16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
the best movie interpretation of Jane Austen yet,
This review is from: Bride And Prejudice  [DVD] (DVD)
This is a virtuoso performance by the director. She manages to set most of Pride and Prejudice's storyline into a cross-cultural Indian-Western setting, deftly using the oft belabored "arranged marriage" theme to represent what was also the main social goal of women during Jane Austen's time. The setting is brought off perfectly -- a very difficult job, in view of the requirements of "Bollywood" movies for sing and dance pieces; here, the sing and dance pieces move the story along, stand for the social entertainment of the times (Lizzy spends hours at the piano providing dancing music, with Darcy listening), and provide color, excellent music, and, most importantly, fun. Lizzy is an ebullient and irrepressible character, as Jane Austen makes clear through her characterization, but also in direct author's remarks to the reader. Her singing, but most dancing in this movie does a great job of conveying this exuberance. Just watch the garba episode! The director also pokes fun at this very tradition of "interrupting" the movie for song and dance, but in an inspired way -- the song and dance on the beach, featuring a black church choir, is a stroke of genius, because it rings true and is at the same time nearly ridiculous, poking gentle fun at itself.
Northern Indians are fond of bright colors, something this movie displays in abundance. While very colorful, the clothes are simply gorgeous -- and the radiant Aishwarya Rai, already the most strikingly beautiful actress anywhere, looks simply breathtaking in her outfits as Lalita/Lizzy. No wonder Darcy falls in love at first sight!
The actors are excellent at their jobs, even though most members of Lizzy's family are painted in a more sympathetic light than in the book. Kitty, who is pretty much a cipher in the book anyway, is entirely omitted, while Mary/Maya provides more comic relief than in the book. Darcy's friend is once again cast in an intercultural light, as Balraj, a wealthy British barrister of Indian origin -- and is strikingly attractive as well as simpatico; here we can well understand Jane's immediate attraction to him. Once again, the movie is gentler than the book when it comes to his sister, who can be catty (watch her predatory smile as she offers cakes in her London mansion), but ultimately enjoys life too much to be really nasty.
I found the two actors who play Lizzy's parents to be outstanding and finely matched to the softened characterization chosen by the director. Darcy (who stays Darcy in the movie, the only one to do so with his sister and his now mother, Catherine) and his bosom friend Balraj are great. But the two who steal the show are Aishwarya Rai, by her beauty, her truly Lizzy-like wit and fast eyebrows, and her power to evoke dreams as easily as daily drab, and an actor who was entirely unknown to me who plays Mr. Collins, the character who, in the book, will inherit the estate and marries Charlotte, Lizzy's best friend. Here, he is an accountant in California and does work for Darcy's (god)mother. His character has to be one of the great comic creations in movies; his spectacular braying laugh, his unbelievable table manners ("like watching a Jackson Pollock painting", says Lizzy-Lalita), his simple belief in money, all mixed with his obvious devotion to his wife and generally good character, make for an unforgettable performance. I do not know who created this character, who, in the book, is simply a pompous and obsequious ass; but the notion, for instance, of marking him as an ass by having him bray at every "bon mot", while giving him sufficient redeeming qualities not to turn him into a simple churl, is brilliant.
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book; I must have read it at least 40 times cover to cover. Past movie settings tried to reproduce the English and period setting and never quite got to what the book really conveys, which is pretty much timeless; this movie only tries to get to the heart of the book -- the dilemma every woman in the book faced when coming of age and the hesitant, on again and off again, relationship between a very serious Darcy and a very ebullient Lizzy, and succeeds brilliantly. I am well on my way to matching my number of book readings by my number of movie watchings -- and watching the movie made me re-read the book a few more times as well. THere is alway more to discover in Jane Austen's writings and, incredibly, I keep discovering more nice small touches (Charlotte's mother's pushing her into the dance at the first dance scene, for instance) in the movie. The movie is dense; not as richly textured as, say, Lord of the Rings (one of the few movies to really make one feel "there" because of the incredibly dense quality of each setting), but still much richer than most contemporary movies. Very highly recommended!