Pride and Prejudice

In the eighteenth century the Bennet family resides in the English countryside, a time and place where only male heirs could inherit property. Having been 'blessed' with five daughters, Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn, "Beyond the Sea") is in a constant state of agitation looking for suitable husbands to provide for them should Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland, "Cold Mountain") predecease her. When wealthy Londoner Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) takes up residence in a nearby estate, a country ball is thrown and the Bennets' eldest, Jane (Rosamund Pike, "Die Another Day") catches his eye, but Bingley's friend, the arrogant and even richer Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen, "The Reckoning"), is quickly loathed by the high-spirited and modern second eldest Bennet daughter Elizabeth (Keira Knightley, "King Arthur"). Intelligent though she is, Lizzy's quickness to judgement blinds her to her own "Pride & Prejudice."

Laura's Review: A

Jane Austen, who all but invented the romantic comedy formula of keeping her intended couples at odds until her stories' endings, has had five of her six novels adapted for the movies, and all at least once for television, but, with the exception of last year's Bollywoodized "Bride & Prejudice," the novel that is perhaps her most famous work hasn't appeared on the big screen since the 1940 Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson starrer. What a delight, then, to discover first time feature director Joe Wright actually surpassing that classic adaptation by letting some fresh air into it. Keira Knightley, whose star has ascended quicker than her talents could be ascertained, proves that she's got the stuff with her deeply sympathetic portrayal of the rash but well-intentioned Elizabeth. Wright distinguishes himself immediately, opening with a long tracking shot that follows Lizzy, lost in a book, as she approaches her decidedly rustic home. As she bypasses the front door, the camera (cinematography by Roman Osin, "The Warrior") sneaks past, zigzagging through the disheveled living rooms of the Bennets before meeting up with her again at the home's rear. Wright is giving Austen 'The Return of Martin Guerre' treatment, a realistic look at appearances of the time, right down to the flattened, somewhat dirty appearance of Knightley's hair that certainly feels right for the time. Bennet family breakfasts are noisy, grabby, finger-licking affairs, a large boisterous group beginning their day. No wonder the household's lone male, well-intentioned if precariously lax Mr. Bennet, hides away with his books and his orchids. The ball which introduces this clan to the sophisticated Londoners ('We're a long way from Grovesnor Square' sniffs Caroline Bingley (Kelly Reilly, "L'Auberge espagnole)) is almost like a Ceilidh. Local dancers actually perspire from their exertions. Perhaps this is why Darcy responds to Lizzy's query as to whether he dances with 'Not if I can help it,' but before long the unusual girl will have him breaking a sweat as he struggles to right the social wrongs he does the Bennets to gain her favor. Austen, of course, (screenplay by Deborah Moggach with an uncredited dialogue buff by Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for adapting Austen's "Sense and Sensibility") will throw many obstacles and misunderstandings the couple's way, including Mr. Wickkham (Rupert Friend), the underhanded officer and former friend of Darcy's who eventually subjects the Bennet family to scandal in his romancing of Lydia Bennet (Jena Malone, "Saved!," "The Ballad of Jack and Rose") and the obsequious and self-important Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander, "The Lawless Heart," "Stage Beauty," in an inspired supporting performance), who believes he's doing Elizabeth a favor by asking for her hand. Knightley manages the complex Elizabeth beautifully, projecting intelligence and humor and acting rashly while seeming to be thoughtful. Her dawning recognition of her feelings for Darcy inspire heart-stopping suspense in our desire to see the lovers united. And Matthew MacFadyen is a terrific Darcy, not just misunderstood, but initially truly arrogant, a man ripe for being brought down a peg or two. MacFadyen, like Knightley, must also handle dueling characteristics and the actor quiet believably arcs his character from snob to gentleman. He's also quite funny, both in control, such as when he analyzes his sister's motivations for parading around the room, or out of it, when his very flustered Darcy tries to practice the fine art of conversation with a perplexed Lizzy. Support is almost too numerous to mention, but note should go to both Donald Sutherland as Lizzy's doting but clueless dad and Brenda Blethyn, whose brand of tizzy theatrics is perfect for the match-making mother. Rosamund Pike and Simon Woods are a simpler, but complementary pair to the leads. Judi Dench ("Die Another Day") shifts tones too abruptly as Lady Catherine de Bourg, Mr. Collins' wealthy benefactor, whose late interrogation of Elizabeth seems out of character from the imperious but interested woman we meet earlier. For a first time director, Wright shows a strong sense of style. He repeats widescreen pastoral compositions featuring one or two characters that are both beautiful and distinctive. Perhaps his most unusual idea is his use of sound (sound mixing by Danny Hambrook, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit") during the Bingley ball. It fades in and out, making Collins's attentions to Elizabeth like the buzzing of a gnat, then fades away almost altogether except for the conversation of Elizabeth and Darcy, their attention to each other precluding everything around them. It is a device that could have called undue attention to itself, but in Wright's hands it feels organic. Both costume (Jacqueline Durran, "Vera Drake") and hair and makeup (Sarah Love, "King Arthur") are refreshingly realistic rather than over-glossed. The movie wraps with two wonderful scenes, its penultimate one a glowing projection of paternal love that just delights. "Pride & Prejudice" is that most unusual of films - one that improves upon its golden age forebear.

Robin's Review: B

Director Gavin O’Connor delivers a middlin’ cop thriller that benefits most from its stellar, veteran cast and less from its overly convoluted story. The players are uniformly good with one exception. Colin Farrell outshines everyone as tough, smart and ruthless Jimmy, the ringleader of the corrupt cops under the command of his brother-in-law, Francis. I was not a fan of the Farrell when he first came to my attention in “Tiger land (2000)” but that changed with his over the top performance as the uber bad guy, Bullseye, in the otherwise so-so “Daredevil.” That got my attention and my opinion changed, further, with his outstanding performance in this year’s “In Bruges.” As the cop gone bad in “Pride and Glory,” Farrell is at the top of his form and positively chilling in his coldness. To me, he is the prime reason to see the film. Edward Norton gives a typically solid perf as Ray, the honest cop assigned to crack the corruption ring. Noah Emmerich is very good as Francis Jr., giving a nuanced performance as the unknowing precinct commander who, though not a part of the corruption ring, knows he is still responsible for the actions of his men. Jon Voight again proves his acting mettle as father and leader. He, too, gives nuance as Francis Sr., father, grandfather and commander of cops. Jennifer Ehle, as Francis Jr.’s cancer ridden wife, has a tough role in what is normally a two-dimensional character. The actress, though, builds her Abby into a fully formed, very sympathetic person. The rest of the cast is also up to snuff across the board. What keeps “Pride and Glory” from being a great cop corruption thriller like “Serpico” is the convoluted story by O’Connor, Joe Carnahan, Greg O’Connor and Robert Hopes. What should be a straightforward story of good over evil gets muddled as things unroll to its climax. There are moments of genuine thrills and chills, especially when Jimmy shows that he will stop at nothing, not murder, not mutilation (watch for the films best scene involving a hot iron and a baby). The first rate cast helps take the only fair story to what should have been unattainable heights. Techs, too, are top notch with vet lenser Declan Quinn lending to the dark grittiness of the film. Production design by Dan Leigh and film editors Lisa Zeno Churgin and John Gilroy also help for the film’s look and feel. “Pride and Glory” is a good film that could have been great.