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Pride & Prejudice(2005)
In Georgian-era England, the five daughters of a family of landed gentry in rural England must contend with misconception, morality, and social division as they come of age and search for romantic partners. Among them is the headstrong and independent Elizabeth, whose harsh opinion of the introverted gentleman Darcy is complicated and softened as she learns more of his history and true nature.
For more about Pride & Prejudice and the Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray release, see Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 20, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Jane Austen
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone
» See full cast & crew
Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray Review
“We fully expect a most advantageous marriage!”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 20, 2010
In college, I was one of three guys in my Victorian Women's Lit class. We huddled together for safety in one corner of the room, surrounded by a specific breed of mousy female English majors that we referred to, in our particularly callous vernacular, as Plain Janes and Brontë-sauruses. Which may sound cruel, but we were just trying to hold our own in a mock-serious, semester- long battle of the sexes in which we were vastly outnumbered. Actually, all three of us were relatively feminist-y guys—at least, the kind of guys who would take a Victorian Women's Lit elective for fun, and not just to meet girls—but our status as males of the species meant we were just as scorned and misunderstood as Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy, even if most of it was in jest. Anyway, over the course of the semester, I found that I'm simply not hardwired to enjoy Jane Austen's tales of independent young women in dire need of wedding and bedding (though, that last aspect is always repressed into sub-text). And this apathy extends to film adaptations as well. Though I do like period dramas—particularly turn of the twentieth century fare like Merchant Ivory's Howard's End—I've generally been bored by all things Austen, especially Emma and Mansfield Park. Even Ang Lee's beautiful take on Sense and Sensibility left me appreciative but emotionally unattached. So, I remember feeling slightly suspicious of myself as I sat in a theater in November 2005, completely enraptured with director Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice.
Pre-release, the media's collective attitude about the film seemed to predict it would be nothing more than redundant, a severely trimmed adaptation that would shrivel in the looming shadow of the widely revered BBC mini-series, which starred Jennifer Ehle and made Colin Firth an unlikely sex symbol in the U.K. and abroad. And yes, the 1995 TV production—which Janeites love for its textual accuracy—is remarkably true to the novel, replete with interminable parlor conversations drawn straight from Austen's pen. It's also five hours long, which is perhaps too much of a time investment for some would-be viewers. So, the thought was that 2005's Pride & Prejudice would be the abridged, Reader's Digest version of the story. And in a way—in an incredibly good way—this is exactly what it is. Like an appendix about to burst, the extraneous elements of the plot have been surgically removed, leaving a 129-minute story that's less sluggish, more exuberant, and possessed of a beaming, youthful glow named Keira Knightley, who gives what is still her best performance to date.
The lovely Ms. Knightley plays Lizzie, the second of five sisters in the estrogen-infused Bennet family. This being the turn of the 18th century, nothing is more important than getting the girls married off to eligible landowners who can assure the family's financial security. And so their match-making mother (Brenda Blethyn) wrings her hands nervously while Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) putters about the farm, minding his own. Lizzie has no lack of potential suitors, from the dashing Lieutenant Wickham (Rupert Friend) to the Napoleonic parson Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander), but she's drawn to the morose and seemingly snobbish Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), who has lately arrived in town with his loyal friend Mr. Bingly (Simon Woods), a wealthy bachelor enamored with Jane (Rosamund Pike), the eldest Bennet daughter. Mr. Darcy is the film's riddle; his intentions are vague, his humorless demeanor unsettling, and a bit of careful slandering by Lieutenant Wickham—covering up his own transgressions—leads Lizzie to believe that Mr. Darcy is cruel and unsympathetic. What follows, as the mysteries of Mr. Darcy's actions are slowly revealed, is a love/hate relationship fraught with dramatic irony and restrained feelings, all culminating in one of the most pitch-perfect romantic endings in recent memory.
