Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In Which We Officially Bash Fake P&P

So here we are, at last, presenting something we promised long ago, something you may well have forgotten about, something that will effectively scare away any lingering P&P05 fans who may be lurking tentatively around the corners of this blog.  (We apologize in advance.  We really have nothing against you personally.  It's just the movie we hate.  Honestly.)

See, the two of us got together in real life (in case you didn't already know, we-- sadly-- live many miles apart from one another) this past March, and in celebration we decided to watch P&P05 together.  Or as we prefer to call it, FakeP&P.  Because we like inflicting torture on ourselves together.  It's a hobby.

...Well, really it was because we enjoy making fun of things together.  Because we are best friends, you see, and best friends don't judge each other, they judge other people (and movies) together.

Anyways.  We watched the movie (at three in the morning... ahem...) and as we went into it, we both thought that perhaps, just perhaps, we'd each been too hard on it when we'd seen it before.  Maybe it wasn't so bad after all.  Maybe there were some hidden good qualities that our embittered cynicism had been unable to see the first time around.  Maybe we'd end up kinda sorta liking it.  Who knew?  Let's give it a chance.

...Yeah, nope.  It was awful.  Which is why we're here to write this review.  Er, bashing.  Whatever.  Let us proceed.

We'll start off with Elizabeth Bennet herself-- no, let's call her Lizzie, because that's the way the filmmakers spell it.  That way we can differentiate between this character and the real Elizabeth Bennet.  ONE Bad Point so far, with many more to come... the name is Lizzy, folks, because that's the way Jane Austen wrote it.  Not Lizzie and certainly not Lizzi.  (Yes, the FakeP&P-ers didn't spell it Lizzi, but trust us, if they someday come out with a Sort-of Modern Interpretation that takes place in a 1970's hippie commune, the name will become Lizzi.  But we won't let this happen.  We shall overcome! Lizzy-with-a-y forevah!  Stay strong, fellow Janeites!)

One of the biggest things that bugged us about Keira Knightley's portrayal of Lizzie was her appearance.  Whether Keira Knightley looks like Elizabeth Bennet or not is a matter of opinion (it can't be denied that she does have fine eyes) but her slovenly way of dressing when she wasn't actually in a ballroom and the way she wore her hair... ay yi yi.  Flapping in the wind like the mane of a pony.  She's not thirteen years old, people.  Back then it was considered indecent for a woman to run around in public with her hair down.  Wearing your hair loose was equated with being in a state of undress (i.e. in your nightclothes or negligee... OH WAIT, she does that too!) and was only for the privacy of one's bedroom.  Certainly not for parading the streets of Not-Meryton.

And aside from all that, she just isn't Elizabeth.  Her manners are completely wrong.  Lizzy can be fun and carefree, but she always does retain her dignity and is a lady at all times (scampering about the countryside, with no one else around, does not count).  With Lizzie, it is not that way.  She bounds around just like one of her younger sisters... and don't get us started on her giggle, which is excessively annoying.  Elizabeth Bennet, on the other hand, would have had a delightful laugh.

She also would not go about shouting things like "YOU CANNOT MAKE ME!" and "FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, LEAVE ME ALONE!"  That is both unladylike and disrespectful.

There's more to say, of course, but we don't exactly want this to turn into a whole novel, so you get the idea.  And we believe we now have four Bad Points-- for Lizzie's name, her hair, her manners and speech.

Let us move on to the rest of the Bennet family-- but first let us take a look at their house.  Not too long of a look, though, because it's ugly.  UGLY.  And way, way too poor.  The people making this movie obviously did not understand what Lizzy and Jane meant when they spoke of having no fortunes... they kept servants, for crying out loud.  Plus, what is up with having a random pig running through the dilapidated old hovel.  Um, what.  (Miss Marianne's hypothesis is that perhaps since Lydia doesn't know how to snort properly in this version, the pig is there to be her tutor in that direction.  Miss Dashwood applauds this notion and giggles at it randomly when she happens to think about it, even when she is out in public... a rather Lydia-esque course of action, in point of fact.) 

