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Joe Wright
Keira Knightley, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Claudie Blakley, Sylvester Morand
Writing Credits:
Jane Austen (novel), Deborah Moggach

A romance ahead of its time.

When a wealthy bachelor and his circle of sophisticated friends take up summer residence in a nearby mansion, the Bennets are abuzz with the hope that potential suitors will be in full supply. But once Lizzie meets up with the darkly handsome and snobbish Mr. Darcy, what could seem like a match made in heaven quickly becomes one of the most classic battles of the sexes ever portrayed in literature and on screen.

Box Office:
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$2.865 million on 215 screens.
Domestic Gross
$37.778 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 2/28/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright
• “A Bennet Family Portrait”
• “Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time”
• “Behind the Scenes at the Ball”
• “HBO First Look”
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Pride And Prejudice (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 20, 2006)

Some days I gotta take one for the team. I had no desire whatsoever to watch the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. No offense to the source material, but this kind of period chick flick just doesn’t set my world on fire. I’ve usually skipped similar efforts in the past, though I did make the mistake of watching the terrible 1994 version of Little Women. I felt very little urge to check out the new Pride.

So why’re you reading this review? Popular interest, plain and simple. As I write this a week and a half before the DVD streets, it’s ranked fourth among Amazon’s best selling DVDs. It’s been around that spot for the last few weeks, so obviously the title interests a lot of people. Who knows – maybe no one who reads this site cares about it, but when a title does that well, it makes more sense for me to review it even when I don’t particularly want to do so.

My prejudices aside, I have to admit I rather enjoyed Pride. Set in the late 18th century, Pride introduces us to the Bennet family. Headed by Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) and his wife (Brenda Blethyn), the clan includes five daughters: Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Jane (Rosamund Pike), Mary (Talulah Riley), Lydia (Jena Malone) and Kitty (Carey Mulligan). They go all atwitter when two well-off, eligible dudes arrive in their neck of the woods: cheerful, foppish Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) and dour Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden). The marriage-minded Bennet girls do their best to entice these studs, and Jane – regarded as the prize of the pack – succeeds with Mr. Bingley – at least in the short term.

Matters proceed less gracefully for the others, though a certain antagonistic spark occurs between the sullen Darcy and the snappy, intelligent Elizabeth. This doesn’t set well with Bingley’s sister Caroline (Kelly Reilly), a chilly babe who seems determined to interfere in the affairs of others.

Another complication ensues when cousin Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) arrives on the scene. Because the laws of the day wouldn’t allow the family estate to pass down to the women, when Mr. Bennet dies, everything will go to Mr. Collins. Thwarted in his desire to land Jane, he sets his sights on Elizabeth, the next most attractive Bennet girl. In addition, Elizabeth develops an interest in hunky Mr. Wickham (Rupert Friend), a “lowly foot soldier” with some bad feelings toward Darcy.

Oy, that all sounds awfully complicated and aimed at the soap opera set, doesn’t it? And that synopsis doesn’t summarize all of the shenanigans that occur during the film, as it ensnares us in a slew of issues. Happily, the result is lighter and livelier than I’d expect, and the movie never becomes weighed down by all its pretentions.

Perhaps that’s because the movie seems so relentlessly unpretentious. Most films of this genre pound us with their themes and beat us with their seriousness. Neither takes place during Pride. Sure, we get a sense of the unfair manner in which women of the era were treated, but the film almost wholly lacks the usual 21st century hindsight. I won’t pretend that the flick shows us society as it truly existed in the late 1700s, but it appears less biased by the last 300 years than I had any right to expect.

In the hands of director Joe Wright, Pride turns into a delightfully low-key place. At times the movie adopts a playful tone and almost feels like a spoof of the usual turgid genre conventions. Indeed, some of the characters come across as a bit cartoony as the flick lampoons the standard "chicks with no purpose other than to snare a man”. However, the story displays sensitivity toward them as well. Even at its broadest, it presents the husband-hungry ladies as neither desperate wannabe-housewives nor pathetic creatures with no identities of their own.

Again, I really applaud the fact that the movie so infrequently views its characters or events through the prism of the 21st century. It tells us that for better or for worse, this is how people behaved in the late 18th century, and it doesn’t presume to judge them. Yeah, we get the sense it sympathizes with the plight of the women, but it never douses us with its thoughts.

Much of the flick’s believable tone comes to us via a series of wonderful performances. Knightley earned a Best Actress nod for her work as Elizabeth. I doubt she’ll win, but if not, it won’t be because she didn’t deserve it. Knightley is quickly proving herself to be a very versatile performer, and she shines as Elizabeth.

I feared that Elizabeth would come across as the usual rebellious smart-ass, the brainy babe who knows better than everyone else. Since so many films of this source taint themselves with modern attitudes, that’s the sort of character I would expect. Happily, Elizabeth maintains a firm focus in the 18th century but still manifests a lively personality. There’s terrific depth to the main characters, and Elizabeth exemplifies that. Smart, funny and likable, she never seems annoyingly sure of herself or smugly superior. Indeed, the movie allows us to remember that she’s still basically a girl when we see her giggle with her sisters. This is a real person on display, and Knightley helps flesh out the role wonderfully well.