After watching the film on Blu-ray last night—a sumptuous visual experience that I'll get to later —I felt the same way as I did five years ago in the theater, almost shocked by how uncharacteristically involved I was in the romance of Lizzy Bennet and the brooding Mr. Darcy. Make fun of me if you'd like, challenge my masculinity or taste in film, but I'll readily admit that while watching Pride & Prejudice I might as well have been tittering like a schoolgirl in the throes of her first real crush. Near the conclusion, where everyone gets exactly what and who they deserve, I was smiling so much that my jaw ached and I began to feel self-conscious, even though there was nobody else in the room. There's a mysterious alchemy to it, I'm sure—a formula that's unique to each viewer—but how many movies can make you feel like you're newly in love, like your head is filled with warm milk and your chest burning with bourbon? (I'm not sure how good of a love metaphor that it, but warm milk and bourbon would make a horrible cocktail.) Somehow, all of my objections to Jane Austen evaporated and I was completely engrossed, which leads me to wonder: what is it about this particular version of Pride & Prejudice that makes my eyes well up while I'm simultaneously grinning like an over-the-moon idiot?
Let's start with the beautiful Keira Knightley—and this will probably sound pretentious, but I can't think of any other way to put it—who brings a joie de vivre that buoys the entire production. There's nothing particularly unusual about how she chooses to portray Lizzie, but she somehow achieves the perfect mix of self-reliance and vulnerability. You want her to be in love; she flashes her Cheshire grin and all is suddenly right with the world. Conversely, the pained exchange she has with Darcy after his botched proposal will send your heart plummeting down an elevator shaft. While Knightley's performance easily outdoes that of Jennifer Ehle in the mini-series, Matthew Macfadyen is up against the inimitable Colin Firth, who most Austen fans agree is the Mr. Darcy for the ages. Still, I like what he does here, playing up the character's insecurity and social anxiety to make him much more sympathetic when his inner goodness is finally revealed. And the chemistry between Ms. Knightley and Mr. Macfadyen is undeniable; this is no bodice-ripper, but the embers of passion are nevertheless stoked. The surrounding players are equally adept, especially Donald Sutherland, who lends tender fatherly council, and the brilliant Tom Hollander (In the Loop), whose socially constipated parson is the film's comic relief. In her brief role as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's vain aunt, Dame Judi Dench is frighteningly good, shooting stares that could kill a man cold at 700 yards.
And the actors are all in good hands on the production side of things. Deborah Moggach's script is stuffed with witty banter, and director Joe Wright (Atonement) has a style that's impressive but never showy, using long Steadicam shots that take us through the Bennet house with graceful fluidity. All of the usual romantic conventions are in place, the lighting is sublime, the cinematography is luscious, the costumes and set design are perfect—everything is just as it should be—but I still can't quite put my finger on why the film strikes me in a way that other Austen adaptations don't. Like Mr. Darcy, I've simply been bewitched, body and soul.
Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pride & Prejudice comes the debutante ball on Blu-ray with a beautifully warm and cinematic 1080p/VC-1 transfer in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. If you've seen the film before, you'll know the color palette is both subtle and extremely rich, with utmost attention paid to harmony in both costumes and set design. Thankfully, this carefulness caries over into the Blu-ray release. See the frilly pastel dresses of the Bennet daughters, the primary red of British infantry coats, gathering storm clouds of ominous blues, soft yellow candlelit conversations, verdant forest tableaus, and the creamy whites inside Mr. Darcy's hall of marble sculptures. There are two or three darker indoor shots that do seem a bit wishy-washy—mostly because light is so low that brightness has to be pushed up a bit—but black levels are suitably deep, and contrast, especially during the daytime scenes, is perfectly attuned. Likewise, there are a handful of soft shots, but the image is predominately crisp, with lots of detail in, say, Donald Sutherland's whiskers, stems of wild wheat, and the cloth of an expertly tied cravat. Grain-haters beware though: there has been no digital scrubbing here, so the structure of the image is inherently natural, filmic, and exactly as intended. I was initially concerned about some possible telecine wobble, as the opening shot of a morning field looks somewhat shaky, but it quickly becomes apparent that the jitteriness is due to small camera movements during the time-lapse sunrise shot—for which nothing can be done—and not some transfer oversight. The sumptuous cinematography has definitely been done justice here, so husbands, if you're looking for a film to sway your wife on the upgrade in color and clarity that Blu-ray affords, Pride & Prejudice could very well be the one to win her over.
Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You might not be expecting a period drama like Pride & Prejudice to feature bold and immersive sound design—Jane Austen often seems fit for a fusty monaural mix—but the film comes to Blu- ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that's surprisingly potent. From the opening pianoforte tones of the film's main theme, the music establishes itself as lush and detailed. At the community dance, string arrangements ache with resonate bass and the startlingly clear timbre of violins. The rear channels are almost always occupied with some sonic task, whether it's wrapping the score around us like a blanket or filling in the soundfield with mood-setting environmental ambience. Thunder rumbles while rain pours down all around us, soldiers march through town in a chaotic audio jumble of clanks and chatter, partygoers mill about, and out in the fields you'll hear birdcalls from all directions. In fact, if the film's audio track has one fault, it's that it's sometimes too potent. For instance, in the big introductory ballroom scene, the music and sound effects are so prevalent in the surround speakers that the dialogue in the center channel is somewhat difficult to hear. Granted, this is partly intentional—it is hard to hear people during a loud party— but it's doubly difficult when you're trying to make out literary language at a brisk English clip. That said, aside from a few of these extra loud sequences, the dialogue sounds natural and is easy to hear.
Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Joe Wright
Owners of the Pride Prejudice DVD will be familiar with all of the features included here, starting with this rather unenthusiastic commentary track by director Joe Wright, who spends an inordinate amount of time talking about shots he wished he had gotten, lighting he wished he had had, and weather that simply didn't cooperate. Not exactly essential listening.
Conversations with the Cast (SD, 6:17)
This is one of those features where each cast member says something kind about everyone else, and while I usually roll my overly cynical eyes at stuff like this, the actors are all so genuine about having such a great experience on the film that these conversations are difficult not to enjoy.
Jane Austen: Ahead of Her Time (SD, 8:03)
A brief featurette that looks at the universality of Austen's legacy and examines some of the progressive social themes in her work.
A Bennet Family Portrait (SD, 6:02)
Similarly, here we look at the importance of family and marriage in Austen's novel and dissect the Bennet's family dynamic.
HBO First Look: Pride & Prejudice (SD, 13:08)
"Three months skipping around the English countryside with a load of girls? It was heaven," says director Joe Wright. This is a typical HBO promo, with EPK interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and an overview of the story, but it's definitely worth watching if you're a fan of the film.
The Politics of 18th Century Dating (SD, 4:24)
A brief look at the codes of conduct of relationships in Victorian England. We also get to see some on-set footage of the dance rehearsals.
The Stately Homes of Pride & Prejudice (SD, 15:58 total)
Here we get histories and tours for all of the houses featured in the film, including Chatsworth House, Burghley, Wilton House, Basildon Park, and Groomsbridge Place.
The menu also includes a BD-Live powered feature called What's New! This is a kind of news ticker at the top of the menu that gives you up to date information on Universal releases. I found that it actually slowed down the performance of the menu, but thankfully you can turn it off if you'd like.
Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The best romantic films, I think, are those where you fall in love with the lovers themselves, where their sorrows make the bottom of your heart drop out and their joys echo some intense emotion from your own life. It's a completely personal experience—and I apologize if this review has seemed too subjective—but that's basically what Pride & Prejudice does for me. It's one of those the films that I enjoy almost irrationally. Not in a guilty pleasure way—the film is much too good for that—but simply because I'm surprised by how much I like it. It also gives my wife no small satisfaction to see her husband reduced to a weepy, overjoyed wreck by a Victorian period piece. Husbands/boyfriends/lovers take note: Pride & Prejudice would make an excellent Valentine's Day gift. Even if you don't go all weak in the knees like I do, you can at least see the two hours that you spend watching it together as one small step in getting your significant other to support your frankly out-of-control Blu-ray habit. Highly recommended.
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Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Pride & Prejudice Blu-ray Gets Detailed - November 6, 2009
Following up on our announcement yesterday, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Pride & Prejudice', which is scheduled to hit store shelves on January 26th. For this Kiera ...
• Pride & Prejudice (2005) Coming to Blu-ray - November 5, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has revealed that they will bring the Keira Knightley film 'Pride & Prejudice' to Blu-ray on January 26th. Not to be confused with the 1995 BBC miniseries of the same name, which was released ...
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