As for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, perhaps better known as the Not-Bennets, they are, to be blunt, duds.  (Do we get an award for all those commas?  No?  Okay then.) Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet is not half as fun as Alison Steadman-- what's up with her being a whiny half-sympathetic wimp?  Where's the neurotic, squawking marriage-obsessed mom we all know and love?  You almost feel sorry for her once or twice, and that's not what Mrs. Bennet is supposed to be.  She's a caricature, not a creature of pity.  Modern filmmakers, will you STOP whitewashing negative characters????  As for Donald Sutherland... come on.  The man does nothing but sit around in his long hair and unshaven face and look soulfully at his plants.  "Oh, orchid.  You understand me." The sharp wit, the actual close relationship between him and Elizabeth-- nope, not there.  Actually, basically nothing is there.  It'd make more sense if the dude didn't even exist.  He's totes in boresville.  NEXT.

Let's talk about some of the other Bennets.  Kitty and Lydia.  The only thing interesting about Kitty was that she was played by Ada Clare--um, we mean Carey Mulligan.  Other than that, she was so boring and really, pretty much equivalent to a prop.  She was of even less consequence than Kitty generally is.  Lydia... blehhh.  She wasn't the worst Lydia we've seen, but... pretty boring as well.  And they did dumb stuff with the script for her-- whyyy on EARTH did they have her know that Mr. Darcy paid Wickham and all that?  As if it's completely normal?  Nooo.  She knew he was at the wedding (I mean duh, she has eyes) but she didn't know any of that.  Didn't seem to seek the knowledge, either.

The two of them also have problems with their hair, but that's mostly owing to the general bad-hair-ness of the movie and the wrong time period thing. Ohhh, but we didn't talk about THAT yet, did we?  *rubs hands together in anticipation*

Some people say that setting this move in the 1790s (which is a general and admitted fact) makes sense, as Jane Austen wrote the book in 1796.

*climbs onto soapbox*
Jane Austen began writing First Impressions in 1796.  This was an early version of Pride and Prejudice, but she actually rewrote the whole thing a year or two before it was published, in 1813.  We know from things she said that a lot of things were changed, and obviously she's going to be updating the story for Present Audiences if she's rewriting it all.  So, the story is set in 1813, or 1812, if you prefer.  End of story, peoples.

Therefore, we should not be having natural-waist dresses, poofy pompadours, and perfectly Georgian styles.

Some people also argue that the especially 18th-century-looking ensembles of Lady Catherine are because she's an older lady and clings to her old ideas of what fashion should be.

Heh, nice try.  Let's review this quote from Mr. Collins.
"Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and her daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest--there is no occasion for anything more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved."

If Lady Catherine was so fashion-conscious, I seriously doubt she'd be wearing clothes about thirty years old.   Even in 1796, she would have been quite outdated, so that's actually another Dumb Thing that the movie-makers did. 

*climbs back down*

Speaking of Lady Catherine, might this be a good time to ask why on earth they had her show up at the Bennets' house in the middle of the night??  What EVEN?  That's just ridiculous.  She's too snobbishly high-class to do that.  And the Bennets all in their nightclothes... good grief.  (This movie really has a thing with nightgowns and nightshirts.  Which is... weird.)  The whole scene was nuts, anyways.  Lizzie ending up losing her temper and storming out of the room with everyone listening outside the door? 


It was supposed to a private conference, in the afternoon, in a prettyish sort of garden, and Elizabeth was very dignified the whole time even if she did become a bit... Indignant.  Not like a sassy teenager, though. Come on, peoples.

Overall the movie is just. too. modern.  It has this overarching modern FEEL-- inexplicable, but we'll give it a shot anyway.  The whole point of watching period dramas (for us at least) is to temporarily enjoy another time period and pretend one is actually IN a world where balls were a normal form of entertainment and people wore long skirts and bonnets and gentlemen were, y'know, gentlemen.  P&P95 does a beautiful, beautiful job of making the Regency era feel real and accessible and desirable, while FakeP&P slaps you down in the middle of a half-heartedly "old-fashioned" set and says, "Here, watch the heroine spin on a swing while a pig prances in the background.  Yay for the olden days.  Would they have had that kind of sofa back then...?  LOL whatevs."

The movie is full of historical inaccuracies.  Y'know that scene where the footman dude comes in and announces that "a Mrs. Bennet, a Miss Bennet, a Miss Bennet, and a Miss Bennet" were there?  Nooope.  Wrong.  You lose.

Sure, it's funny, in a sense, but... it's not right.  Back then there was a formula to avoid just that nonsense.  When in a group, only the oldest unmarried girl would be "Miss {Last name}".  All the younger girls were "Miss {First name} {Last name}."  So the correct way to say that, my dear footman, would have been "Mrs. Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet, Miss Catherine Bennet, and Miss Lydia Bennet."

