In spite of the many wonderful movie adaptations that have come out of her work, Jane Austen is still viewed, at least in certain circles, as old-fashioned or boring in the same way that many authors from the 19th century are. If you ever find yourself harboring the delusion that Austen’s work isn’t interesting, though, all you really need to do is watch Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.
Even though it’s a faithful adaptation of its source material, the movie springs to life almost immediately and uses the conventions of its story to its advantage. Unfortunately, if you want to check the movie out on Netflix, you only have until the end of October. Here are three reasons you should take the time to do exactly that.
In spite of its setting (a series of English estates) and its subject matter (a love story between two people who are incapable of expressing their feelings to one another) Wright’s Pride & Prejudice always feels filled with life.
The central romance, between a young woman discovering the world and a man who tries his best to protect his friends, is a comedy of errors and missed connection, but what makes the movie work is the way you feel yourself swooning right alongside the main characters as they slowly move toward one another.
There are plenty of moving pieces to the story of Pride & Prejudice, but at the heart of it is the budding relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. As played by Atonement‘s Kiera Knightley and Succession‘s Matthew Macfadyen, respectively, this relationship is almost completely about scintillating possibility.
There’s one moment, early on in the film, when Darcy touches Elizabeth’s hand to help her into a carriage, and then flexes and clenches it, as if he’s trying to shake the feeling of her off of him. It’s a moment that perfectly illustrates how masterfully Wright is able to showcase the chemistry between these two characters, even as their relationship remains remarkably chaste.
If you haven’t already been convinced that a period drama might be worth your time, perhaps the best thing about Pride & Prejudice, and about all Austen adaptations when they’re well done, is that they are not at all stuffy or overly mannered in the way you might expect a period piece to be. Instead, this movie is brimming with life, quirk, and humor.
Macfadyen’s Darcy may be a bit of a stick in the mud, but Elizabeth’s entire family is filled with totally unique, distinct characters who all seem like real people. They may have lived in a time when manners meant everything, but that doesn’t mean these people don’t have real souls.
Pride & Prejudice is streaming on Netflix until November 1.
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