie or TV show is even loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, I am instantly in, no questions asked. There’s just something electric about a stuffy arrogant dreamboat being humbled by a sassy heroine, you know what I mean? Yeahhhhhh, if you’re here, you totally know what I mean.
Personally, the BBC’s 1995 version is my P&P for LIFE. It’s the one I watched over and over throughout my university years, and Colin Firth is forever seared upon my heart as Mr. Darcy. Buuuuuuuuuuut, it’s 6 hours long, and I have a job and hobbies and friends (I SWEAR), so the 2005 Keira Knightly/Matthew Macfadyen vehicle it is! And might I just say… this is an excellent movie. It is seriously very good, and I get the stomach-tingles every time I watch it. The direction, the acting, the sets, costumes, the music, the editing; all those long, unbroken shots are so artistic and world-building, and they make you feel like you’re wandering about the grounds yourself.
The movie opens with one of those aforementioned unbroken shots, and it was honestly the perfect way to softly introduce the Bennets, going about their lives, working themselves into a tizzy about Netherfield Park being let (also, there were SO many linens… just so many, like, a concerning amount – why are they going through SO MANY linens).
Mr. B does not give a single eff about anything. He’s a sardonic man surrounded by women, who just wants to be left alone so he can read, or build a boat, or practice burping the alphabet, or whatever it is dudes do. But, as it turns out, he had already visited the new neighbours, and he confirmed that they will be at the ball (there’s always a ball).
When Mr. Bingley, his sister Caroline, and Mr. Darcy entered the ball, the music, the dancing, the chatter, it all stopped, and the crowd parted as the three walked through. It was superbly awkward, and the perfect introduction to our heroes.
After an introduction were Mr. Lucas was all, “may I introduce all the main characters,” Charles Bingley instantly fell in love with Jane, while Darcy completely ignored everyone; a moment that summed up both of their personalities perfectly.
Elizabeth, being the troublesome little scamp she is, was hiding behind some… I want to say bleachers? when she overheard Darcy say that she’s “not handsome enough to tempt” him. Awwwww shit, Darcy, you in it now! Naturally, the next time they spoke, she sassed him about it, and his face was all, “whoa, why is my heart exploding?”
I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the best relationship in this story; Elizabeth and Jane. These two are so different in their personality types, but that doesn’t stop them from being besties forever and ever. On top of their familial bond, they also have the same core values, and want nothing but the best for each other, to the point where they will fight for the other’s happiness. There is utmost confidence, adoration, and trust on both sides. Compare that to Kitty and Lydia, or even Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. I don’t think there’s a stronger female bond in all of the Austen works, which is why this story remains forever in my top 3.
Jane got a letter from Caroline Bingley inviting her over for some chats and pillow fights. Being the wily minx she is, Mrs. B insisted on making her go on horseback instead of the carriage so that she couldn’t return home on account of the rain. This, of course, activated Austen Law, which states that any heroine who gets caught in the rain shall befall a sickly fate.
Mr. Bingley was nothing but adorable awkward attentiveness, and honestly ladies, let’s not kid ourselves; this dude is a total dreamboat. I see a lot of articles, lists, and videos about the hunks of Austen (I have a life, I swear), and the bumbling, shy Mr. Bingley never fares well. But he’s so cuuuuuuuuuuuuute, and you KNOW he would never be mean to her, and he would treat her as an equal, and bring her chicken soup, and make a big deal about her birthday.
While waiting for Jane to recover, Elizabeth was forced to spend time with her hosts. She got to watch Caroline Bingley’s gross attempt to flirt with Darcy, which of course, failed miserably. This led to Darcy’s description of his ideal woman, to which Elizabeth was all, “hahahaha, that bitch does not exist.” It was not the first time she effortlessly shut him down, and also not the first time he got a total boner about it.
After the remaining Bennet women peer-pressured Bingley into agreeing to throw a ball, they returned home to find a surprise house guest.
Meet Mr. Collins, a distant cousin of Mr. B, and (because regency laws were stupid), the heir to Longbourne. He’s a total boob who says things like, “What a superbly featured room and what excellent boiled potatoes. Many years since I’ve had such an exemplary vegetable,” which honestly made me laugh out loud. After dinner (where he was oblivious of the women full-on roasting him) he took a “particular interest” (barf) in Jane, but Mrs. B was all, “no dice, go for the next one.”
On a jaunt to town the girls meet a handsome soldier named Wickham who travelled allllllll the way to flirt town with Lizzie, then walked them all home. On the way they saw Bingley and Darcy, and after some obvious beef was displayed, Wickham told Elizabeth that Darcy is a no-good poo head who denied him his inheritance and spat in his hot chocolate one time or something. Could it be truuuuuueeeee????
In was time for the ball at Netherfield! Collins, in his misguided belief that Elizabeth shall be his, essentially stalked her the entire evening, and generally made a nuisance of himself. She was especially disappointed when she found out Wickham wouldn’t be there because of the great betrayal (barf), and on top of that, she was asked to dance by a jerk-faced jerk!