Let's talk about some more of the characters.  Kind of went on a rabbit trail up there, but there's more to say.

We haven't talked about Mr. Darcy yet, haaave we?

Basically, in this movie, he's nice, but he's not Mr. Darcy.  Perhaps most importantly, his air is just wrong.  They played the 'shy' side of Mr. Darcy up wayyy too much.  Mr. Darcy is an introvert, but he's not bashful, and he is supposed to give that idea that he's being somewhat arrogant if people don't know how to interpret it correctly.  Matthew MacFadyen's portrayal completely missed a big chunk of Darcy's character, making him seem withdrawn, awkward, and kind of... sad all the time.  Weird.

Anyways.  There's more that could be said about him, but let's not bother with a case study.  This is quite long as it is.

Then there's Georgiana Darcy.  With her, it's like they forgot to actually read the part of the book where it describes her character.  First, they chose an actress, though around 17, they made to look about 14, with her hair down in three curl things.  Then she's just way too bouncy and not the sophisticated, seeming-older-than-her-age girl of the book.  Good grief, people, this is supposed to be a young woman who was going to get married when she was 15.  She's not supposed to be a little girl.  And she's supposed to be much more, well, shy... not perky and bubbly.  While she may have made a cute scene with her brother, they weren't the Darcys of the book.

The whole Pemberley bit was wrong, actually... which is quite sad, because it's a great part of the story.  Let's not even get started with the statues, and then the Bust of Darcy.  And Lizzie running out of the room as soon as she sees Mr. Darcy, again acting out of character.  The real Lizzy is dreadfully embarrassed but has the dignity to not make a spectacle of herself.

*begin short rant* Pride and Prejudice does not need more dramatizing, especially when you make such a MESS of it. *end short rant*

(Oh wait... this whole thing is a rant.  Heh.)

Let's talk about Mr. Collins for a moment, shall we?  Or maybe we should call him Osbourne Hamley... because that's all we think of when we see him.  (Tom Hollander is a good actor and all, but he belongs in Wives and Daughters, not P&P.)  He lacks humor, height, and hateability, in that order, except he doesn't really lack the hateability but I needed alliteration.  And he's hateable for all the wrong reasons.  The "what excellent boiled potatoes" line was mildly funny, but it doesn't make up for his general meh-ness in all his other scenes (of which there are shockingly few). In short, a dud.  NEXT.

Mr. Bingley is a complete idiot.  Sorry, Bingley fans-- we don't mean Mr. Bingley in the book, of course.  (Though it's a truth universally acknowledged that he doesn't have quite as much going on upstairs as certain other characters.)  Simon Woods is great in Cranford and all that, but as Mr. Bingley... nopety nope to the nope.  He acts like a lily-livered yes-man to all his sister's and friend's demands, he talks like an idiot in front of Jane (and she somehow thinks it's cute? um wut?) and his hair looks like a rooster's comb.  His one redeeming quality is that adorable little proposal-rehearsal scene near the end with Darcy.  That was cute.  :D

While we're on the topic of the Bingleys, permit us to gripe for a moment about this stupid character-erasing thing.  Why on earth was Mrs. Hurst left out???? In the book it's quite obvious that Mrs. Hurst is there to serve as a sidekick for Caroline Bingley-- otherwise Caroline's snide remarks about Elizabeth would fall on a deaf ear, because even she wouldn't make such comments about another lady if she were only in the presence of gentlemen.  I mean, come on, anyone who's read the book-- oh wait.

*ba dum tshhhh*

As for other characters who are completely missing, there is no apparent Sir William Lucas or Maria for Elizabeth to go with to Hunsford to visit Charlotte, so... she just goes by herself.  Um.

(Charlotte herself, by the way, is nothing wonderful, in fact sometimes downright annoying and not like Book Charlotte, even though that actress is quite good in other things.  Colonel Fitzwilliam is also blehhh. And then discussing Darcy-and-Bingley thing during a church service like a pair of six-year-olds?  Except six-year-olds would have been reprimanded by their mothers before they could progress in the conversation that much.)

Oh, and Mr. Wickham is a SLIMY CREEP.  Okay, okay, he's supposed to be that, we grant you, but he's also supposed to have an appearance of goodness, and Rupert Friend and his greasy, stringy hair did not.  (We have nothing against Rupert Friend; he was splendid in The Young Victoria.  Just for the record.) 

Time to move on again.  How about the scenes that were made complete messes of?

