I know that this may shock some of you, but I just recently saw, for the first time, Pride and Prejudice. I saw the stage production in college (and promptly forgot the story) and I have never read the book. So when I found out that Masterpiece Theatre was running the complete Jane Austen, I decided to DVR them all and catch up to my womanly notions that I should be at least familiar with her writing.
I watched the "classic" version first, the A&E and BBC one with Colin Firth as Darcy. I am glad I did, because if I had seen the newer version first, I probably would not have wanted to sit through the 4 hour version. Boy, am I glad I did! It was wonderful! I disliked Darcy at once, instantly rooted for Jane and Bingley, and felt exactly as Lizzie did in every scene. I couldn't ask for a better movie.
So just for kicks, I decided to rent the 2005 movie starring Kiera Knightly and went into it, I must confess, a bit biased. I knew it would never top the original. And so I wasn't disappointed. Although, it did a good job of condensing the plot to only 2 hours, it missed all the nuances that were so obvious and necessary for a complete story.
Instead of completely dismissing the Kiera Knightly version, let me give you a more detailed response to it:
1. For starters, it did a better job showing the disparity of wealth between the Bennet family and Bingley and Darcy. I didn't get that in the original.
2. Kiera Knightly does well in a strong female role, but couldn't convey the gentleness of Lizzie, or, quite frankly, the beauty. She kinda looked like Cinderella before her transformation for the majority of the movie - dirty and unkempt. Her sisters looked more formal than she did.
3. The only time I believed Kiera as Lizzie was when she was telling off Mr. Collins when he proposed and Darcy after his first offer.
4. Colin Firth as Darcy was much more believable. He was mean and snotty and softened just enough for the viewer to change their mind about him. The actor who portrayed Darcy in the latter of the films (sorry, I couldn't find his name) was too soft from the beginning and came across as almost pitiable. I never once disliked him and kinda felt sorry for him. Although I will concede that his softening at the end of the film was a bit more endearing.
5. Jane was definitely more beautiful in the 2nd film, although I thought Bingley looked like Conan O'Brian.
6. The 2nd film cut so much of Mr. Wickham's storyline that I neither embraced him nor hated him. He was an ancillary character that didn't matter, which is a shame, because I whole-heartedly fell for his lies in the longer version.
7. I did enjoy both actresses who portrayed Mrs. Bennet, although they portrayed her quite differently. Both versions were believable.
8. I was intent on liking the 2nd Mr. Bennet, but he wasn't around enough to enjoy and he garbled most of his memorable lines.
All in all, if you weren't familiar with the first movie, the second wouldn't be bad. In fact, it received really good reviews. But I will side with most P&P fans and take the first version any day!
*By the way, I am aware that the BBC version is not truly the original. But come on, has anyone actually seen the Lawrence Olivier version? These 2 movies are the most well-known productions of the story. And yes, I will also read the entire book now. I know I did this backwards!