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P&P 200: Pride and Prejudice (1995) Review

Continuing the 200th anniversary celebration of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice novel, with my thoughts, opinions, and review of Pride and Prejudice (1995) TV mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Here's my long review of the 1995 BBC/A&E TV Mini-Series...

watch Pride and Prejudice 1995 clip - Mr. Darcy's First Appearance

(source: BBCWorldwide)
Pride and Prejudice 1995 Synopsis
Set in England in the early 19th century, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet's five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. While Bingley takes an immediate liking to the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane, Darcy has difficulty adapting to local society and repeatedly clashes with the second-eldest Bennet daughter, Elizabeth. 
I thought this Pride and Prejudice (1995) BBC/A&E TV mini-series was very good. One of the few most popular adaptations of  Jane Austen's 200-year-old classic Pride and Prejudice novel and I own a special DVD edition copy of this in my P&P DVD collection. As much as this was considered to be the "best" or the "definitive" version by a lot of Janeite/P&P fans, who prefer this version over the others (to each, his/her own) and think this was the most "faithful" or "truest" to the book. I just simply and respectfully disagree, after all, it's a matter of personal preference and opinions. Not all of us have the same or share the same opinions when it comes to which P&P version was/is considered to be the best or the most faithful. If you agree with me, it's great...or if you don't, it's fine too. I just didn't think this version, in my opinion, was the "best," "definitive" (that's why there are many versions of Austen's classic for everyone to choose from) nor the most "true" or "faithful" to the novel as this was often referred to just because it had 6 more hours of time to tell the story. I thought this version was as much flawed as every other versions, which as mentioned in my P&P 1980's review here, every P&P version has pros and cons (as in no adaptation is perfect), which I will list here about this one...as I found more cons than pros in this version in my recent viewing.

Having said that...first, while I liked this version, it was not my favorite to watch and just not my cup of tea (no pun intended). The casting of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy were good. I liked them as well as the actors who portrayed Mr. Bennet, Mr. Bingley, and Jane, Georgiana, Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner, and Colonel Fitzwilliam, but the rest (ie. Lydia Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, Wickham, Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine, and Mr. Collins) were just either barely tolerable, too painful or over-the-top to watch. The Bennet sisters did not look like they were in their early 20s in ages though (as the book described them, which I have read, of course). They looked more like the much older Bennet sisters in their late 30s, which made them unconvincing playing the younger Bennet sisters in this version.

Also, Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet looked more mature to be the young lively, witty, and intelligent Miss Bennet. I found that despite how well she acted, she just did not match the description of a young 20 year-old, petite and impertinent girl, Miss Eliza Bennet should've been portrayed in this version (if we're talking about being true to the description of the protagonist role that Austen created in her classic P&P novel). Other than that, I thought she did pretty good as EB. There were a lot of scenes that she was very good in this mini-series that I enjoyed watching her in. Although I couldn't help but think she looked like the younger Meryl Streep...doesn't she look like her? I thought she does...it'd be interesting to see them appear in a movie together. They could play sisters and I'd believe it...as they do look-alike.

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy was good, but (I know...and how dare I say this, right to his Firthness? Well, just stating my own opinion, of course) he was not the best (nor the only actor who could play Darcy better...he, himself said that other actors can play Darcy just as good if not even better than him...and I believe in one of his interviews pre-2005 P&P movie release, if I remember right... he was happy to pass the Darcy role to another very talented and versatile actor, my favorite Mr. Darcy, the one and only Matthew Macfadyen...and I couldn't agree with him more!) as most (not all) die-hard CF fans think he was...at least not in my viewing or opinion. As much as I like Colin Firth (and had seen and really enjoyed watching him immensely in these films: What A Girl Wants, Bridget Jones 1 & 2 movies...looking forward to the 3rd one coming soon...and The King Speech, to name a few of the many films I've seen him in. I mostly see him as Colin Firth playing Colin Firth in a lot of his films (and believe me I'm not the only one who sees him this way, there are other people I heard that said the same, but that doesn't mean, he wasn't a very good actor...because I know he is. I guess a lot of his old films were mostly romantic-comedy, so that was why he was often typecast and was not taken seriously until he starred in A Single Man and TKS movies). Only then, when I saw him in The King Speech, that I saw a really great acting from him, as he was much more convincing and truly captured the character and transformed completely into the character he was playing that I was convinced and was very impressed with his acting...see my Film Review: The King's Speech...his Oscar win in that film was very well-deserved and that truly, I thought he was far more convincing as King George than he was as Mr. Darcy...whether you agree with me on this or not...that's up to you...again, just stating my opinion, of course, and nothing against Mr. Firth or his Darcy portrayal...he's just not the Darcy I picture when I re-read the novel...that's all).