The first proposal.
Stalking Lizzie in the rain and randomly popping her up and scaring her half to death?
Yelling at each other?
Getting right into the Jane-and-Bingley matter when really he saved most of that that for the letter afterwards?
The worst offence was when they ALMOST KISSED.

Um.  What.
No.  JUST NO.  Why are they doing this weird thing, like Elizabeth is supposed to be secretly attracted to him the whole time?  She's nooot.  Because, happily, P&P is not a modern historical fiction novel. *Real-Lydia-snort*

But apparently the filmmakers thought they had to stick in at least one more scene that mimicked a third-rate historical fiction novel (probably one with a cover featuring a swoony heroine in a historically inaccurate dress), because they decided to have Arthur-- sorry, DARCY-- show up in Lizzie's room bearing a letter.  Yes.  IN HER BEDROOM.  BEHIND HER SHOULDER.  CREEPILY.  IN THE MIRROR.

Please tell us we weren't the only ones who thought it was supposed to be a nightmare at first.

But that scene's not the worst, really it's not, because you keep going on and on through miles of rubbish just like it (not even redeemed by Bingley's moderately cute proposal to Jane), and then...

And THEN.  Then we have It.

You know what we're talking about (more's the pity.) The infamous sunrise blathering.  The "your hands are cold" nonsense.  The traipsing about the London countryside in what would have at the time been a scandalous state of undress.  The fog.  (Okay, we don't actually have anything against the fog.  England is foggy, whatever.  But we needed another thing to complain about and we've already bashed Lizzie's hair quite enough.) 

We know that Jane Austen didn't dramatize the proposal scene very much in the book.  We know there's not a whole lot to work from.  (And if the filmmakers had read the book, they'd know that too... ahem... okay, we're doing that joke to death...) But that's no excuse for making the scene illogical (why were they both just randomly OUT at that hour?), inappropriate (yes, in the early 1800's it would have been extremely inappropriate to go cavorting about unchaperoned in what was basically your underwear), insipid ("your hands are cold"? really?") and insufferable.  Ugh, ugh, ugh and ugh.  Now, the far superior 1995 version romanticized that scene just a tad, but at least it was all perfectly plausible and fit right in with the events of the book and SOUNDED LIKE SOMETHING JANE AUSTEN MIGHT HAVE WRITTEN.

We ask you, would the woman who wrote "you pierce my soul; I am half agony, half hope" and "I cannot make speeches, Emma; if I loved you less I might be able to talk about it more" seriously pen something as dish-watery as "now then, your hands are cold?"  NO.  SHE WOULD NOT.

And even "you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I, uh, love, uh, you," quoted though it may be on Pinterest (and often misspelt, cough cough ahem), is basically the dumbest pseudo-romantic claptrap that ever graced a television screen.

Well, that and the unbelievably idiotic final scene, the one that made us physically ill, the one where they're languishing about in their pajamas again (at least they're married this time) and saying Mrs. Darcy over and over and over again. Yes.  Because chattering ceaselessly, according to Jane Austen, is THE BEST way to convince someone that you're in love with them.  If I loved you less, I'd talk about it less, and all that... oh WAIT.

Sorry, are we being a bit harsh?  Probably, yeah.  But it's our blog. ;P

So what are our final thoughts?

Um, is there a grade lower than an F?

All right, all right, we'll be nice.  On the whole, it's just... kind of boring, really.  If someone who knew nothing of P&P watched this movie and proclaimed the story to be boring, we can't say we'd really blame them, due to the representation.  If someone who knew nothing of period dramas watched this movie and proclaimed the genre to be dumb, we really couldn't blame them either.  As a film, it's nice to look at.  Sometimes.  Some of the cinematography is lovely.  But the script is trite (and a lot of the lines are said so fast and so dully that you don't really catch what's being said), the music is lovely but gets repetitive really fast, and... yeah, you get the idea.  (This isn't even an exhaustive list of the things that annoy us.  We just didn't want to make y'all sit here till kingdom come.)

In the end... just watch P&P95, folks, and don't waste your time with the two-hour version.

Though, of course, the reason you're reading this blog in the first place is probably because you already prefer The Good One, so we needn't advise you-- we shall just applaud your taste and let you proceed on your way.  Thanks for listening to our complaints. ;)

Oh, and here's a nice purty picture of Real P&P to reward you for slogging through all that nonsense.  ;)

(See, it's us gossiping about Fake P&P.)