Making the Grades
True devotees of Jane Austen's novels may find some discrepancies between her book and this movie. Yet finally, filmmakers have been able to condense all that endless, sisterly chitchat into a script that is well paced and cinematically eye-catching.
Keira Knightley plays the tomboyish Elizabeth Bennet. She's the strong-willed daughter of titled parents whose inheritance money has long since vanished. She lives with them and her four sisters in a crumbling, old, cluttered mansion where they do their best to keep up appearances. As an heir, their father (Donald Sutherland) doesn't engage in any form of profitable labor. His modest farm sports a few animals, a rudimentary garden and some haggard servants. But the estate owner's real love is to lock himself in the library where he can escape the constant nagging brought on by his wife's overwrought nerves. However, as the girls reach young adulthood, their high-strung mother (Brenda Blethyn) knows she must marry them off to moneyed suitors in order to sustain some semblance of wealth.
When the family's handsome, unmarried neighbor comes home for a visit, Mrs. Bennet sees just such an opportunity arise. Determined to have her daughters reacquainted with the rich Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) and his sister (Kelly Reilly), she vigorously ensures they are introduced at a welcome home ball. There the siblings also meet Mr. Bingley's brooding friend, Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen), a scowling, dark figure who barely seems able to tolerate the common country folk from the shire.
Smitten by Elizabeth's older sister, Jane (Rosamund Pike), Mr. Bingley becomes a regular in the region, showing up at the Bennet's home or inviting Jane to his mansion for dinner or dancing. Then one day, he and his entourage hurriedly and unexpectedly depart for London under a mist of hearsay.
From there, Austen's penchant for beleaguered lovers takes over. Idle gossip, ill-conceived ideas and status seeking antics threaten the budding relationships. If the old cliche, "He loves me, he loves me not," ever applied, it would have to be here. Fortunately, director Joe Wright crafts a plot that creatively interweaves the numerous characters and explains their feelings for one another. Using realistic period lighting, scenes of continuous camera work and poignant shots, he invites audiences into his Victorian world. Unlike other film's based on this author's work, Wright gives priority to the story's positive messages, rather than allowing them to drown in a torrent of dialogue.
Over time, the heroine comes to realize no group of people has an exclusive grasp on class pride, poor manners or unfounded bias. Suffering remorse for her harsh judgments of others, she learns to look beyond appearances and into people's hearts. That in turn allows the feisty, protective sister to overcome her own Pride & Prejudice and find real love--Jane Austen style.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Pride & Prejudice.
We often think of pride as the problem of upper-class people. Is it limited to those with possessions or wealth? What characters in this film have prideful attitudes? How does it affect the way they see others?
First impressions can be powerful. What conclusions does Elizabeth make about Mr. Darcy based on their initial meeting? Why is he so somber? What makes her change her attitude about him? How do Mr. Darcy’s feelings change about Elizabeth and her family?
What reasons does Elizabeth’s friend give her for marrying the preacher? What part does romantic love play in the success of a marriage? What other qualities are important?