Released on DVD February 28, 2006, I was finally able to view the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice starring that dreary jaw-clenching master marionette Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. Supposedly, it is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel also titled Pride and Prejudice. However, I think Deborah Moggach, the butchering sadist who wrote the screenplay for this God awful version should be chased off the grounds of Pemberley and forced into the nearest hornet’s nest by the entire cast and crew of the 1995 Andrew Davies’s version for literary treason. Emma Thompson who is creditly uncredited with this 2005 screenplay revision should pay her publicist to denounce any such collaboration and force Moggach to stand alone. Especially since Thompson did extremely well writing the screenplay for Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and did not do too bad transforming Nurse Matilda into Nanny McPhee.
I cannot believe that Moggach or any of the other 2005 film crew, including the producers and director could have possibly read Pride and Prejudice. If anything, they watched A& E’s version and decided to cram as many scenes together as possible, rearrange who says what dialogue, hence disregarding any accuracy to the book, and religiously change indoor scenes to outdoor ones and vice versa. My utter disappointment and gross aggravation would no longer allow me to count after the fifth reversal. For instance, in Davies’s screenplay and Austen’s novel, Lizzy’s parents speak to her about Mr. Collins proposal in Mr. Bennet’s study (indoors), in Moggach’s, they do it outside by a lake (not only that, they show Mrs. Bennet running!). In Austen’s (and Davies’s), Mr. Darcy proposes to Eliza (the first time) in Mrs. Collins sitting room (inside), in Moggach’s, they are both standing outside (next to a large river/lake) under a veranda in the pouring rain. In Davies’s true to Austen’s written word, Eliza runs into Mr. Darcy on the grounds of Pemberley, in Moggach’s butchered version, they meet inside his house as Eliza is spying on Georgianna. It is horrific! It is as if Moggach said, “We shall make day night, and night day, and inside outside, and outside inside, Voila! For the love of God, in this 2005 mess, Lady Catherine seeks Elizabeth out in the dead of night in the Bennet’s drawing room. Who could possibly forget or forgive I should say, omitting the lines “This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in summer; the windows are full west” or “Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company.” However, no such luck here, we cannot see gardens and west facing windows at midnight, so Moggach and her gang just decides to fuck it.
Giving Keira Knightley an Oscar nod is nothing more than evidence of how insanely ridiculous the academy awards have become. Her acting is atrocious. There is not a drop of chemistry between her and Matthew Macfadyen (Mr. Darcy). In all fairness I went into this disliking Knightley, in fact I cannot stand her Victoria Secret’s posing. Nevertheless, after seeing Macfadyen in The Way We Live Now I was more than willing to give the rest of the actors a chance. Unfortunately, most of them seem like they are speed-reading cue cards, particularly when it involves a scene that should be one of the most intense. At times, several of the actors including Macfadyen (Mr. Darcy), Rosamund Pike (Jane Bennet), Tom Hollander (Mr. Collins) seem revving to rock and roll, to illustrate their acting talent and deliver a spectacular performance, then out of nowhere, an invisible lasso ties them down and reminds them that they must not upstage the woodiness of Knightley. Consequently, they all become superficial speed reading marionettes spitting out Americanized modern sound bites that remove all the minimalism, nuances, and subtly that Austen so graciously gifted her reader with.
Mr. Collins played by Tom Hollander, the very actor who convincingly portrayed Osborne Hamley in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters (screenplay also by Davies) has no opportunity here to do anything but appear as a little insignificant man. Austen’s Mr. Collins is arrogant, overflowing with self-importance, and would never allow a slight by his wife Charlotte or cousin Eliza. However, Charlotte and Eliza walk away from him while he is talking in his own home.
Speaking of Charlotte Lucas, the scene that she demands that Eliza not judge her is too contemporary. Everyone understands that marriage was a woman’s only vocation. The scene felt broken down and modernized so lazy video pimps and hos could understand where she was coming from (you know what I’m screamin’). A big eye roll here.
Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet mills about as if he is in an opium-induced trance. Not until his final scene (after the contrived predawn, sun rising in the background lover’s meeting) do we see his capacity to muster enough tears and passion to liven the movie up for a split second.
Mr. and Mrs. Hurst are completely deleted from the movie, thereby losing all the humor of Mr. Hurst’s indolent and drunken catnaps. Thus, forcing the comedy relief to rely on the Bennet’s being caught listening at doors, —over killed three times. Not funny! I am afraid this is probably Thompson’s Nanny McPhee influence. In addition, Caroline Bingley never remotely convinces anyone that she has a chance to capture Mr. Darcy’s heart. And that spaghetti-strap dress she wears at the Netherfield ball would have had the whole town crying “hussy”!
Many scenes (not the ones Austen intended it to be) simply defile Austen’s sensibilities and are down right impertinent, vulgar, and far removed from early nineteen century delicacies. Eliza asks Mr. Darcy to dance! Mr. Bingley goes into Jane’s room (bedroom) while she is sick! The girls walk to Meryton with their hair down and a few without head coverings (Lydia worried about freckles) or shawls. There is more hair being slung about than at a Marquis de Sade brothel. The morning after the Netherfield ball the whole Bennet clan cracks eggs and openly nurse ragged hangovers. All of this in front of servants. Entirely too modern, too MTVish!
Perhaps the worst scene of all is when Mr. Darcy is pacing about outside amongst the chickens and piglets waiting for Mr. Bennet’s approval. It is simply sacrilegious! One earlier scene even had a hog being transported through the house under Mr. Bennet’s supervision. Mr. Bennet is a well-read gentleman, not some micromanaging swine farmer.
Eliza Bennet comes off as a vixen scorned because Mr. Darcy slighted her. Her refusing him has nothing to do with Jane, Mr. Wickham, or Mr. Darcy’s exaggerated pride. Never are we convinced that they had one long tête-à-tête hindered by pride and prejudice, nor does it ever appear that Mr. Darcy is humbled. Perhaps because he is never anything but sulky! And it ends with Eliza calling the shots about what pet names she desires, —no, not desires, but demands. Good grief.
This movie should be put on trial for desecration.