I am not a movie reviewer. Let’s sort that out right up front. However, I read my friend Mark’s review on his SoWizard site (you should definitely check he and his colleagues out), and after I saw it this weekend, I was compelled to respond.
I AM, however, a lifelong Jane Austen fan. As in, I LOVE HER. I know all her books, and only Northanger Abbey doesn’t get five stars from me. (All the NA fans, ease up. It’s just the one where the heroine bothers me. It gets four to four-and-a-half. I had a hard time identifying with her, even as a teenager.) I am also someone who loves the movie adaptations, even though they often lack any real “action” (or anything at all, other than snobbish accents, according to my Dear Husband. He’s not a fan). Jane Austen wrote about small worlds, and lives that were part of a narrow, understood path. They were complex in their relationships but small on a global level. Fans of Jane Austen are good with that. We love that, actually.
So it stands to reason that someone who is not necessarily a JA fan will be put off by the general tone of a JA based movie, even one that has zombies at the heart of all conflict. As I said commenting on Mark’s review, I like the quiet story line of a Jane Austen.
With that, let’s get to the review.
I loved the book. Loved it. I loved what Seth did with the story. I’m not a purist, most of the time. I can totally get behind an adaptation if it’s clever and well done. I felt like he did that. I also like the intro in the movie of the History of England, 1700 to 1800. I like that sort of vintage cartooning, so for me, it worked.
When it came to the movie, I was disappointed. They took Mr. Darcy and gave him a story arc that was supposed to create tension. However, there was already tension. Mr. Darcy in the movie had governmental muscle behind him in the quest for zombies. He didn’t need that to bring tension to the relationship between he and Elizabeth. His suspicions-that are revealed later-create enough tension as it is. Both in his thoughts and actions. I thought it was unnecessary. It would have worked to use the tension written into the story. Darcy would have still been the dour, unpleasant, rude man that he’s been since creation, insulting our heroine and drawing our ire. This is probably my biggest complaint.
I loved the Bennett sisters. LOVED them. That scene in the assembly-every one of them is a powerhouse, and that’s true to the book. It’s one of the changes that was made in the adaptation that I liked. Every one of those young women went in with katana drawn and ass-kicking on her mind. That was fantastic.
One thing that I missed was the relationship between Lizzy and Jane. It was not shown to the depth that it ought to have been. More like skipping a rock across a pond than what it really was. That was…sad. Because that relationship is important. I wish they’d gone deeper.
That leads, however, to the portrayal of Wickham. That, in my opinion, was fabulous. I loved that change. I wholeheartedly approve. I thought it brought a really interesting plot arc in that added, rather than detracted from the story. And the fact that Jane and Lizzy walk right into that arc for love (you’ll see what I mean) shows that the relationships within the Bennett family are there.
Let’s not forget Mr. Collins. Holy hell. I laughed at him nearly every time he was on screen. Oh, you Doctor, you! Matt Smith made him. I think he’s my favorite adaptation of Mr. Collins. He wasn’t the greasy, slimy one we’ve seen before. He was cheerful and a complete social climber, and eternally optimistic and convinced of his own fabulousness. I thought it was a perfect way to play him.
Darcy, in the end, made me weepy. I adored his letter, as I always have, and how he eventually speaks for himself. It was well done.
So where does that leave me, rating the movie? I give it four stars. Why? Because even though there are things I didn’t like, or didn’t understand the need for, I felt they captured the essence of the time. Which is both the world that Jane Austen created, as well as a time when people would have thought it was the end of times. The coming of Revelation, for those who are spiritual. I was thinking about it after the movie, when I was musing on the loss of seeing more of Jane and Lizzy. It’s a hard balance to walk when you feel your world teeters on the edge of ending.
The ending was fantastic. Sit and watch the credits. I was really pleased with it, and if it means what I think it does, I’m good.
But if you’re not a Jane Austen fan, I do think it might fall a bit flat. I often think that with many book-to-movie adaptations. Even as those making the movie want it to stand alone, and entice new fans, they’re also making it for the current fans. It’s a tough road to keep to. I say that as a reader who’s read most of the books that are made into movies.
I will admit that I have a teensy bit more of a bias, because Jane Austen is probably my top choice for an author’s works to take on a desert island with me. I re-read them now, and still love them as much as the first time. So I am a bit harder on the adaptations.
I liked this one, though. It’s not perfect. But it did a great job in bringing that book to to life. As Mark mentioned, the love story takes over. In the original P&P, that’s true. Because it’s the point. I think it’s true for P&P&Z as well. Even in the midst of an apocalypse, love will take over. We’re human. It’s how we’re made.
Even in the midst of a Potter’s Field with hands clutching at your ankles.