This was the first adaptation I saw (almost) in full. I missed some of the first episode. I can’t remember exactly what point it was when I first turned it on, but I believe it was the Meryton Assembly. I was so excited to see it because I read the book for the first time shortly before this and only saw the “WTF” ending of the 1940 version. I remember seeing a gorgeous brunette and a not so pretty blonde and thought immediately that the former must be Jane, because of her beauty. I wondered if the blonde was Elizabeth or if she was someone else. Then I heard them talking and realized that the beauty was Elizabeth and the “ugly” one was Jane! It took a while to get over that initial shock but I managed to enjoy the series all the same. There were (and still are) some parts that still irk me but there’s nothing I can do about it, really. I’ve seen the series quite a few times since I purchased the DVD boxset 4 years ago. That boxset was horrible, by the way. I recently got the new remastered version and it is much better. The colors are so vivid and I can finally see all the beauty of the costumes and the scenery that I didn’t before due to the grayed, washed out older DVDs.
This is probably one of the, if not THE most famous and popular Jane Austen adaptation ever. Many fans call it definitive. I shudder at any adaptation ever being called definitive, but even if I didn’t I would not think this one was! I do appreciate its length and being able to see more of the story than in any of the others (it is longer than the 1980 version as well). It includes more characters and scenes. It is beautiful to look at (as long as you don’t have the bad DVD set!), being shot on film and with higher production values than older adaptations had. I like how it followed “show, don’t tell” throughout even though the timing of some of those “showings” bothered me (I’ll get into it). It was really funny. It had good acting by some of the cast. And Lizzy has some really beautiful gowns (not so some of the other women).
But then there are things that I don’t like about it so much. Some of the cast is too old. Many characters are exaggerated even more than in the book and are made into caricatures. For some of them I didn’t mind (Mr. Hurst), for others I did mind a lot! (Mrs. Bennet) Andrew Davies, the screenwriter, included a lot of extra Darcy scenes that are not in the book. It was sexed up (mostly, but not only, Darcy), etc. And I don’t like that Andrew Davies gives away the book’s surprises before the characters learn of them! We hear Darcy narrating his letter to Elizabeth and see flashbacks of its contents before she reads the letter. We see Darcy at Pemberley before Elizabeth does (in the infamous pond scene). And we see him looking for Wickham and Lydia in London and then present at their wedding, before Elizabeth learns of it! Maybe they thought it wasn’t important since they figured viewers had already read the book? Most people likely had not (and still haven’t) so it irritates me. Could they not have showed those scenes after the fact, as flashbacks? That would have made more sense to me. Does this mean I hate the adaptation? NO! I really don’t. I do not mean to bash it and I hope it doesn’t sound that way. On my latest viewing, I actually found more to like about it than I did before! I’ll try to include positives, too, I promise! This may get long…
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet
She was my biggest complaint when I first saw the series. I don’t hate her now like I did before, but she’s my least favorite Elizabeth. She was only 24 or so when filming and yet seemed much older. Her Elizabeth was so mature and almost matronly from the start. I really don’t see her “grow up” throughout the mini as I do the Elizabeth in the book or the other adaptations. I also feel she was too rude with Darcy in some of the early scenes (surely he was not so blind as to believe this Lizzy liked him???) and also too forward in her conversations with Wickham (“Handsome young men must have something to live on…” she says to him!) But the latter is AD’s fault, not hers. She was angry even after reading Mr. Darcy’s letter, which bothers me. She has a pretty full figure which is nice and all, but not really “light” as in the book and it looks really forced and silly to see her running and skipping about and playing with a dog in one scene. She looks like she’s really struggling at it. But I do think she shines in her scenes with Jane, where you can really see her deep love for her sister.
Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
I don’t buy into the whole “Darcy mania” thing that Firth inspired but I by no means disliked him. He was pretty good for the most part. I liked his indifferent reactions to Caroline Bingley, and his kindness to his sister. I liked his scenes with Elizabeth and the Gardiners at Pemberley. I could see his love and admiration there. But I’m not a fan of all the extra, sexed up Darcy scenes- taking a bath at Netherfield and then staring creepily at Elizabeth playing with a dog out the window, fencing to get over Elizabeth, arriving at Pemberley and jumping into a scummy pond (and then managing to run inside and get fully dressed in time to stop Lizzy and the Gardiners from leaving???), etc. And I thought both he and Ehle did a poor job in the second proposal scene- totally flat and devoid of all the emotion and passion of the book.
Susannah Harker as Jane Bennet
She played the sweet, good-natured Jane quite well. There was only one problem. She looked almost ugly at times, especially next to Jennifer Ehle. I saw her in Adam Bede where she was gorgeous and angelic and other very beautiful pictures of her, but her hairstyle in this did her no favors. I also thought that the dark lipstick they always had her in made her lips look thin. And some of her dresses, like the yellow one in this picture (sorry it’s cut off!) were on the dowdy side. She looked best when in simple white with no lipstick. They should have given her more flattering styles.
Crispin Bonham-Carter as Charles Bingley
Although he was bordering “dim” on occasion he was nothing to the utter buffoon that Simon Woods’ Bingley was. I also thought he was good-looking in a “cute” sort of way, which is a step up from Osmund Bullock as far as looks go.
Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet
My least favorite Mrs. Bennet ever! I think she could have done alright, but for one thing- the voice! This horrible high-pitched screeching noise that makes my ears bleed! All the other actresses who played Mrs. Bennet managed to make her annoying, shrill, silly, obnoxious, etc but not so loud that it makes me want to mute the video! She really just needed to tone it down a notch.
Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennet
I thought he got Mr. Bennet’s sarcasm and exasperation right, but he was not altogether satisfying to me. While it was more subtly done than in 2005, they softened him a bit in this one too. He is a sympathetic character here and although he is impatient with his wife at times, he’s still likable , which I don’t think he is in the book. I wonder if a lot of people seem to like him because of this version?
Lucy Briers as Mary Bennet
I felt sorry for the actress because they really made her look beyond plain to just plain hideous in this! There were spots on her face and I don’t know if she really had acne or they were makeup. Well, she played her part well at least.
Polly Maberly as Kitty Bennet
Well, she was the only Bennet girl who actually looked like a teenager, so that was a plus! She didn’t do much but follow Lydia around but Kitty doesn’t do much in the book either so it didn’t bother me.
Julia Sawalha as Lydia Bennet
Not a fan. She didn’t pass as a teen to me and rather than coming off as a silly girl, she seemed like a slut. There is a scene where she’s in the hall in her underwear and bumps into Mr. Collins, who is mortified. She just starts laughing and doesn’t seem embarrassed in the slightest! I could also have done without the implied “post-coital” scene of her and Wickham in their room while the rest of the characters (sans the de Bourghs) are attending the double wedding at the end.
David Bamber as William Collins
Axe-murderer Mr. Collins??? Yes, I thought he was funny, but he creeped me out! I didn’t mind that much that he was much older than the book Collins or that he was not tall or whatever. But why did he constantly have a layer of grease all over his hair and face? I don’t recall “creepy slimeball” among the descriptors of Mr. Collins in the book!
Adrian Lukis as George Wickham
If I close my eyes and listen to him speaking his lines he sounds great. He has a really nice, charming voice. But, unfortunately, with my eyes open, he doesn’t do much for me. He’s not bad-looking, but not attractive enough and he looks guilty from the beginning. How was he able to fool Elizabeth? I don’t know, is it just because I know the story that I don’t buy it? Well, I did like that they showed him dancing with Mary King (who I thought was very cute but the characters did not…)
Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Meh. She wasn’t awful. She was a bossy busybody, yes. But she was so indolent and unenergetic, I don’t know why everyone was afraid of her. It was hard to believe she’d make the trip to Longbourn either, because she looked so comfortable on her little throne at Rosings.
Lucy Scott as Charlotte Lucas
I have no problems with her acting but I thought she was too pretty, aside from the harsh middle part in her hair. I don’t think she needed to settle for Mr. Collins (especially since this Mr. Collins is so physically repulsive).
Anna Chancellor as Caroline Bingley
She’s related to Jane Austen! Isn’t that cool? Anyway, I didn’t mind her acting but only her look. Where is the elegant, fashionable Miss Bingley of the book? Here she is always wearing garish colors and ridiculous turbans. She was hideous. Look at the bit of her outfit you can see in this picture. What is that? Hideous.
Emilia Fox as Georgiana Darcy
Her part, like Mr. Bennet, was changed, but more subtly than in the 2005 version (where she is very outgoing). She is still shy in this one but talks quite a bit to Lizzy, as opposed to only uttering monosyllables as in the book. But it helps to make the audience like the character and to see her attachment to her brother and for Lizzy to find another “sister” etc. so it’s no problem to me.
Anthony Calf as Colonel Fitzwilliam
I must mention him simply because I thought he was the most good-looking guy in the cast and was surprised Lizzy didn’t develop romantic feelings for him. He seemed genuinely interested in her and I don’t remember him telling her he must marry an heiress, as in the book. He is not supposed to be handsome in the book! Not that I’m complaining…
Tim Wylton and Joanna David as the Gardiners
Did the costumers have something against them or something? They played their roles admirably, but wore really plain, dowdy clothing. Where is their fashion and style? It seems a silly thing to be turning me off so, but there it is. I did like that we got to see their kids in this one because I can’t recall them from 1980, they’re childless in 2005, and were cut completely from 1940. And Joanna David is the real life mother of Emilia Fox (Georgiana).
The Hursts were included in this as well. Mr. Hurst was exaggerated from the book greatly but he was funny and I didn’t care. Mrs. Hurst and her siblings, the Bingleys, all looked absolutely nothing like each other. I don’t remember Lady Lucas but Sir William is in it quite a bit, always saying “Capital!” And this is the only version we get to see Maria Lucas or Mary King in (I don’t remember if the latter had any scenes in the book either, or was only mentioned).
I couldn’t resist talking a little bit about the costumes. Here is more of the yellow dress of Jane’s that I find really ugly and unflattering to her figure-
Jane and Elizabeth almost always wear very low-cut dresses, even during the day time. They’re both very “gifted” in the bosom area and I guess that helped add to the “sex appeal” or something. Jane’s gowns almost always have a V-neckline and Lizzy’s are usually square. I don’t think the V’s were flattering to Susannah Harker. They made her shoulders look broad and her boobs look saggy (Elizabeth’s were always pushed up VERY high). She was pregnant during filming which probably didn’t help. As I’ve also said, everything Miss Bingley wore was vile. Her sister’s dresses were also a bit garish, but not as bad as hers!
They usually gave Elizabeth really beautiful dresses though (I really didn’t notice all the different ones until I saw the new DVD!). And she has some gorgeous, rust-colored bonnets which I absolutely adore!
I thought this was a pretty shot, so I didn’t just crop the bonnet!
This one I’ve seen on the heroine of Lost in Austen! At least, I’m pretty sure it’s the same one. I haven’t actually watched it and don’t have much desire to. Maybe one day.
This one is also really nice! What are your favorite bonnets and/or other outfits? Least favorites? Does anyone else pay attention ?
My Rating: 7/10