Friday, December 02, 2005

My Apologies, Keira.

So, it's Friday evening. I have less than a week until I am entirely done school (well, for the hols). It feels so good to think that and repeat it over and over again, but then I remind myself that I still have two essays and two exams to complete within this time period, and I haven't started on any of them. But no matter, I've always worked best under pressure, and I'll undoubtedly get it all done. I'm not worried about that. But I do dread the work and time to be spent on it all, having to stay up late, use up several bottles of eyedrops and force extra-dark coffee mix down my throat (I kid about that last one... somewhat).

Okay, enough of that. I'm sure reading about my schoolwork and the consequences for my own laziness are boring you readers (all two of you) to death. On to a movie review.

* Please excuse me if I make no sense. I haven't slept in two days.

So guess what I'm eating? That's right, humble pie. But not just a slice - the whole damn thing. That's how bad I feel about prematurely dismissing Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice [B+/A-, still deciding] all these months leading upto its release. You see, the 1995 BBC version is very dear to my heart (I feel it's definitive) and the Austen novel is one of my favorite literary works ever, so you can see why I viewed this umpteenth adaptation with suspicion. My immediate dislike of the project also stemmed from the fact that Wright had cast Keira Knightley in the lead, an actress that I have had a less-than-stellar track record with. But I was wrong, my friends. I was so wrong. While I still feel the BBC version is better (it's four hours long, so obviously it has more depth), this effort stands firmly on its own. What makes it special in my eyes is the sheer cinematic vibe I got from it; Simon Langton's helming of the mini-series was straight-forward and no-frills (which is fine, it worked for the production). But Wright does awe-inspiring work here; the camera is never static, but constantly moving, following, spinning, darting, exploring - this dynamic approach involved me. I was riveted because I was being engaged as a viewer, placed immediately within the context of the characters' environment. The two ball sequences are especially characteristic of this inexplicable technique, and I simply let myself be led by "window" of the camera (those sequences must have been extremely difficult to get perfect!). The film obviously looked absolutely gorgeous, but not because of the objects and actors in front of the camera; rather, I felt it was due to the fact that Wright was so diverse in his approach. Not for a second did I expect where I would be "looking" next - his work was brilliant, varied and dazzling (Elizabeth twirling on the swing, the bizzare Rear Window tribute with the camera moving from window to window, the choreography of the camera following the dances). I only was turned off by two of his decisions (the cutaway to Lizzie and Darcy dancing alone together, and then the borderline-cheesy finale). If this movie had to be singled out for only one Oscar nomination, you know my vote would go. I also must credit the screenplay (written by Deborah Maggoch, aided by Emma Thompson), which managed to encompass and give depth to all the significant turns of the novel without turning it all into a streamlined "Coles-Notes" skeleton of the original text. I don't know how they managed to do it, but I would certainly love to get some pointers from them. As well, the casting, which initially turned me off - once again, I eat my words. This is the first film in which I liked Keira Knightley - she managed to catch the essence of Lizzie without copying Jennifer Ehle's perfection. This Elizabeth is younger, a little more flirtatious and definitely feeling some sexual tension for Mr. D. I loved her take on the character, and I am no longer apprehensive about seeing her get an Oscar nomination for this. As Mr. Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen is a little less sturdy, but his approach to the character was also interesting in that it exposed the more vulernable feelings buried deep within. All in all, a fantastic film by any standard. It made me laugh, it captured me from beginning to end. Hell, I even got misty-eyed (I blame Donald Sutherland, who manages to nail a moment of emotional nakedness so precise, authentic and tender that it made several audience members burst out into sobs). Bravo, everyone.


Jesse said...

You're just a sucker for visually interesting screen adaptions of British literature (*cough* VANITY FAIR *cough*).

I kid. :) Actually, two friends I hung out with last night convinced me that I need to see this film, and you have confirmed it. So hopefully I shall find the time to do so in the near future.

Nick M. said...

Well, I am sure the toher reader will be just as bored as I was when reading about your schoolwork dilemma. But, of course, I am joking since I can absolutely empathize. Yeah, I have a 10 page research paper on ecocriticism in children's literature due Monday. So what? Oy.

You should feel really, really silly. I knew you would like Pride and Prejudice. I took my sister over Thanksgiving break and we both enjoyed it. But boo-to-you for not singling out Brenda B.

Ali said...

Jesse - It's so true. I guess the director really has to step it up with their approach in order to outdo the last adaptation before them. Nair and Wright both accomplish this with great success in my opinion (although I can't say I am familiar with prior versions of "Vanity Fair"). I'm sure you will really like this version. I went in expecting to hate it, and in minutes I was won over.

Nick - 10 pages? Wow, my requirements are in the 5-6 page realm. You have it way worse than me, I'll stop complaining. As for P&P, I couldn't comment on every single cast member, could I? It was a never-ending entry, I had to wrap it up.

What I will say is that everyone was great (your beloved Blenda B. included) except for Rupert Friend (Mr. Wickham), who is a poor man's version of Orlando Bloom. And Orlando Bloom is already a poor man's version of himself, if you know what I mean. What was Wright thinking in that department? Still, the actor was in only two scenes, so I can overlook that.

Nick M. said...

I agree, rupert Friend was rather weak -- but Wickman was a rather weak and pathetic character, anyway (but yes, that still does not justify a poor performance).

And I can understand your word constraints. I just posted a collasal entry (which includes my thoughts on Pride and Prejudice) and I only mentioned the cast collectively (but I HAD to point of B.B.) because everything was getting too damn long.

It is unfortunate when you have an ability to be succinct.

Jesse said...

I like VANITY FAIR just as much as you do (I've seen it twice now), and comparisons between it and P&P is a good sign indeed.