Skepticism is the word to describe what I thought when I saw that a new "Pride & Prejudice" was coming to theaters, and starring Kiera Knightley no less, an actress who I am deeply attracted to, but someone who I did not necessarily see working well in a period piece.
It was not just that, but the movie looked too modernized, not to mention the fact that Jane Austen's novel has been done many times before, including a BBC production that is regarded as absolutely superb by most. Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy in that version, and he also played Darcy in two "Bridget Jones" movies, which, in some senses, are versions of "Pride & Prejudice" as well. That being said, Firth is nowhere to be seen in this movie, and is instead replaced by Matthew Macfadyen, a not quite as charming but still very good Darcy.
Anyway, I was wrong. "Pride & Prejudice: Version 256" is absolutely excellent from beginning to end. While it could have afforded some tightening in a few places here and there, especially in the third act, the movie is well-delivered, funny and in some ways exciting as romances go, even though you know how it's going to end.
Knightley is terrific as individually-minded Elizabeth Bennet, who handles the rather complicated dialogue with ease and carries a nice innocence about her, even though she is clearly the smartest woman in the story.
Director Joe Wright, with his first mainstream film, also does a terrific job of making this more than just the story that most people are familiar with. While I wasn't crazy with a few of his transitional tricks, which threw me for a loop on occasion, for the most part the direction helps take the story to the next level.
While I have never seen the Colin Firth version, this new take on "Pride & Prejudice" is an excellent adaptation that works in just about every way. It is funny, heartfelt and moving all at once, just as you'd expect from a good Jane Austen movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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