Unfortunately,  most of those who loved his Darcy or think he was the best Darcy only sees him as the sex symbol Darcy, not what the character of Darcy was supposed to be. I don't think he portrayed Darcy like Austen described the character in the novel to be (at least not in my viewing...). Sure he acted very well on the proud and arrogant Darcy part, but was too likable to be disliked in the beginning (which he was supposed to be, but in this version he was already likable and swoon-worthy to a lot of Janeites...). I know he made the Darcy character famous (the lake scene, which most ladies were swooning about....though interesting that I was not one of them as I was too young when I first saw it...and even now that I'm older, I'm still not impressed to this day...but that's just me...feel free to agree or disagree with me, lol), but I think with all the hoopla of his sex symbol Mr. Darcy portrayal, he over-shadowed the lovely Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth Bennet, who was supposed to be the main lead and should be the central character much like in the book. Darcy, as much as I love his character was not a central, but a secondary lead character after Lizzy Bennet. Miss Ehle should've been given top billing as she played the main character and appeared in the film from the opening all the way through the ending (much like Keira Knightley and other actresses who portrayed Elizabeth Bennet in other versions). She won A BAFTA TV award for her portrayal of EB (and not CF for Darcy) for a reason. Just because Colin Firth was more popular than her (nothing wrong with that), doesn't mean that his Darcy should be the central character (as much as I wouldn't mind seeing a Darcy-centric version of P&P, who wouldn't right?...but that would've been titled "Mr. Darcy's Diary" not Pride and Prejudice as this mini-series was)...Lizzy  Bennet was and should not have taken the backseat every time he appears in a scene in this version.

Anyway, I must say that even though I liked this mini-series and own the DVD since 2006, I've only seen this version a few times...and every viewing takes me a long time to finished it. It was just too long and slow for my taste, but that's just my opinion, of course. Though I've first seen this on TV several years back when I was younger, probably in my Jr. High School years (as that was when my English Literature class was reading the novel, which had first introduced me to Jane Austen and P&P and was watching the mini-series for class discussion, to which we had a study guide handouts to answer questions after viewing the mini-series that took us two days to watching it). I'm not much of a fan of this version (as I am, obviously, with the Keira Knightley version). I did liked CF as Mr. Darcy, JE's Elizabeth Bennet, and the actor who played Mr. Bennet...but the other cast/characters aren't as likable or believable, in my opinion, to watch. I thought most of the actors were too old than the supposedly young characters they portrayed...I don't don't know, some of you may disagree with me about the actors especially those of you who loved this version and preferred it more than the others. Guess we all have a different opinions...so to each and his or her own. I just find that every time I planned to re-watched this mini-series, I tried to watched it all in one day, but for some reason (I don't know) I can't seem to view it all in the same day. It always takes me a couple days to finished it. I mean, I liked that it has more details and in some parts it's more like in the book, but I tend to get bored or fall asleep whenever I watch this P&P version especially the first half (just too slow for me and not my kind of P&P to watch, really.... I prefer watching the 2nd half because of the Pemberley scenes with Lizzy and Darcy. And of course, almost towards the end where Elizabeth and Darcy finally get together and has more alone time, together scenes.

After re-watching this recently to write my review for this version, I can't help but always find Mrs. Bennet so annoying...I can't stand watching her. I prefer watching Brenda Blethyn's Mrs. Bennet in the 2005 version 'cause while her Mrs. Bennet was annoying, she was funny, fun, and tolerable to watch, lol. I did like Mr. Bennet here, especially with his dry and sarcastic humor, and he was easy to watch. I especially loved his father-daughter scene with JE's Lizzy towards the end. I wasn't really into the actors who played Jane Bennet (nothing against the actress, she just didn't look the part, she was supposed to be much prettier than Lizzy, instead JE's Lizzy was much better looking than Jane), Lydia Bennet (she's way more annoying than the other versions, lol), Mr. Collins (he was just too creepy and over-the-top in this version), Mr. Wickham (he was forgettable here and was overshadowed by the handsome Mr. Darcy), Caroline Bingley (Kelly Reilly's Caroline Bingley in the 2005 version was a lot better, in my opinion), Lady Catherine (I prefer Dame Judi Dench who, who in my opinion, nailed Lady Catherine in her portrayal of the character from the 2005 version). Other than them, I thought this mini-series version was still very good...but I won't say it was the best version I've seen because for me, It has to be a movie or mini-series that will not make me fall asleep, capture my interest and attention, make me laugh, so romantic, and a movie/mini-series that I will enjoy and never get tired of re-watching over and over again (which the 2005 version did for me, so that's why I love KK's P&P so much more) and for years to come. This version was still very good on its own interpretation though. It has some good memorable moments/scenes especially all the Darcy & Lizzy scenes. The music was alright and not quite memorable...just typical for any period drama. The locations were interesting, but the production and costumes looks dated to me.

