Movie Review: 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly, Donald Sutherland, and Matthew Macfadyen

by Keira G on October 25, 2010 · 8 comments

in 5 Stars, Comedy of Manners, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Movie Reviews, Regency

I’m pretty certain a select group of individuals will think what I’m about to say is sacrilegious. I think that the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly, Donald Sutherland, and Matthew Macfadyen is the best version of this Jane Austen classic made to date. Sorry – sorry! I know the die hard A&E fans loved Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, but I’m going to stick with what I said. The main reason I love the 2005 Pride and Prejudice is pretty simple… better acting! Especially in the way Elizabeth Bennet and the mother are played.

Keira Knightly plays Miss Elizabeth Bennet to a tee. You could not ask for a better actress in this part. Opposed to Ehle who was over the top and rude, Knightly stayed just shy of too much is too much. Knightly plays Elizabeth with sass, a sprinkling of saucy wit, humor, intelligence, and grace. Her remarks are sharp and cutting without getting annoying (think Ehle as nails on a chalkboard grating). Whereas Knightly plays Elizabeth as able to fun herself and others, Ehle played Elizabeth haughty, arrogant, and more than a touch above her company. It is my opinion that Knightly played Elizabeth without overdoing it.

I choose Matthew Macfadyen as the better Mr. Darcy simply on the fact that I love how he says his lines, the emotion in his face, and that he’s my kind of drop dead gorgeous. Firth is quite handsome and plays his part well but saddled with Ehle, it’s no wonder he thought so ill of her at first! Who can withstand the deep-rooted passion that he carries through his tone and posture? I know I can’t! Yowza! You’ll have to tell me who you think is the better Mr. Darcy and why! Let’s start a list going for pros and cons. I’ll even help by giving Colin Firth the pro of the wet white shirt… Grin.

I also find I just enjoy the cast of side characters better in the 2005 version. The mother is by far the best played and I have seen them all – including the Laurence Olivier aka 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice. I can stand Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet even as I hate her (the mother) if that makes sense. Lydia and Kitty and Mary are perfectly well suited. Some will say Mary is too pretty in this version, but I like what the director said about her part. Check out the commentary on this film – I loved it and learned much trivia for future Trivial Pursuit matches.

Mr. Binghley is a delightful boob in this film. He’s so adorable how he stumbles all over himself around Jane Bennet. You’ll love him on sight! He’s eager and open and amiable in all the right ways. He’s just what a young man ought to be! Grin. His sister is perfectly wonderful for her role, again an actress who can play her part without going so far as to gross you out in it.

The scenery alone is enough reason to buy this movie, but think of the many rainy days and cups of tea you will enjoy while falling head over heals in love again and again. What’s your favorite version?

Rating: ★★★★★

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kimber Chin February 2, 2009 at 8:27 AM

I respectfully disagree.

Keira is not at all believable as an alpha female.
She is too soft
and she didn’t play hard enough against Mr. Darcy.

Have you seen two alphas go at it?
It isn’t pretty,
it isn’t nice,
(but it is a lot of fun for the alphas involved
– I’m an alpha married to an alpha).

I think the Director of the Keira movie
didn’t understand the book.
It ended up as a silly love story
instead of one of the best studies
in alpha dynamics there is.

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2 Osten July 6, 2009 at 2:12 AM

I agree with Kimber, but am unable to be motivated to show this film much respect at all.

I’ve tried to blot most of it out, it irritated me so much, but I do recall the wimpish non-entity who played Mr Darcy could well have been replaced by a wooden board with a face painted on it, for all the personality he had. Keira Knightly was miscast as to looks, and her acting was anachronistic; and in this she was not alone. The interactions between the characters jarred, repeatedly destroying any believability and period atmosphere which may have inadvertently developed.

Poor Knightly, she made a better show in “The Duchess” from an acting perspective, but the girl is a stick insect: the Georgian wigs and hats completely swamped her, and being able to discern individual bones in her disturbingly skeletal figure was just wrong. Miscast again. The Duchess of Devonshire was a stylish, dashing, well-fed woman whom people admired. Her clothes would have been tailored to fit her to perfection. Knightly looked like an anorexic daughter play-acting in her mother’s clothes, despite her better acting in that film.

