Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Pride and Prejudice

On Thanksgiving day, our dinner guest, Warren, brought the BBC Pride and Prejudice -- the one where Jane Austen-o-files drool over the (in my view, questionable) charms of Colin Firth, an actor whose humorlessness plays very well in the role of Darcy.

I'm thinking we should make this our Thanskgiving tradition. If I'm not mistaken, it was on or around Thanksgiving that The Wizard of Oz was annually aired, back in the pre-video days in which children who wanted to watch their favorite movie over, and over, and over simply had to wait until the next time it was broadcast by the TV networks. The problem with this version of Pride and Prejudice is its 5 hour running time. But I have no problem watching that much video while the turkey is cooking and then later after eating my way into a stupor.

The BBC P & P is widely and rightly acclaimed as a terrific screen adaptation (in contrast to the current Keira Knightley version, which I hear totally sucks), and it bears up under repeated viewings. I always get something new or different on each successive watching.

For instance, this time it finally occurred to me that the paterfamilias Mr. Bennett is, despite Lizzie's affection for him, something of an asshole. As irritating as Mrs. Bennett is, she is quite right that her daughters need to be married to avoid falling into economically marginal lives, and her constant worry is to provide for them -- while all Mr. Bennett does is to act above it all, putting his wife down with witty barbs while virtually ignoring his responsibility to provide for his children.

This year's viewing was particularly enhanced by my frequent hitting the pause button and grilling Warren -- a font of information about the social history of Regency England -- for illuminating background. You too would get a lot out of watching Jane Austen movies with Warren -- too bad you don't know her real name.

I have a lesser BBC version of P&P because it was combined with a bunch of other Austen adaptations and the total price was under 20 dollars. However, I think the running time is closer to 8 hours (or longer, I don't remember), and had a suprise in that Peter Woodward (Galen from "Babylon 5: Crusade") played a swoon-worthy Willoghby.

I find that channeling Mom from time to time provides me with all the background information about Regency England that I require.
I love that movie. And while I agree that Mrs. Bennett is right that her daughters should be married, it was also her responsibility to see that they were properly trained for that task. Which of course, except for the two oldest, aren't.
To be fair, the younger daughters are 15 and 16, aren't they?
"Questionable" charms of Colin Firth????? Hardly. Definitive charms, I should say.

Our knowledge of the ages of the daughters is somewhat limited. Lydia is the youngest, and when Wickham says she is 16, Lizzy corrects him and says she is 15 (an age right on the edge for being "out" in society, especially with four older sisters still out and not yet married -- see "Mansfield Park" for an extended meditation on the meaning of being "out"). Then, in order, are Kitty (who we learn is 17, when she is infuriated that, as the older, she is not invited to join Lydia in Brighton), Mary, Lizzy (whom we know is "not more than 20" but who refuses to answer a direct question about her age from Lady Catherine because "with three sisters already out, you cannot expect me to own it.") and then there is Jane, the eldest Miss Bennet. Lizzy's friend Charlotte is 26, a truly prodigious age for an unmarried woman, which does much to explain her determination to marry Mr. Collins and avoid the fate of being a spinster living on the charity of whichever brother inherits Lucas Lodge. But see "Emma" for another, happier example of marriage at an advanced age, to wit "Miss Taylor."
Yes, even the youngest daughter should have more sense than she does at her age. And beyond that, the youngest is the one who runs off with another man unmarried. She never does realize why she shouldn't have, which was her mother's obligation.
Colin Firth is charming because he plays the cuddly hapless nice guy so well. Kind of like Hugh Grant, only without the sleaze factor.
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