Pride & Prejudice
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
From the novel by Jane Austen and set in England in the late 18th Century, itís a story about five sisters who all have a desire to become a wife, except for one. The outsider, a feisty and opinionated young woman, is the focus of this story and itís all about her struggles with overcoming both pride and prejudice to find a man who can capture her spirit and heart.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
While period films are not my movie category of choice, I have always respected their lavish and rich visual tapestry. (See Stanley Kubrickís Barry Lyndon!) If one can forgo if you will, the sometimes hard to recognize dialogue and simply enjoy the small nuanceís and grandiose set pieces, some of these types of films can be enjoyable. PRIDE & PREJUDICE is a film that has a lot of quiet moments that say more then any great monologue could ever do. It also has very beautiful and large scale scenes that show off the period nicely. Not to say itís not without flaws; the pacing is slow even for a costume drama, and the story does get a little confusing a times for us layman folk. But overall, it does manage to overcome itís weaknesses by its many strengths, which is a testimate to first time Director Joe Wright. He does a very credible job with the material and he gets some nice intimate moments from his actors, not to mention the film looks great. With big footsteps to follow with many other fine Jane Austen films, Wright steps up.
As far as the performances go, there is some very subtle work here, but I must say that no one performance here was flawless. Knightley does some great work, but not nearly as Oscar worthy as one might expect Ė the believablility tap was running sometimes hot, but sometimes cold. Her suitor in the film, played by Matthew Macfadyen does the best work of all, in an understated and quiet performance that ends up speaking volumes. Plus you throw in solid work by Brenda Blethyn as Knightleyís unstable mother, Donald Sutherland as her know it all father, and Dame Judi Dench as the feisty (isnít she always!) Lady Catherine and you have a cast of actors that make this one memorable. So while I am not a big admirer of a film of this nature, I must say that this one surprised me. Itís deeply romantic story enchanted me and made me forget my gut feeling to avoid this film like the plague. And if a film can make me overcome my own pride and prejudice, it must be something special.
Commentary (with Director Joe Wright): Wow! This one wins my Jack Shoulder aka The Hidden commentary Award for being the most honest, brutal, and fascinating of the year! Wright, who doesnít even introduce himself here, starts off with boring and standard stuff, but at the seven and a half minute mark he chimes in with the out of nowhere comment ďNot well shot, this whole section I think. Itís a bit boring.Ē And from that moment, itís a gab fest you wonít want to miss. In fact, there are so many highlights and examples that to list them all would take four pages, so here are just a few. In one sequence he talks about an actor whom he asked to dye his hair saying the actor ďdyed his hair red for this film and weirdly itís continued to grow red and he resents me deeply for that. He was actually blonde. He should get over it gentlemen, reallyĒ. Not enough for you? Well, how about when he comes upon a CGI shot and boldly states that ďI donít know if Iíll be going quite so deeply into the world of CGI in the futureĒ. There are even spots in his own film that he states are slow and boring, saying things ďDonít flyĒ, even yawing and stretching at some points. This is a Golden Oscar DVD commentary and my hat is completely off to Wright, not only are you a good director, you're one hell of an honest man. I give this DVD 5 stars just for this unbelievable dialogue track all by itself! Wright is a Brit with balls!
A Bennet Family Portrait (6:03): A mini-doc with far too many scenes of the film, not enough behind the scenes. Just clips, meshed with interviews with the writer, director, and some of the lead actors. If itís gonna be this short, cut the clips!
Jane Austen, Ahead Of Her Time (8:04): Again, putting that authoritative voice over the film clips (the same as the previous featurette) doesnít make it better, it's still filler. At least the interviews about Austen are more plentiful here, plus we get some short history on the author.
Behind-The-Scenes At The Ball (6:17): Except for Donald Sutherland ass-kissing everyone, this one has some great behind the scenes and private moments that are captured quite nicely. Light and fluffy.
Pride & Prejudice: HBO First Look (13:08): Most times I would shun putting an HBO featurette as an extra feature, but with so little new stuff made just for this DVD, itís a good insertion here. More P & P stuff for fans!
Afraid of period movies? Me too! But this one actually transcended my aversion to films of this type and I actually, gulp, enjoyed it. The strong romantic overtones of the film really made for an interesting story, making this one safe for us regular guys. (Aka no Coles Notes needed!) But the real showstopper, the reason for the high marks on this DVD is the brutal commentary track by director Joe Wright, its damn exciting stuff. In a world full of ďyes menĒ, Wright, his dialogue track, and even his film, forgo pride (and my prejudice!) to bring you something honest and real. Keep talking Wright, because much like THX, the audience is listening.