11.15.2005

pride and prejudice

we interrupt nanowrimo to bring you 1500 words or so on a completely different subject. this could have been a great movie. it might have eclipsed sense and sensibility as my all-time favorite movie of all time. it had all the right elements to do so. the story of elizabeth and mr. darcy is my already my favorite archetypal romance story: free thinking, unconventionally attractive girl meets handsome, brooding, stoic male and there is an instant revulsion (see movie title), followed by witty banter and sniping for months, (since this is jane austin, it's typically over women's ability to make her own choices within society's norms). at different times, they each realize that they love the other, except they're too proud (see movie title again) to admit it until at last at the very end they kiss and live perfectly happily ever after. this last scene quite often involves rain, or some other precarious position for the heroine where the hero's stoic nature is overcome because of the danger she is in. in p&p, this doesn't happen. there's just so much passion under the surface of mr. darcy that he cannot stand it any longer. for me, that's even better. i can save you the time of pointing out how each one of my personal character flaws fit into this scenario, and that being why i like this story the most-est. i'm aware. thanks. anyway, for the bulk of the movie, this version of p&p does a pretty good job. the scenery is lovely, the people are lovely, the costumes are lovely, and dame judi dench is dame judi dench. "true" fans will have much to pick apart as being anachronistic or a waste of the original material, but as picky as i am about that sort of thing in general, nothing really bothered me all that much (well, one costume set bothered me, but i let it slide because it was clearly a choice, and not an oversight). the movie was a little obvious at times, beating the audience over the head with concepts that are so familiar that we really don't need our hands held to understand, and it may have lingered on the scenery a bit too long as well. kiera knightly's lack of breasts was distracting, simply because her costumes didn't fit right. also, the way she clenches her jaw when she talks drove me nuts. she didn't stick out as much as scarlett johansson did in girl with a pearl earring, but out of the entire cast, she didn't fit right the most (neither did donald sutherland as the patriarch of the bennet family, but his role was (sadly) minor enough that it didn't bother me as much). disappointing since she was the lead, but not enough to break everything, since in general i like watching her. she's the right kind of english, so she never had to worry about her accent slipping, either :) what this movie mishandles is the most important aspect of the romance: the first kiss. more specifically, that moment right before the kiss where lips are hovering and the two characters are mere inches apart but it seems like this insurmountable distance. they wait and they hover and the tension builds and builds until finally one or the other gives in. when it's done well, it's absolute bliss. it's the best part. it's what you go see these things for. ordinarily, i'd consider this sort of thing a spoiler for the film, but you know she's going to end up with mr. darcy from the first time you see her see him, thanks to the obviousness of the film, and besides, you're going specifically to watch that play out, so the fact that they kiss at some point shouldn't be a spoiler. kiera has been touring the talkshows with the first kiss scene, and that one is done perfectly. he's just proposed, albeit terribly awkwardly, but his timing is off (as it must be, because there's still a good hour to go) and she's raging mad at him for something she just found out he did and so she's yelling and telling him she can't possibly ever love him. in the face of all her fury, instead of walking away, he leans down to kiss her. because, you see, he cannot help himself. and you know that she loves him back because instead of freaking out when he leans down with these beautifully halting awkward movements, she tilts her head up because as mad as she is, she wants him just as badly. you can see in their eyes how confused they both are that their bodies are basically telling their minds to shut the hell up. unfortunately they're not ready yet, and mr. darcy's stoicism and propriety wins out in the end and he says something ridiculously proper just inches away from her and walks away into the rainy storm sans kiss. as tangible as the pre-kiss moment was, the loss of it is just as palpable. it's beautiful and perfect, and what really makes it work is that you know the real one is coming later, and if this one was so fireworksy, just imagine how great that one's going to be. the movie is teasing you, and that's okay, because the real payoff is coming. and this is where the movie breaks. when the really-real scene happens, it's a bit overdone. ... okay, it's really overdone. you cannot help but snicker when elizabeth is outside wandering around in the early morning for no good reason and mr. darcy suddenly appears through the misty fog just as early-morning disheveled coming to see her and profess for the very last time that he loves her and cannot do without her. the shot of mr. darcy emerging from said fog has "this is for you, ladies" written all over it and it goes on and on and on. it's very silly. still, though, once the witty banter is over, and they've each professed their love in their own awkward styles, and they're reaching for each other, i stopped caring that it was over the top. as the sun "rose" to be positioned perfectly between their mouths i knew in the back of my head how cheesy that was, but really, that's what that moment feels like so i didn't care. i held my breath and waited for the kiss. and then the scene ends. yep. not in a great big ball of angst like the first one, not in the resolution of a perfect anticipation moment. just cuts to the next scene. you know they kiss, you can tell by the way they act around each other for the rest of the film, but you don't get to see it. not showing the kiss just deflates/negates all the tension of the scene, if not the entire movie. i didn't feel teased like the first time, i felt cheated. i can only assume this is to keep some sort of tension going for the rest of the film, which is really just "daddy can i marry this guy we all think i hated because i love him?" and "they lived happily ever after." and by the way, when your touching father/daughter scene does not reduce me to tears you have done something terribly, terribly wrong with your movie. the last scene of the movie, where they actually kiss for the first time (on camera) is after an offscreen wedding and wedding night. you know this because they're sitting outside at mr. darcy's beautiful house in their nightgowns and the sun is rising yet again. plus, he's calling her mrs. darcy. and there's all this loving build up and blissfully happy people and even then they try to build up that first kiss tension. finally, moments before the credits roll, lips meet lips. and it flat out doesn't work. they're married. they've had sex. there's nothing even close to the tension in the first two scenes. happily ever after kiss? yes. angsty first epiphany kiss? not in the least. it was so ridiculous that i literally threw a hand up at the screen and said "what is this crap?" i don't think the last two scenes would have lost anything if they'd have shown the kiss in the scene before. as silly as that sounds, it broke the whole movie for me. i was willing to forgive everything else except that. since that's wrong, instead of replaying blissful scene after blissful scene, all i can remember is the things that were off, like the intermittent loud-as-hell piano soundtrack, the way the mother and the "minor" sister characters were beyond melodramatic, and donald sutherland is dumb, the fact that everyone's hair was messy, even when it was not-messy, kiera's costumes not fitting at all at all, and oh yeah, the rich girl's costumes were complete nonsense. a pity, too, when it could have become my all-time favorite movie of all time.

2 Comments:

At 11/16/2005 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous will said...

i read The Girl but have not seen either movie. i thought it was a silly book, derivative of Shakespeare in Love, where you take a work of art and fabricate a story around it. in the interest of full disclosure i unquestionably despised Shakespeare in Love. but that dood in it went on to become the ghost pirate captain in Pirates of the Caribbean, so that's good.

 
At 11/16/2005 11:47:00 AM, Blogger kelly said...

yeah i went back and did some digging post-movie and discovered the girl with the pearl earring was completely fictionalized. i generally like that idea though. how certain events/things might have been influenced by the world around the people involved. it was generally interesting, but felt like a nathaniel hawthorne morality story, and i can hardly stomach those.

i'm fairly certain it was kiss-less as well. he did "pierce her ear" though.

 

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