This handsome rendition of Jane Austen’s beloved marriage comedy is a somewhat quixotic undertaking given the hugely successful BBC production of only 10 years ago, which had the perks of a five-hour run time and Colin Firth in a soaking wet shirt. Hangdog Matthew Mac-Fadyen has little chance of supplanting Firth’s big dripper in Bridget Jones’s affections, but Keira Knightley exudes warmth and confidence as heroine Lizzy Bennet, a sharp, ironical girl marooned in late-18th-century England. The camera pans lovingly through the Bennets’ scuffed and sunken home–where vegetation is amiably taking over the brickwork and livestock chatter at the margins–and dollies nimbly through crowds at the centerpiece ball scene, where conversations overlap, figures major and minor wander in and out of the picture, and the viewer’s eye is free to roam where it pleases. Director Joe Wright also coordinates a delightfully cohesive acting ensemble: Knightley’s final scene with Donald Sutherland (as the Bennet patriarch) coaxes ungrudging tears, Jena Malone sustains a giddy sugar rush as the twittering-birdie sister Lydia, and Tom Hollander’s perfectly cringeworthy turn as the repellent Mr. Collins borders on the selfless.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 1, 2005