Deborah Yaffe

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Bewitched

By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 25 2019 02:00PM

Among Janeites, the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice is . . . controversial.


Purists, especially those old enough to have seen an earlier adaptation of P&P in their youth, dislike its Brontesque romanticism and its exaggeration of the Bennet family’s comparative poverty: pigs in the backyard, Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy striding across the dawn fields half-dressed to tell Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth that she has bewitched him body and soul – that kind of thing.


Others, especially those young enough to have discovered P&P for the first time through the swoony vision of director Joe Wright, have no problem with being swept off their feet by a timeless love story. For them: Matthew Macfadyen, half-dressed. What’s not to like?


I’m not here to adjudicate this dispute, which became so heated back when the movie was first released that the Republic of Pemberley eventually barred further discussion of the matter from its online message boards.


I'm merely here to point out that, whatever the state of play among Janeites, the pro-P&P 2005 faction has pretty clearly won the day out there in the larger world. Or so I conclude from a chart I stumbled across earlier this month that purports to list the twenty top-selling romantic comedy DVDs of all time.


Right there at #11: Pride and Prejudice 2005. No other Austen movie – indeed, no other movie with a non-contemporary setting – cracks the top twenty, unless you count the Bridget Jones movies, which are loose Austen updates. P&P 2005: controversial among Janeites, beloved by everyone else.


According to a website called OfficialCharts.com – yes, that’s really what it’s called, so I guess this Chart must indeed be Official – P&P has sold 1.34 million copies, less than half the 2.9 million copies of the top seller, Love Actually, but a pretty robust number any way you look at it.


As a devoted fan of the romcom, I am delighted to say that I have seen nineteen of the twenty movies on this list, nearly all of them during their first theatrical run. I even own some of the DVDs! (I’m looking at you, Notting Hill. And Love Actually. And the Bridget Jones movies. And P&P, of course.)


Why did I miss Coyote Ugly (#14)? IMDB provides the clue: apparently, it was released on August 4, 2000, when I was the exhausted mother of a toddler and a three-week-old infant. It may be the greatest movie of all time, but I wouldn’t have been able to stay awake past the credit sequence. Luckily, however, I can still buy the DVD.


4 comments
Feb 26 2019 02:12AM by Laurel Ann

Hmm? I recently re-watched the 2005 P&P after initially seeing it in the theater and then ignoring it for 13 years. I was not as annoyed as I was at first viewing but still cringed at the high emotion and sappy dialogue. Pigs in the kitchen and the final scene are just nuts. Since it is so popular with (one guesses) viewers who are too young to know about the 1995 & 1980 P&P's I can understand its prominence on the list. It makes me worried that they might make the new Sanditon similar in style. Eeeeek.

I adore RomCom's too and noticed that two of my favorites are not on the Charts list: You've Got Mail and My Best Friend's Wedding. Seriously?

Feb 26 2019 02:23AM by dyaffe

It will definitely be interesting to see where the new Sanditon falls on the continuum between True Jane Austen and More the Brontes, Really. Andrew Davies does know his Austen, I think, so I'm cautiously optimistic. . .

Feb 28 2019 09:07PM by A. Marie

I detested the 2005 P&P when I saw it in a cinema, and still do. Possibly my finest moment was when Miss Bingley swanned into the Netherfield Ball in a sleeveless gown. I rose up out of my seat and yelled, "Where's the rest of her dress??" The embarrassed local JASNA acquaintances who had dragged me into the cinema in the first place did their best to get me to sit down and shut up, but I engaged in subterranean rumbling for the rest of the movie.

And I have no intention of viewing the upcoming Sanditon in any medium. Just leave me alone with my own ideas of how JA would have completed it, please.

Feb 28 2019 09:49PM by dyaffe

I took my then-5-year-old daughter to see P&P 2005, after giving her a detailed rundown of the plot. We're watching the Meryton Assembly scene, when the Darcy-Bingley party enters and the entire room stops dancing and talking to goggle at them. And my little girl asks me, "Are they playing Freeze Dance?" Still a cogent commentary on the overwrought nature of that moment, I would say.

Overall, I don't completely hate it -- it's beautiful to look at, and there are some nice performances -- but it doesn't try very hard to be true to JA, which is what I like to see in my JA adaptations.

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