Here are the pros and cons I noticed from watching the BBC/A&E's Pride and Prejudice (1995) recently...

The Pros
  • One of the advantages of this mini-series is that, it has a lot of time to show and tell the story (6 hours time), that both the 1940s and 2005 versions (with a little over 2 hours) didn't have much time for. But then again, comparing TV and film versions is like comparing apples to oranges.
  • Loved the scene at the beginning when Lizzy was entering the house and saw a glimpse of her father, Mr. Bennet rolling his eyes out upon seeing the annoyance of Lydia and Kitty and he saw Lizzy and they both smiled
  • Loved Mr. Darcy's unexpected and awkward visit to Lizzy at Mr. & Mrs. Collins home in Hunsford and the first proposal scene following that.
  • A lot of characters from the novel (even minor ones) were featured here.
  • Loved Elizabeth and Georgiana playing duets at the piano-forte and Darcy staring and smiling at Lizzy (as she does to him) in this memorable Pemberley scene. One of my favorite scenes from this mini-series.
  • Loved the Pemberley scene when Caroline mentioned to Darcy how he thought of her as "pretty at one time," to which Darcy replied, "yes, but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."
  • Has a little more time to show supporting characters and their back stories such as Wickham, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Georgiana Darcy to name a few.
  • More dialogue (seems a lot of them were similar to the novel)
  • Loved the second proposal, of course, but wished there were more to it...
  • Loved the double wedding ending (though it's interesting that this wasn't mentioned in the book) to this mini-series
The Cons
  • This mini-series was too long and tends to drag (in my opinion)...that every time I try to watch this miniseries in one day, I can't even seem to get through the first episode...without getting bored or falling sleep. It might just be me, but I tend to have attention span when a series/mini-series or movie does not capture my attention long enough or if I'm not hooked by the first 15-20 minutes (of its first episode).
  • I didn't see any sparks nor chemistry between Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Elizabeth & Darcy even though they looked good together (and even previously dated in real-life)
  • The Bennet's house and farm looks very tidy and museum-like....so not realistic nor gritty.
  • The Bennet sisters are always dressed tidy and not a hair out of place considering they live in a small estate nearby a working farm. Also, their hair styles were stiff, shiny, and not a hair out of place even when they wore bonnets with rain, wind, and humidity...their hair sure does not move!
  • Lydia's bare bossom is too revealing and bothersome for her at such a young age of 15 (looks inappropriate, which the Bennets doesn't seem to notice nor care). Also, Lydia's way over-the-top annoying and unbearable to watch. I like to skip and fast-forward every scene she was in along with Caroline Bingley (and her sister Mrs. Hurst), Mr. Collins, and Mrs. Bennet, who's barely tolerable herself.
  • Lizzy's more beautiful than Jane (sorry, but she was supposed to be the "beauty of the county" as described in the book, not that the actress who played her isn't pretty because she was, but just not more beautiful than Jennifer Ehle's Lizzy)
  • Mr. Darcy in the bathtub, while it's nice to see, it was not mention in the book (one of the added scenes for the mini-series)
  • Mr. Darcy fencing? Interesting, this was not mentioned in the book...
  • Darcy jumping oddly with his shirt on (should be shirtless, lol) on a dirty pond/lake was not from the book either...just made up by writer Andrew Davies to make women swoon...but it didn't impressed me. I didn't find this scene sexy nor swoon-worthy. For me, not then, not now. Was that really necessary? I mean, sure I wouldn't mind watching a handsome looking guy like Darcy jumping off the lake shirtless...but on this one he was still wearing his shirt on and the lake looks dirty...I don't get what's so sexy about that?
  • The Gardiners has 4 kids (2 boys and 2 girls) in the book,  here there were only 3 (but I guess, I'm nitpicking too much as this wasn't such a big deal especially if you've never read the book).
  • Showing a glimpse of Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine, and George Wickham before they were introduced ruined the elements of surprise of meeting their characters for the first time. I blamed the production and DVD on this for showing a preview of every scene before they happen...ugh!
  • As many times as Lizzy walks with her white dresses, she does not seem to get a dirt on her. Only one scene where she was walking to Netherfield and she was walking on the mud, but not too muddy enough as Caroline Bingley described her in the book.
Overall, as aforementioned here, I thought this P&P 1995 mini-series was still very good. Despite its shortcomings and my nitpicking and more cons than pros list, I still liked and enjoyed this mini-series. After all, this is one of the few TV and film adaptations of Austen's Pride and Prejudice that stayed close, for the most part, to the book. So, I would still recommend you see this, if you haven't already seen it yet.



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