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04 January 2006

"Pride and Prejudice" (1995)

Colin Firth (Darcy), Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth), Crispin Bonham-Carter (Bingley), Alison Steadman (Mrs. Bennet), Susannah Harker (Jane)

Directed by Simon Langton ("The Scarlet Pimpernel")

From Hollywood Video: "Hugely popular British miniseries based on Jane Austen's classic novel about clever Englishwoman's tumultuous courtship with a dashing bachelor. Its extravagant production and timeless charm enchanted literary romantics and mainstream audiences worldwide."

I've heard women (British women, in particularly) speak so highly of Colin Firth as the incomparable Mr. Darcy for years, but until Keven bought the miniseries for me this Christmas, I had never beheld his reputed power for myself. I thought... Colin Firth? He is very sweet. He seems like a great guy. Certainly, he was extra keen in Love Actually as the most flamboyantly romantic character in a movie full of romantic characters, but he was also the dullard who could not compete with Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. Colin Firth... swoon-worthy? Surely, after so many years of exposure, I have become inoculated against such tried- and-true English gallantry and smoldering restraint.

Surely not, as it turns out. Ahhh... Mr. Darcy!

What is it about him? I was fascinated. I was entranced. And now, I want Firth to play other great romantic roles like Heathcliff because he demonstrated the mesmerizing ability to appear distant, approachable, hard, wistful, extraordinary and very, very humble all at once. And he was a stunning success in Conspiracy, which was certainly NOT a light-hearted, simple romp for folks wearing period costumes. After viewing such diverse leading roles, I have come to the conclusion that Colin Firth is a fantastic actor with the deceptively chameleon-like power to either amplify or subdue his charm and charisma. Yes, he would make a great Heathcliff (a character that has been portrayed, rather unsuccessfully, by Ralph Fiennes in 1992 and with more success by Lawrence Olivier, who also portrayed Darcy in 1940).

I digress. Of course, as with most period pieces, the word "lush" comes to mind as an adjective. I believe this has to do with the costumes and the ornate furniture, but with regard to this miniseries, lush also describes the overall production quality. With 300 minutes to spend adapting Austen's novel to its most faithful fruition, Langton did not need to cut corners. Characters could talk at length, linger, wallow, and frolic with no need to chop scenes to bits.

And Elizabeth and Darcy could stare longingly at each other for infuriatingly, achingly long moments. Thus Firth's Mr. Darcy could be merely the result of extended screen time for successful emoting, but I doubt it. There was just something magnetic about him. Jennifer Ehle is a luminous beauty, and her Elizabeth proved worthy of Mr. Darcy's fierce longing. Unlike in Sunshine, where her performance was secondary to Fiennes' triple-play, Ehle stood up as Firth's equal and deserving on-screen match.

Susannah Harker's thick neck and slight lisp bothered me somewhat, especially when other characters mentioned that her "Jane" was so gorgeous. Who could compete with Ehle's deep brown eyes, her bow-like mouth, her heaving bosom? Allison Steadman was a great, rollicking Mrs. Bennet, full to bursting with the over-wrought motherly concern and uncouth social climbing of the novel. Otherwise, Crispin Bonham-Carter was rather placid (flaccid?) as Bingley, David Bamber's Mr. Collins was successfully creepy, and the remaining sisters were all a background clutter of silly stereotypes. Yes, after six hours of viewing, it was all about Darcy and Elizabeth. Everyone else (and all of their scenes) should have politely bowed out and awaited more intense soul-gazing from their emotional and romantic betters. Although their measured intrusions did heighten the anticipation...

Helen Fielding (as "Bridget Jones") wrote, "The football guru Nick Hornby states in his book Fever Pitch [which was also made into a movie starring Colin Firth] that men do not wish themselves on the pitch. Instead they see their team as their chosen representatives, rather like Parliament. That is precisely my feeling about Darcy and Elizabeth. They are my chosen representatives in the field of shagging, or rather, courtship." Well said. So have at it, Darcy and Elizabeth, and I'll watch happily for many years to come.

(And one last note: Bridget Jones fell in love with Mark Darcy, who was also played by Colin Firth in the films. He's EVERYWHERE!)

Blogger Diva Kitty's Mom said...

Darcy, sigh, the only one who makes me all girly

Blogger carrie_lofty said...

I go girly all the time, but I thought I would be immune to him after so much hype. Not so. Swoon...


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