Saturday, April 14, 2007
Pride and Prejudice: The Holy Grail of Smart Girl Chick Flicks
I am 12 years late to the party, but finally I have seen the grail. Yes, I'm talking about the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and a seductively mutton-chopped Colin Firth. And damn, it was good.
Iread Pride and Prejudice many, many years ago and had forgotten most of the story's details, so I felt like a complete neophyte when I slide the DVD into the player and began my five-hour trek with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It's a typical Jane Austen plot -- young women in difficult financial situations trying to decide between marrying for wealth and security or marrying for love. A truly happy ending involves finding a man who can provide both those options -- someone perhaps like Mr. Darcy.
The acting in this production is uniformly splendid. Jennifer Ehle does a wonderful job conveying the sly wit, intelligence and charm of Elizabeth Bennet, surely one of Austen's finest creations. It's not difficult to believe that Elizabeth is the only woman in the world who could cure Darcy of the pride that conceals his true kindness. As for Darcy, Colin Firth is exceptional in a difficult role, one that requires him to say and do terrible things yet retain the the audience's sympathy long enough for him to achieve redemption. Firth gives Darcy all the shyness, insecurity and ultimately, the sweetness he needs to do just that. The supporting cast is exceptional, too, especially Benjamin Whitrow, who plays Elizabeth's father with a wonderful, weary sarcasm.
My only quibble? For years and years, I'd heard tales of the awe-inspiring moment when Darcy emerges all wet and sexy from a swim. It achieved legendary status as the scene Bridget Jones turned to over and over again in her darkest, most candy-bar and cigarette-filled moments. It was like that deep, underground secret that all the literary nerds knew about -- except me. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the real thing! He's just wearing a sopping white shirt, carrying his boots and coat. That was it! No slo-mo. No Firth-version of Bo Derek emerging from the ocean in 10. No choir of angels or funky heavy bassline with floodlights providing just the right mood. Sigh. So disappointing.
If you haven't seen Pride and Prejudice, then don't let that one little item deter you. It's a wonderful production, full of romance, beauty and humor -- perfect for a quiet Sunday afternoon.