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Pride And Prejudice
Movie Review with Kathleen Cassity
Hawaii Pacific University Chair of Writing Program And Assistant Professor of English
As Told To Katie Young
Where and with whom did you see the movie?
I watched the movie at Dole Cannery Theatres with my friend Joy Logan, who is a professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at UH-Manoa.
Overall what did you think?
Overall, I enjoyed the film, though I had some minor complaints with some of the director’s choices. This version is a good introduction for audiences who are new to Jane Austen, although die-hard Austen fans may quarrel with some aspects of the film.
Obviously, a film adaptation can never capture everything about any novel, and any film version is just one director’s interpretation. Sometimes this is frustrating for viewers familiar with a novel because when we really love a novel, we always create a personal vision of it in our own minds, and it can be jarring when a director’s vision doesn’t match our own.
What was your favorite scene?
I really enjoyed the dance scenes, as I always do in Austen’s novels and film adaptations. Austen’s balls are always metaphors for the elaborate steps and missteps of relationships - coming together, moving away, other people coming between you, just the push and pull of life. In this particular adaptation, the dances coincide with constantly interrupted dialogue, making the metaphor even stronger. We see Darcy and Elizabeth’s conversation being continually thrown off track by the steps of the dance and the movement of other people who come around, and sometimes between, the two of them.
Did you have a favorite character?
Well, just about every Pride and Prejudice fan goes through the same transition with Mr. Darcy that Elizabeth goes through: At first we find him off-putting, then he slowly grows on us. So he’s quite a compelling character.
But I’d have to say that for me, Darcy is trumped by Elizabeth herself. I love the way she handles herself with composure, no matter who she’s dealing with. She’s not afraid to say her piece across lines of social division; she’ll speak back to men in a male dominated society, and she’ll speak her mind to the condescending and snotty Lady Catherine, refusing to accept the conventional assumption that Lady Catherine is “superior” to her because of class and money. Yet she always does so with grace, wit and intelligence.
How would you rate the acting?
I thought the acting was the film’s greatest strength. Even someone who’s not previously familiar with the storyline and characters could glean a lot of information about a character’s motivations and attitudes through telling details like facial expressions and body languages. Nuances in a richly detailed novel like Austen’s can be hard to capture on film, where there’s less time and no opportunity for exposition, but this cast does a terrific job. I’ve long thought Brenda Blethyn is one of the best actresses around, and this film confirms that. I have to admit, though, that it took a while for Matthew McFadyen to grow on me, because for me - as for a lot of P&P fans - the quintessential Darcy is Colin Firth in the BBC production. I did have some trouble with Donald Sutherland’s Mr. Bennet; he seemed a bit rough around the edges. This was probably the director’s interpretation. I’m not sure how well it worked. He looked a bit like an alcoholic hobo.
Did the movie have a meaning?
The storyline of Pride and Prejudice captures the tension between the historical model of marriage as an economic institution, with alliances made to preserve estates and enhance the smooth functioning of society; and the newer, then-emerging model of marriage as a romantic relationship based upon love.
This film, and the novel that inspired it, capture that tension well. Critics have debated the historical accuracy of Jane Austen’s comic resolution in which two of the Bennet sisters are able to have it both ways - the family estate is preserved, and neither sister had to “sell out” and marry a creep.
Perhaps the “happily ever after” ending is a bit of wish fulfillment. But that’s part of what makes the storyline so appealing to people; we want our wishes fulfilled.
In addition to this major tension, Pride and Prejudice also exemplifies so many of the other tensions that we all must negotiate on a daily basis - between our individual desires and the demands of society and family; between social classes; between males and females; between old and new ways of doing things; between passion and reason.
What was the best/worst aspect about the movie?
Best, as I previously said, would be the quality of the acting, the sound-track, and the enduring appeal of the storyline. Worst, for some people, might be the liberties that the screenwriter took with Austen’s dialogue - though thank goodness, some of her best lines were preserved.
How do you think the film compares to the original book?
Well, like I said before, for true book lovers, films are never going to compare because there’s no way a director’s vision of a novel is ever going to do justice to your own. And a film of this length can’t fully capture all the details and nuances in a novel. Some of the dialogue was also made more contemporary, which some viewers may find jarring.
However, I think these filmmakers have done a good job of staying true to the spirit of the novel. The plot remains intact, and the actors manage to convey a lot about their characters’ motivations. In particular, I found the characters rang particularly true to the novel, and that was important for me, because character development is always what I’m most interested in.
Is it a movie that you would see again?
Yes, I would see this one again. It also inspired me to re-view the BBC production and, yes, pick up the novel for yet another time.
To whom would you recommend the film?
I would recommend the film to most anybody, because I think it’s an excellent introduction to Austen for those who aren’t previously familiar with her work. As for die-hard Austen fans, some of them may have things to complain about, but I would still recommend they see this film.
The only audiences for whom I wouldn’t recommend the film are very young children - not because it’s in any way inappropriate, but I think it’s just unlikely to be interesting to them. Testosterone-ravaged teenage boys also may not enjoy the film, though some might find themselves pleasantly surprised if they give it a chance.
On a four star rating, with four being the highest what would you rate the movie?
What’s your favorite movie snack?
Ice cream bon bons, though I allow myself the pleasure only occasionally.
What’s your favorite movie?
If I had to pick just one, I’d say Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. I just think all the elements of filmmaking come together in this one: a wonderful script that perfectly balances humor with drama; fantastic acting by one of the finest ensemble casts ever assembled; exquisite cinematography, including stunning footage of New York City and some mouthwatering tableaux of Thanksgiving dinners; not to mention the best soundtrack ever, which unfortunately you can’t buy.
Plus, this film presents issues and questions that most of us struggle with at some time or another in our lives. I watch this movie every year around Thanksgiving time, and I never get tired of seeing it.
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
My first choice would probably have to be Michael Caine. As for why, I’m not sure I could put it into words. I just find him very appealing. And yeah, I have a slight weakness for Colin Firth as well.
Well, I’m fairly new to HPU, so I’m still learning the ropes there, and I’m really enjoying it.
I will be teaching a new, first-time-offered-at-HPU creative nonfiction writing workshop this coming spring, and I’m very much looking forward to that.
I’m also in the process of developing a new upper-division literature course on British comedy, which I’m really excited about.
In fact, the whole HPU English faculty is currently in the process of developing a whole series of exciting new courses that I think our students are really going to enjoy, and I know our faculty is going to enjoy teaching them too. It’s an exciting time to be at HPU, especially for the English faculty. HPU is a dynamic institution, always moving toward the next good idea.
Next week: a new movie, a new celebrity
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