Tuesday, April 04, 2006

#11 (Film in Review 2005)

For me, Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice (#11) was the biggest surprise of the year, a film that far, far surpassed my modest expectations. One could argue that even a shoddy adaptation of a Jane Austen novel would be watchable (the source material is that good), yet a film that attempts to fit her best work into about two hours - and when a prior effort has, in my opinion, already achieved perfection - has a great uphill challenge ahead of it (to say the least). Happily, Wright and his team somehow pulled off the impossible, being original and concise without undermining the source material, or repeating the past efforts of other films. Deborah Moggach's screenplay (with help from Emma Thompson, herself no stranger to Austen adaptations) is something of a small miracle, touching on all the beloved moments in the novel without resorting to hurried "Coles Notes" tactics. In every aspect, the film is a winner, from its outstanding esemble cast (with the exception of the horrid Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham) to the rich musical score by Dario Marianelli to the dazzling choreography of Wright's camera. It is undoubtedly the best-looking film of the year as well, its costumes, sets and cinematography rivaled only by the gorgeous production values on Wong Kar-Wai's 2046. Even Keira Knightley, who has been painful to watch on-screen otherwise, gives what will probably be the best performance of her career (prove me wrong, Keira! I like being surprised). Perhaps the highest kudos of praise I can give to this film is that it gave me new insight into and appreciation of a text I thought I knew inside-out; that it was able to take a story so well-known (and over-done) and make it seem seemingly untouched.

Link to original capsule Review

6 comments:

jesse said...

Excellent choice.

Nick M. said...

I would also place Pride and Prejudice in this area -- it may even sneak into the 10th position on my list.

Ali said...

It kills me not to have this in my top ten. I would have included it as a tie if I hadn't already done so with another title. Nick, you're so wrong, 2005 was a great year.

Kamikaze Camel said...

It's in my top 5 definitely. I too had modest expectations that were easily surpassed.

Anonymous said...

I continues to amaze me that many people rate this film. So much so I'm going to watch it again. For me, this was such a poor adaptation of the source and so far from its target that I wondered whether the filmmakers shouldn't have just called it something else and let go completely of the Austen connection. Not that I believe in slavishly faithful adaptations but this one ultimately seemed to be a cynical attempt to shovel a built-in audience into the cinema. As for the film itself... Keira Knightley's simpering, giggling, thoughtless and utterly unintelligent Lizzy Bennet makes it on to my worst performances of all time list. Joe Wright tried way too hard to make the material "relevant" to a contemporary audience and in doing so managed to condescend shamelessly to all audiences, in my opinion. Cutting out the darkness and edge at the heart of Jane Austen is very uncool. Filling frames with MTV and commercial ploys is even more uncool. The result: for me, a bizarrely irrelevant costume drama that in no way is more narratively bold or consistently risk-taking as the 1940s feature.

Ali said...

I hear what you're saying, Anon. I suppose I was just so shocked the team didn't screw it up - maybe that's why I felt so generous (I haven't seen it again since).

I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on the '95 mini-series if you've seen it...