The Frith/Ehle “Pride & Prejudice” is the definitive version for me, as it is for many others. There were sincere efforts made to accurately echo the manners, customs, dress, and music of the times as realistically as possible. For you to say Ehle’s Elizabeth was “over the top” and “rude” makes my jaw drop in amazement. I can’t believe you actually watched it, and if you did, it must have been while you were talking on the phone and cooking dinner at the same time or something. You have entirely missed the interplay of subtle 19th century manners and mores. She is rude once and apologises for it. She displays a controlled intelligence and sense of humour. Far from being “haughty, arrogant, and more than a touch above her company” she is keenly aware of her social standing: she is a gentleman’s daughter, but by no means uppermost in the social hierarchy, and with only modest prospects unless she or one of her sisters marries particularly well (not that she is at all avaricious, initially spurning the wealthy Darcy with gusto).

I think your preference reflects the gulf between your era/education/customs and that of Elizabeth Bennet as she would have been: I’d suggest you read up on Georgian history, as well as examine some books actually written at the time (Pride & Prejudice itself might be a good start) to get the flavour of the language of the time, as well as to try to get inside the thought processes of people of the period. Immerse yourself in the culture and start thinking like a person from the early 1800s and you will comprehend how shallow Knightly & Co’s prancing around playing dress-ups actually is.

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3 Tamera O October 10, 2009 at 11:33 PM

I have to say that I only watch the A&E version, but many of my friends like the Knightly version. Personally, I can’t stand Knightly in any film (they really need to stop casting her in period pieces!) so that already put me on edge when I watched the new version of P&P.

However, each to their own!

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4 heidenkind October 11, 2009 at 5:16 PM

I agree with you that a lot of the acting in the 2005 version is better. I liked all the actors better except for McFadyen (Fayden?) as Darcy and Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bingley (Sutherland was just not good there). Knightly does a really good job of interpreting Elizabeth, I think.

That being said, I hate this version. :D I didn’t mind it so much when I first saw it, but the more times I’ve seen it, the more it started to annoy me. I think it’s really Matthew McFadyen that ruins it for me (and also the cinematography, which is beautiful but way over-the-top for this story). He is cute, but he makes an absolutely terrible Darcy. Telling him off would be like kicking a puppy.

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5 Keira October 11, 2009 at 7:13 PM

Acting is better but you hate it… haha.

Kicked puppy? If you’re thinking of the first proposal I saw it more as a total shock to hear “No way in hell,” from Elizabeth.

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6 heidenkind October 16, 2009 at 12:03 AM

Well, at least she didn’t say bloody hell. ;)

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7 Cindyosita007 November 17, 2009 at 9:02 AM

I know this is a month old but have to agree that 2005 is awesome & far superior to the A&E. All the characters were just as I imagined them in the book – which I’ve read many times….the book is so complex no movie can match it, but I enjoyed the broader slice given.

In the A&E version, well first, after so much praise I was initially just shocked at how bad it was. Jane looked like a man in drag, Colin overacted painfully, embarrassingly, Ehle looked like she was about to sneeze all the time because some invisible person was tickling her nose with a feather & her eyes always squinted & her mouth always pursed, ugh! Awful, awful!!

I’ve always seen Lizzie as intelligent, fiesty, well-adjusted overall, but it being clear a lot of her personality is her clash with her mother (who truly doesn’t seem to like her daughter much) but is saved by being her father’s favorite. Have no idea if an ‘alpha’ female existed in the mind of Austen in the 18th century, and even now I don’t know what another poster here meant. Anway…love 2005 version…especially when he first proposes..great scene leaves me sighing each time.

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8 Keira November 17, 2009 at 9:40 AM

@Cindyosita007 Jane does look like a man in drag! I couldn’t believe she was considered the most beautiful girl! The hairstyle they gave her was sooo severe! Curls apparently are not good for everyone.

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