Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

"Pride and Prejudice" (Joe Wright, 2006) Can there be anything more done with "Pride and Prejudice"--the jewel in the Jane Austen tiara? Turns out, yes, there can. Joe Wright takes some of the stuffing out of the novel and makes it move in its own frenetic dance for the first 3/4 of it. The dances and balls are choreographed and photographed to maximum effect, sometimes sublimely comic, and the ways the mating rituals and business marriages are carried out intersect with Wright's searching, shifting camera moves. And then, in moments that Austen would call "high dudgeon" the camera stops and Nature takes over, culminating in two eerie scenes--one, a confrontation between Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and her object of obsession Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) staged in an unyielding Greco-Roman pogoda during a thunderstorm, and later during a bizarre shot where Elizabeth, locked in emotional and physical paralysis, spends an uncertain day in one spot as the sun and Nature move around her, a fascinating way to pull off her receiving Darcy's letter of regret without really receiving him. Sometimes, Wright goes a bit too far blowing the dust off this classic--a spinning camera from Elizabeth's point of view on a swing seamlessly, and a little nauseatingly, shows the passing of time. And he can't resist a "money shot," a gorgeous, overly dramatic shot of Elizabeth on cliff-top, ensuring that her new perspective on things is in Panavision. But he's also aided immeasurably by extremely naturalistic performances (including Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland) from an ensemble encouraged to stumble over each other's words to take the starch out, and from a mercurial performance by Keira Knightley, whose Elizabeth goes from apple-cheeked gushing teenager to stormy-eyed character assassin in hardly a blink.

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