Pride & Prejudice

After the triumph that was the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, I thought we'd be done with adaptations of Jane Austen's magnificent 19th century novel of manners. After all, in addition to giving us stunning production values, crackerjack performances and the definitive Mr. Darcy, the miniseries finally gave us a theatrical presentation that could accommodate the scope of the story. But I'm a sucker for Austen, so I figured I'd catch the wham-bam-thank-you-mum a bargain matinée, of course.

Bottom line? They play a little fast and loose with the Austen, which is weird, and the length of the film necessitates a few hefty story cuts (for a stretch in there, it feels like Austen's Greatest Hits), but the performances are uniformly wonderful, with some really fresh takes on priggish cousin, Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander actually makes you feel sorry for the poor shlub) and both Mr. & Mrs. Bennett (special kudos to Brenda Blethyn, who finally makes one understand how this nagging harridan might still be beloved by her husband and daughters).

What I enjoyed most about the film was the dash of "realism", let's face it, we none of us were there, but it's pretty clear this lot didn't bathe or even tidy up as often as we do, and the drabbish, shabby surroundings made the fun that they did manage to have even more so.

I must confess, my heart still lies with the miniseries. It is a lavish, two-tiered box of Godivas to this utilitarian mix of Cadbury and Smarties. But really, I quibble: this is just that more Austen to love, and that's what Austen should be, loved, and often.

xxx c

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