Elizabethtown

In the new Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austens most celebrated heroine continues to bedevil suitors and filmmakers alike

Wright is wrestling with a real flaw in Austen's novel, which wears better as satire than as character study. Austen has been credited for moving the English women's novel away from Gothic hysteria in the direction of realism, and so she did. But if it's the function of the realist novel to create plausible characters, then expand and deepen our knowledge of them until we realize we don't know them at all and can't predict what they'll do next, neither Elizabeth nor Darcy can properly be called characters. By the end of the novel both get the edges beveled, however slightly, off their respective prides and prejudices but neither one of them really changes. They're constructs, the products of the two powerful yearnings that surely moved Austen to write this novel: on the one hand, to stand, through Darcy and Lizzie, outside the property relations that imprisoned her without 500 pounds and a room of her own; on the other, to convert an economic union into something new—a love match. Elizabeth and Darcy may start out the very embodiment of the class and gender wars, but they end up its happy (and, not so incidentally, loaded) resolution. Even as I chortled at the movie's virginal ending, in which the sun rises between two sets of puckered lips, I was ecstatic to see Lizzie having her feminist cake and eating it too.

PRIDE & PREJUDICE WAS DIRECTED BY JOE WRIGHT; WRITTEN BY DEBORAH MOGGACH, BASED ON THE NOVEL BY JANE AUSTEN; PRODUCED BY TIM BEVAN, ERIC FELLNER AND PAUL WEBSTER. NOW PLAYING AT EDWARDS UNIVERSITY, IRVINE.

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