As a 70-year-old man it is with a certain abashedness that I am forced to admit that the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly made me laugh and cry like a teenage girl. It is a lushly romantic treatment of the novel that manages to simultaneously deliver all the wit and surgical critique associated with Jane Austen. Keira Knightly is dazzling, deserving of comparison with the young Audrey Hepburn, possessed of a similar gamine charm, eyebrows, and capable of delivering a rainbow of carefully nuanced emotional states. She is alternately filled with awe, frustration, envy, disdain, self-deprecating honesty, proud humility, self-righteousness, and giddy teenage humor.
The under-appreciated Matthew Macfadyen is wonderful as always (cf. The Way We Live Now) as Darcy, the dour foil to Keira’s Elizabeth, whose slow reveal of his inner nobility is perfectly calibrated. The cast surrounding them is uniformly luxurious and brilliant (Rosamund Pike as Jane, Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet, Donald Sutherland truly touching as Mr. Bennett, Judy Dench a ferocious Lady Catherine de Bourg, even a very young Carey Mulligan as Kitty). If a teenage girl lurks anywhere in your complex psyche (as Tolstoy hid the sublime Natasha Rostova in his bearded, encyclopedic, and mystical anima), I recommend this movie because, like me, you will probably laugh and cry and have a wonderful time.
Pride and Prejudice led me to another surprise delight, Death Comes to Pemberly, the television adaptation of P. D. James’s “sequel” to Pride and Prejudice, an early 19th-century police procedural built with Jane Austen’s characters and settings. Also beautifully cast, with Matthew Rhys (The Americans, anyone?), Anna Maxwell Martin (Bletchley Circle, Philomena, Bleak House), and Matthew Goode, it is a Masterpiece Mystery where the mystery was fairly easy to unravel (if I could do it anyone could, like, why is this character here?) but swept me along with its gorgeous settings, its sumptuous moodiness, and P.D. James’s cut to the quick dialog.