A Charming Pair: Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen

By Daniel Garrett

Pride and Prejudice
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen
Written by Deborah Moggach, 
(Based on the novel by Jane Austen)
Director of photography: Roman Osin
Editor: Paul Tothill
Production Designer: Sarah Greenwood
Focus Features, 2005

Did Jane Austen ever think of simply calling one of her novels Love and Money? Her fine calibrations about conviction, manners, and sensibility suffuse her work and the best interpretations of it on film, but the prospects of fortune, happiness with a lifelong companion and the reward of wealth, are very much the focus of her stories. Will girls, who need for their own sakes and that of their parents to make a good marriage, make a marriage with someone they love that also has money, despite being able to bring little themselves to the bond other than character and love? That is the subject of the book and film Pride and Prejudice: and the film is directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy, with Rosamund Pike as Elizabeth’s sister, the delicate, good-hearted, and private Jane Bennet, the charming Simon Woods as Jane’s suitor, the bashful, love-struck Mr. Bingley, and Kelly Reilly as his rude-faced sister Caroline Bingley. As part of Elizabeth Bennet’s sometimes embarrassing family are Brenda Blethyn as an irrepressible mother too loudly planning her daughters’ advantageous marriages and Donald Sutherland as a wise father and Jena Malone as a silly and strangle-tempting girl who happily marries the wrong man (a dashing Rupert Friend as the wicked Mr. Wickham; the casting makes her mistake forgivable—he is what the better-known Orlando Bloom might one day become, with luck). I have reservations about the extremely pretty Keira Knightley, but she did nothing in this film to significantly corroborate them and she and the intense MacFadyen, who made Darcy’s moodiness and bewitchment with Elizabeth a fact, together form, at long last, a very charming pair. It’s pleasing to me that work that so vitally concerns us—the strictures of class and gender (the vulnerability of women, particularly those without inheritance), and the unlikely relation of love to many marriages—should be the subject of classic literature and the kind of film that’s seen to have much prestige. It’s an affirmation that important ideas can be presented in graceful ways, besides being a wonderful story that contains some truth about human nature.

Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, AllAboutJazz.com, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Muse-Apprentice-Guild.com, Offscreen.com, Option, PopMatters.com, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. He has written fiction, poetry, drama, journalism, and criticism: and his review of Pride and Prejudice appeared as part of a long multi-part piece focusing on iconographic works, ideas, and personalities (Offscreen.com, 2006).

Contact: D.Garrett.Writer@gmail.com and dgarrett31@hotmail.com