Pride succeeds because of its restraint. Occasionally the movie indulges the lavish, romantic side of things. That’s to be expected – and welcomed. Those moments work because the movie earns them. It doesn’t toss out cheap sentiment. We watch the characters grow and develop, so when a romantic scene occurs, it snaps at us with much greater effect than it would in a flick with many more such elements.

I don’t want to gush too much and make it sound like I’m getting soft in my old age. Nonetheless, I had a good time with Pride & Prejudice. The movie easily exceeded my expectations and worked as a likable, intelligent chick flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Pride & Prejudice appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film received a top-notch transfer that shined on DVD.

Sharpness seemed excellent. The movie remained nicely crisp and detailed from start to finish, as very few instances of softness appeared. Overall, the picture was accurate and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I saw only a smidgen of light edge enhancement. Print flaws caused no issues, as the image always seemed very clean and fresh.

Pride boasted a subdued but fairly natural palette. The colors favored the lighter side of things, but they came across as appropriately vivid and lively. Black levels also were deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. The movie adopted a warm candlelit feeling that came across well. This was a very attractive image from start to finish.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Pride & Prejudice, it presented a moderately vivid affair. Not surprisingly, the focus remained on music. The score displayed excellent stereo imaging and really added a lot of kick to the mix. Otherwise, I noted reasonably good general ambience throughout the film, and some more heavily populated scenes – like those at balls or on bustling streets – provided a greater level of activity. The surrounds seemed fairly passive throughout the movie, but they contributed a nice sense of reinforcement, particularly in regard to the music.

Audio quality appeared good. Early in the film, I thought dialogue got a bit buried in the mix, but this improved as it progressed. Speech came across as natural and crisp, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects largely played a minor role in the film, but they always seemed accurate and well defined, with no issues related to distortion or other areas. Louder segments like a thunderstorm were dynamic and effective.

The music remained the most important element, and the mix provided very solid reproduction of the score. The pieces of music sounded bright and vivid, and they boasted fairly good dynamic range. Low-end was warm and full. Overall, I thought this was a soundtrack that lacked immense ambition, but it succeeded for this sort of film.

As we move to the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary with director Joe Wright. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Wright discusses the cast and their performances, sets and locations, photographic issues, staging and various logistics, costumes and genre conventions, story and adaptation subjects, and general production remarks. Although Wright offers the usual praise of the product and the participants, he shows a delightfully frank side as well. He occasionally criticizes his choices and also offers amusing notes such as when he tells us that a couple of the actors were “appallingly bad” horsemen. There’s too much dead air and not a ton of insight, though, especially during the film’s second half; matters can get awfully slow at times, and this ends up as a mediocre commentary.

Next we find four featurettes. A Bennet Family Portrait lasts six minutes, two seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Wright, scriptwriter Deborah Moggach, Louise West of Jane Austen’s House, producer Paul Webster and actors Brenda Blethyn, Keira Knightley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Talulah Riley, Carey Mulligan and Donald Sutherland. They tell us a little about the story, its background, and the characters. This quick glimpse of its subjects lacks much depth. It gives us a superficial overview and fails offer

During the eight-minute and three-second Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time, we find information from Webster, West, Wright, Knightley, Burghley House’s Lady Victoria Leatham, and actor Tom Hollander. They relate information about the life of Jane Austen as well as her continued impact on society and culture. As with “Portrait”, this piece suffers from its brevity. It would work better if it provided greater detail instead of this short recap.

For Behind the Scenes at the Ball, we get a six-minute and 17-second piece. It offers material from Sutherland, Riley, Pike, Blethyn, Hollander, Knightley, Mulligan, Malone, and actor Matthew Macfayden. I don’t understand the title of this featurette, as I thought it’d show us how they shot the movie’s ball sequence. Instead, we simply hear the actors talk about how wonderful everything is and how much they love everybody. It’s a tedious waste of time.

Finally, we locate a 13-minute and seven-second HBO First Look. It features Wright, Pike, Blethyn, Knightley, Moggach, Sutherland, Malone, Mulligan, Macfayden, producer Tim Bevan and actor Judi Dench. The piece offers the usual promotional showcase. It covers the characters and story along with a few tidbits about the talents involved. We learn nothing interesting in this advertisement.

Some Previews start the DVD. We get ads for On a Clear Day, Prime, Medium, and Brokeback Mountain. No trailer for Pride appears on the disc.

A chick flick that seems easily digested by the male of the species, Pride & Prejudice succeeds because it eschews the usual tired cliches of the genre but still maintains its identity. Anchored by rich, dimensional characters and an admirable sense of both period and restraint, the film works surprisingly well. The DVD presents excellent picture with more than adequate audio, but the extras are mediocre. Nonetheless, this is a very fine movie that deserves your attention.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4285 Stars Number of Votes: 56
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