Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Directed by Joe Wright

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * *

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Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley), the second of five sisters from a well-to-do family living in Early Nineteenth Century England, is searching for love. When she first meets Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) at a ball, she finds him so cold and arrogant that she detests him. Over time, however, she comes to see his innate decency and realizes that he may be the man for whom she is looking.

Joe Wright's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Pride & Prejudice is a pleasant, well made, and consistently engaging film.

The director is largely successful at intriguing the moviegoer with the various machinations and troubles of his movie's heroines. The viewer is, as a result, likely to find himself caught up in the worries of Elizabeth's mother, who is ever concerned about the matrimonial prospects of her five daughters, moved by the spitefulness of some of the persons Elizabeth encounters, and captivated by the hidden motives or half revealed lives of others. Moreover, besides being interesting on their own, each of these elements also contributes to the increasingly intense romantic feelings which dominate the movie. Such emotions, which Wright arouses with his depictions of the mingled attraction and animosity Elizabeth feels for Mr. Darcy, as well as with his presentations of the latter's surprisingly shy and touching infatuation with the former, are thus so enhanced that the moviegoer is left with a poignant sense of the profound love these two come to share.

Fortunately, most of the individuals around whom the film's events revolve are nicely brought to life by the actors. While I cannot say that many of the performers are especially impressive, and a few do exaggerate somewhat, the majority of the members of the cast are enjoyable to watch. Keira Knightley, in particular, brings a real vivacity and charm to her role. What is more, not only does she have an appealing on screen presence, but she also has a subtle but potent sexiness that infuses her character with a definite allure.

I should additionally note that the costumes and sets the director has used are both uniformly attractive and evocative of a bygone age. By crafting such an elegant and captivating world, Wright allows the viewer to lose himself in his engagement with the movie's characters. In fact, the lovely, idealized vision of an imaginary past filled with quaint country homes, vast palaces, and green fields and woodlands is, by itself, likely to charm many viewers. Pride & Prejudice is, on the whole, very pleasant to look at.

In spite of its simple accomplishments, the film is by no means flawless. Perhaps its greatest weakness is its inclusion of a number of anachronistic touches. There are, for instance, times when the characters behave in very modern ways. Some of the young female protagonists are particularly liable to moments of defiance and vivacity which are more reminiscent of the behaviors of women of our own age than of persons from the time in which the film is set. While these various mannerisms, as well as a few comedic touches, do draw the viewer out of the Early Nineteenth Century, they also, very probably, make the characters more approachable than they would otherwise have been.

Although never brilliant, and occasionally anachronistic, Pride & Prejudice is an entertaining, touching movie that is certainly worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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