Pride and Prejudice 1995 Review

4 Jun

First Impressions

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…

The Characters

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

8 Responses to “Pride and Prejudice 1995 Review”

  1. jessjess50 June 7, 2010 at 8:12 AM #

    Hi Peachy,

    Your treatment of the classics has had me chuckling all morning. Like you, I love the books but I also really love the adaptations – they bring the tales to life and ensure a whole new readership in every generation. I hate it when people dismiss them as populist cr*p in an effort to appear clever.

    Lost in Austen is pretty dire – Tho the custumes are fabulous!

    Jessica Bull

  2. kaprekar June 26, 2010 at 3:58 PM #

    Ooh quite a stinging review overall…I do like P&P myself and it was definitely a seismic event in costume drama. Actually I can relate to many of your criticisms but they don’t spoil my enjoyment of the series at all. The casting of Lady Catherine was to me the one that worked least well. And I agree that Susannah Harker is not my idea of the beautiful Jane, but she is a good actress and I was fine with her.

  3. mumznotzeword February 14, 2012 at 10:21 AM #

    I understand some of your criticism… Jane isn’t as beautiful as Lizzie, Mr Collins has greasy skin and hair… well, I think the cast was really good and well-chosen. They respected the beauty standards of the time, which were very different from ours… So I think Susannah Harker as Jane is very credible, since she has the type of beauty of the early 19th. Mr Collins certainly is not creepy, just extremely stupid and I thought very well acted. He looks quite dirty but that’s probably the most realistic touch of the mini, since people of the 19th were dirty and probably all had greasy hair. I don’t really agree about the “sexing up” of Darcy’s scenes, or Lydia’s slutness, I didn’t think they were sexy scenes actually, and Lydia was just shown as a really silly girl, who has no clue about conventions of the “real world” which I think is quite faithful to her character in the book. Although I do agree some of the costumes are quite ugly but again, I’m not sure our modern opinions are relevant on that subject, since tastes in fashion in those days can sometimes seem really questionable to us. I would have had much more criticism about the 2005 movie, which I found really apalling in some scenes (the gooey romanticism for instance) but still enjoyed!

    • Jenny October 23, 2016 at 5:27 PM #

      I think you have it exactly right. I think the 1995 version is the best by far and far more accurate in reflecting the fashions and standards of the time. I loved their clothes because they appeared to be true to the time. I don’t like it when a period drama is done with our fashions and standards in mind.
      The 1995 version cast is the best. I think they’re all perfect… especially Mrs Bennet – she’s fabulous – nerves and all!

  4. Anne Smith December 9, 2013 at 5:56 PM #

    I think you are wrong. Colin Forth is AMAZING as Mr. Darcy!! Jenifer Ehle is also really good! I do agree about how Jane is not very pretty in this version, but in 2005 Rosamond Pike is an AMAZING Jane!

    • marspeach December 9, 2013 at 8:50 PM #

      This review was just my OPINION, therefore, it is not right or wrong. You are entitled to your own opinion, just as I am.

    • Marsha January 23, 2015 at 4:34 PM #

      I agree. Colin Firth is my all time favorite Mr. Darcy. I do agree that the swim in the large pond and the fencing were way too staged for setting him up as a heart-throb. And yes, Lizzy was a bit too curt in the first half. After seeing her other roles, I understood why they chose Suzannah Harker for Jane, but at first I thought, “The first choice for Jane must have had an accident and they had to go with #2!” All throughout the mini series, she looked like a football linebacker… thick neck, thick shoulders, and the hair style was atrocious for her face. I also agree that Mrs. Bennett was way too satirical… almost comedic, and her voice was too loud and too shrill. Also, Julia Sawalha over acted the Lydia role… loved her in Lark Rise to Candleford. Love the Gardiners in this version, especially Joanna David, a superb period actress! Must close by saying that I felt that Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth is still my favorite. I love the 2005 movie, but Ehle seemed to personify the level headed, but prejudiced Elizabeth I got to know in the book!

  5. Hannah February 17, 2014 at 4:51 PM #

    It’s so nice to know that I’m not the only person who thinks this adaptation is overrated! 🙂 I could scream when I hear people say “This adaptation is perfect and flawless! Why would you even bother wanting to watch any of the others?! Anyone who could prefer other adaptations is less intelligent and has no taste! They’ve obviously never read the book or they didn’t understand it properly!” I’m really not exaggerating here! These are all things that I’ve heard 1995 fans say over the years.

    Have you thought about reviewing more Jane Austen adaptations? Have you heard of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved? There’s also Lost in Austen, Becoming Jane & Miss Austen Regrets. Those aren’t adaptations but they are Jane Austen related.

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