Darcy and Elizabeth had a rousing session of dance-fight-flirting where they sassed all over each other about various topics, including Wickham (though Darcy didn’t quite follow that one, considering he knows nothing of the lies Wickham told). This is one more example of excellent direction and production, where the rest of the people in the ball disappeared and it was just the two of them. Was this the first time this effect has been done in a movie? No. Was it still very cool in the way it conveyed their budding obsession with each other? Yep!
We were once again delighted to another unbroken travelling shot of the ball, and let me tell you, the Bennets did not put out a great showing, what with Lydia and Kitty flouncing about, Mary monopolizing the piano, Collins making an ass of himself to Darcy, and Mrs. B drunkenly bragging about her daughter’s future advantageous marriage.
Collins asked for the room in the middle of breakfast (what kind of monster would interrupt BREAKFAST), and proposed to Elizabeth a million times because she kept saying no and he kept not believing her (ugh). She eventually had to run away from him as Mrs. B chased her into the woods. Luckily Mr. B was on Lizzie’s side, and delivered the beloved line; “From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
This was the line in the book that made me think Mr. B was the coolest dude. More on this later.
Meanwhile, Jane got a letter from Caroline implying Bingley is heading to flirt-town with Georgiana, Darcy’s sister. Since that was clearly utter bullshit, Jane was packed onto a carriage and sent to London to win back her man (by waiting around for him to come to her).
The reasons these women had to get married are terrifying. Charlotte had to resign herself to life with an utter buffoon because she was twenty-seven and unlikely to find anyone else, and therefore was a FINANCIAL BURDEN ON HER PARENTS. A woman with no husband had no livelihood, no life at all. I’m getting short of breath just thinking about how trapped Regency women were.
Moving on! Lizzie went to visit Charlotte in her new home with her new weiner of a husband and had the supposed honour of meeting Lady Catherine de Bourgh (the ever amazing Dame Judy Dench).
Look who it is! Darcy is the snooty rich lady’s (there’s always a snooty rich lady) nephew! And he just happened to be visiting at the same time as Elizabeth. Both of them seemed VERY flustered by this turn of events, which was obviously very delicious to watch. This turned especially scrumptious when Lady Snoot-Face started grilling Elizabeth at the dinner table about her hobbies and accomplishments, and her answers were exactly the opposite of everything Darcy said that his ideal woman should be. Hahaha, oh Darcy, you big clueless dummy.
After dinner they went into the parlour and Lady Snoots made Lizzie play the piano, which gave them ample opportunity to snark-flirt at each other. The next day Darcy turned into a total weirdo and showed up at the Collins house, stood there awkwardly staring at Lizzie for a hot sec, then vamoosed without explanation.
Then it was time for church, where Darcy’s pal let it slip to Elizabeth that Darcy is the reason Bingley ditched Jane. Boyyyyy was her blood a’boilin’, which was the perfect time for a sorta rude, backhanded proposal.
Whooooooooooboy this was rough! Our boy is so damn clueless! Basically, he admitted that he warned Bingley away from Jane for REASONS, and Elizabeth was wildly unimpressed. Then she brought up Wickham, and instead of just telling her the truth, he spewed sarcastic sexual tension all over her, which momentarily bewitched them both into almost making out. Then he stormed off in a sexy huff.
Seriously, you guys, this movie is so good, and these actors are ELECTRIC.
Anyway, she stared at herself in the mirror for a long ass time and he snuck up all brooding to leave her a letter that explained everything – he was wrong about Jane, and sorry about it. More importantly, Wickham is a steaming piece of GARBAGE who seduced Darcy’s fifteen-year-old sister for her money.
Jane returned from London insisting she was completely over Bingley and his sweet little smile and his adorable awkwardness and his cute voice, and his kind eyes and words, and his shy adoration, and everything’s fine, Jane’s totally fine. Meanwhile, Lydia was invited to Brighton, while Elizabeth got to go on a road trip with her Aunt and Uncle. They ended up on a tour of Pemberley; Darcy’s embarrassingly enormous estate.
Who should be at home and in the exact place where Elizabeth stumbled into, but Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy himself! She ran away into the garden, but he followed and they had an adorably awkward exchange where she was like, “oh shit, last time we spoke I rejected your proposal” (with her eyes), and he was like, “right, yeah, but like, did you read the letter?” (with his eyes) And she was like, “Of course I read it, and now I’m pretty sure I’m totally in love with you,” (with her whole body), and he was like, “should we say these things out loud?” (with his eyebrows), and she was like, “not a change, bub,” and then she ran away.
Darcy invited them to meet his sister Georgiana (who is a total shipper), and to dinner, but before they could sit down, Lizzie got a letter from Jane telling them that Lydia had run off with Wickham, dun dunnn DUNNNNNNN.
Darcy scampered off on unrelated business (haha, sure bud), while Lizzie went home to Longbourn to pace and stress and listen to her mother bemoan their ruined fate. BUT THEN a letter came that informed them Lydia and Wickham were married, making it obvious that Wickham must’ve been paid off. But by whom????? *giggle*
Jane Austen was scathing, and one doesn’t have to dissect her work to find her opinions. Wickham seduced both Lydia and Georgiana (a perfectly docile rule-follower), so it wasn’t a criticism against being a silly woman (though it’s clear Austen did not think highly of Lydia). Instead, it seems a cautionary tale against the kind of men who would prey on such women, as if Austen herself were sitting in their favourite reading chaise, telling them, “the world must change to give us more autonomy, but until that happens, be vigilant, be self-aware, be informed, and for the sanity of those around you, don’t be a silly idiot.”
