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A man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,
This review is from: Pride And Prejudice : Complete BBC Series - 10th Anniversary Edition  [DVD]  (DVD)
Of all the Jane Austen movies, the 1996 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" is arguably the best and most detailed. While remaining faithful to the original comedy of manners, the story remains steadily-paced and exceptionally acted. It's sort of a thinking-girl's romance movie.
The Bennett family is in an uproar when wealthy Mr. Bingley (Crispin Bonham-Carter) moves into the neighborhood, and Mrs. Bennett is especially happy when he takes a liking to eldest Jane (Susannah Harker). But her forthright, independent sister Lizzie (Jennifer Ehle) immediately butts heads with wealthy, aloof Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth), who scorns the rural village.
A flurry of proposals, road trips and friendships arrive, with Lizzie fending off her slimy cousin Mr. Collins, and befriending the flirty, hunky Wickham (Adrian Lukis), who claims to have been wronged by Darcy. Lizzie believes Wickham's account -- and she's in for a shock when Darcy unexpectedly proposes, and reveals what Wickham won't tell her.
And finally things take a scandalous turn when Lizzie's idiotic younger sister Lydia (Julia Sawalha) elopes with Wickham! The family is plunged into disgrace, which also wrecks any chances of marriage for the other daughters. The only one who can set things right is Darcy, who will do whatever he must to make amends to Lizzie.
It's obvious from the very first scenes -- when Lizzie jokingly comments that "a man of good fortune MUST be in want of a wife" -- that this is an adaptation that was done with love. The subplots, characters and atmosphere of "Pride and Prejudice" are all here.
The plot unfolds slowly, one piece at a time, but with several subplots that tie together as the story progresses. For a miniseries, it's actually rather spare and lacking in filler. And the dialogue -- based on Austen's -- is wonderfully well-written ("Beauty is not the only virtue. She has just inherited a fortune of ten thousand pounds, I understand." "Now THAT is a definite virtue!")
The time period is recreated with loving detail, from the muddy roads to the sweeping mansions with elaborate grounds. Even the hairstyles are recreated. And the entire plot is steeped in the mores of 19th-century England, with the attitudes toward marriage, love, and propriety that bound everyone (especially women).
The casting of the leads is absolutely perfect for this movie: Ehle and Firth are nothing short of amazing. Both are witty, smart, and a bit snotty in their own ways. Firth's Darcy is a selfish man who gradually becomes warm and kind, while Ehle's Lizzie is strong, independent, and Darcy's equal in every way. And neither will marry for anything but true love.
They're also backed by an excellent supporting cast, with slimy clergy, screeching moms, sly seducers, sardonic fathers, innocent sisters and aristocratic old harpies adding colour to it all. Sawalha is especially good as the 19th-century Valley Girl, and Alison Steadman gives a grating but suitable performance as the whiny, marriage-obsessed Mrs. Bennett.
This edition has a bunch of extras for the rabid Austenite -- a "making of" book, documentaries about Austen and the miniseries itself, and interviews with the people responsible. It's a nicely-rounded addition that will take a look at how both the book and movies came to be.
"Pride and Prejudice" is the cream of the Austen crop, and an understatedly romantic movie as well. Definitely to be watched, again and again.