Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: PG for mildly mature themes
Run Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Colin Firth is the gold standard of Mr. Darcys in the heretofore numerous productions of Jane Austen’s frothy romantic confection. Color me surprised that Matthew MacFadyen fills Darcy’s (and Firth’s) darkly attractive shoes most admirably.
The classic tale is little changed from its venerable source. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet (a sparkling Keira Knightley) is the beloved daughter of the five belonging to the struggling Mr. and Mrs. B (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn). Mom is a meddlesome tattler who wants a good match for each of her girls while Dad stands by in a perma-state of bemusement.
The first appropriate suitor on the horizon is the upstanding and very rich Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) who rents a neighboring estate. At his side is family friend Darcy, a snooty nobleman of sorts for whom Lizzie develops an instant dislike. Or consuming crush depending on your point of view.
Lizzie and Darcy ebb and flow with pent-up desire thwarted by monumental
miscommunication older sister Jane (Rosamund Pike) falls for the socially
superior Bingley and flighty
Gossip and scandal weaves its way in and out of the Bennet woop and warf, bringing with it the joy and acrimony of the fickle fingers of true love. “Pride” does not tread new ground and must rely heavily on narrative energy and individual effort to set it apart from its predecessors.
To wit Knightley is a comely, spirited Lizzie while MacFadyen blows taciturn as the conflicted Darcy. Scene-stealers pepper the proceedings, in particular Tom Hollander’s drippy egoist Reverend Collins and Dame Judy Dench’s patronizing Lady Catherine de Bourg, Darcy’s steely, disapproving aunt.
Austen’s witty prose is in fine form, snippy put-downs and witty English-isms dancing about in a sprightly, wordy pas de deux. Climax is an effortless flow of fierce passion gently succumbing to a tender truce that will send even the stoniest hearts into a rhythmic pitter-pat.