Anyway, they had dinner and everyone politely ignored the fact that their new brother had to be threatened and bought. Lydia prattled on like a clueless twit, accidentally letting it slip that Darcy hunted them down and arranged (and paid for) her happily-ever-after.
Darcy cleared things up with Bingley and then brought him to Longbourn where he adorably chickened out and needed a cute pep-talk-rehearsal in a field where Darcy pretended to be Jane. *delighted giggle*
And so Bingley and Jane were engaged! It was very sweet, and you can tell exactly the kind of sweet and loving marriage they will have.
Lady Catherine showed up in the middle of the night to have a little girl chat with Elizabeth about the rumours that she may currently or someday be engaged to Darcy. The rumours were refuted, but then Lizzie was like, “never say never! K bye!” and kicked her snooty ass out. Then she went for a walk and spied a certain dreamboat walking through the mist.
After Darcy walked for an awkwardly long time (meet him halfway, girl!), he was all, “I still dig you,” and she was like, “cool,” and he proposed and she said yes. It was all very swoon-worthy. Of course then they had to have some chats with Mr. B who was like, “so catch me up, we don’t hate him?” and she was all, “naw”, and she told him the truth about what he did for Lydia, and he was like, “oh damn, sure, okay.”
You guys, people were so mad. If twitter were around back then, there would have been a tweet-storm about the AUDACITY of a movie daring to change even a single thing about the beloved book. Instead there were articles… upon articles, UPON ARTICLES. Just so many. I remember TV interviews about it, and op-eds, and smoke signals and protest signs (j/k, but people were very vocal about it).
Personally, I thought it was very cheesy and tacked-on, and very un-Austen (though I didn’t quite understand why it felt so out of place at the time), but… I wasn’t mad at it. It’s a movie, and its first priority isn’t loyalty to the source material, it’s to please the audience. Modern audiences have been trained to expect a kiss at the end of a love story, and that’s what this movie gave us. I was a little disappointed in this scene at the missed opportunity to give us my favourite line in the book: “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
I mean come on, it was RIGHT THERE!
Anyway. Yeah. I really liked this movie. I mentioned before that the 1995 version is my ride or die, but I do enjoy this movie with equal fervour. It’s a quicker payoff, if you’re feeling like some sassy regency romance and don’t have 6 hours to commit.
- It’s such a fun happy ending, but… Collins still gets their estate, right? How do the advantageous marriages save the rest of the family? Will they go live at Netherfield or Pemberley? Or will Darcy just buy Longbourn from Collins?
- You guys, does Mary have a lil’ crush on Collins???
- Dame Judy Dench is a treasure.
- Can we have a quick chat about the Bennet parents? When I first read this book, I thought Mr. B was so cool. I still do, but now that I’m older, I see the cracks in his personality, and the way he treats his wife (and sometimes daughters). He was useless against Lydia’s situation, and was even quite insulting to her, implying that getting rejected by a bunch of men will be good for her. As for his wife, Mrs. B is a bit much, it’s true, but I wonder how much of her too-much-ness is due to constantly being ignored, talked down to, or dismissed. If one is constantly ignored, they have two choices; fade away, or become louder. Mrs. B chose the latter.
And let’s be fair to Mrs. B; in that time, a woman had to be married or else she was nothing. It’s played as ridiculous for Mrs. B to be obsessed with getting her daughters married, but it was a valid concern. “When you have five daughters Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts, and then perhaps you will understand.” Fair enough, Mrs. B. Fair enough.
I suppose what I’m saying is that through the lense of maturity (barf), I see the Bennet parents differently, and it’s a bit disenchanting.
- Lizzie staring at a statue of Darcy and getting so distractingly thirsty that she loses all sense of time and space is ALL OF US.
- Also all of us: lounging around eating cookies off a plate that’s resting on our tummies then panic-cleaning when a boy comes to visit.
- Actors and adaptations aside: Bingley > Darcy… fight me.
- Of all the strange character traits I could have endowed upon Darcy, I truly have no idea where an intense love of Jenga came from. The muse is a mysterious vixen.
- Other P&P adaptations that brought my heart joy:
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – fun action, and Matt Smith steals the movie as Mr. Collins. Pure delight.
- Bride and Prejudice – with a Bollywood twist!
- Pride and Prejudice; A Latter-Day Comedy – don’t judge me
- Lost in Austen – a sassy-pants gets sucked into the book and makes a delightful mess of it while falling in love with Darcy, I mean, COME ON.
- Bridget Jones – we were all thinking it.
- Austenland – a fan lives out her Austen dreams, Darcy-type included (J.J. Field!)
- Mrs. Gardiner’s reaction to Pemberley made me chuckle heartily.
OKAY WE’RE DONE THANKS AND STAY SAFE OUT THERE, FRIENDS!