During the 10th year anniversary day (UK Cinema Release; September 16th) of Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie, we (Jeane, Natasha Shubrick, Regina Jeffers, and Sharon Lathan) started here a Movie Rountable discussing all about the Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie. Now, to resume to the third part of our 4-part roundtable movie discussions here, we discussed about our thoughts on which minor characters in the movie most caught our attention and Elizabeth and Charlotte's unpleasant conversation in the swing scene about Miss Lucas' announcement of her sudden engagement to Lizzie's "dreaded cousin" Mr. Collins.
Read our Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie discussion (part 3) below...
Which of the minor characters in the movie (whether they spoke or not, and no matter how much screen time they were given) most caught your attention? Why?
Sharon Lathan: Colonel Fitzwilliam, as played by Cornelius Booth, completely captivated me. He isn’t a particularly handsome man — sorry Mr. Booth — and I admit that the character I visualize in my novels is a bit more appealing! So it wasn’t his physical appearance or the “man in uniform” allure that piqued my interest. Rather it was the amused smirk flashed at Mr. Darcy, and the subtle but obvious hints of teasing, most notable during the piano scene at Rosings Park. Later, in his conversation with Lizzy while in church — the only other scene with Colonel Fitzwilliam — I again loved the touches of his humor. Mostly, however, it was his sincere devotion to and affection for Mr. Darcy that struck me. Lizzy missed this positive praise (as usual). I didn’t, and it made a lasting impression. Especially because upon the first few viewings of the movie (prior to my reading the novel) I did not know Colonel Fitzwilliam was Mr. Darcy’s cousin! Learning that fact enhanced my appreciation of his character, and definitely increased my esteem for Joe Wright as a director. Conveying emotions and entire background relationships between characters who only interact for a few minutes of screen time is a masterful skill.
Natasha Shubrick: It has been said the good writing is supposed to evoke a sensation or an emotion, so I guess the same can be said about acting. Technically these characters are not minor, as they are significant to the overall story, but in reference to the constraints of the movie I’m going to consider them at the least secondary. My choices are Ms. Bingley and the three younger Bennet sisters. Every time the meanest of all mean girls, the original Regina George, Caroline Bingley (Kelly Reilly) appears on the screen with her sneering and derisive digs my blood boils. Her every look and gesture scream disdain worthy of a beat down!
One such instance is when Elizabeth says to Darcy, “What a shame, for I dearly love to laugh,” Then Caroline retorts, “A family trait I think.” with that nasty little smirk on lips, I literally want to throttle her!!!
Besides Lydia and Kitty having a propensity for uproariously, unbefitting and sometimes harsh laughter, here are some other examples: (1) When Kitty asks Elizabeth in a not so discreet manner, if she dropped her handkerchief on purpose (the Austen bend and snap) within Mr. Wickham’s hearing; (2) The new Mrs. Wickham’s nonchalant attitude and failure to comprehend how her actions nearly ruined her entire family; (3) After Bingley’s proposal when the whole family goes to see who’s at the door in the middle of the night and the first thing out of Mary’s mouth is “Maybe he’s changed his mind!”... I mean what an utterly stupid and insensitive thing to say!!! I mean really it is most vexing!!!
Jeane: I'd say Lady Catherine De Bourgh (as played brilliantly by Dame Judi Dench) most caught my attention because of her commanding presence. She only appeared in a few scenes, but all of them were memorable. It didn't take me long to memorized her quotable lines too, haha!
Another was Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy's little sister. Though she only appeared in a few short scenes, they were memorable and unforgettable scenes (with Elizabeth & Darcy) at Pemberley. It made me longed to see more of her in the movie.
And the Netherfield Butler, he may have only appeared in a couple brief scenes, but his two scenes and the two lines he had, like Lady Catherine and Georgiana, were memorable and unforgettable especially his random line, "A Mrs. Bennet, a Miss Bennet, a Miss Bennet, and a Miss Bennet, Sir." That one-liner always made me laugh (add to that Miss Bingley's "Oh, for heaven's sake. Are we to receive every BENNET in the country?" sarcastic and witty response).
Regina Jeffers: I am quite fond of Tamzin Merchant in the role of Georgiana Darcy. Ms. Merchant brings a sharp contrast to her portrayal of Miss Darcy from what we viewed in the 1995 mini-series. She is more in the nature of a young girl straight from the schoolroom. I realize that some girls married at age sixteen during the Regency, but I go against that idea being as customary as many Regency romances might lead us to believe. Ms. Merchant’s portrayal of a sixteen-year-old Georgiana is in sharp contrast to the sixteen-year-old Lydia, who is too mature for her age. Georgiana is still happy to sit at her pianoforte; with anticipation, she rushes (almost skips) to Elizabeth’s side when Elizabeth calls at Pemberley. We realize Darcy learned his lesson on permitting Georgiana too much freedom, but the girl does appear to suffer from his restrictions. Instead, she thrives from Darcy’s attentions, an adage Elizabeth was slow to recognize as how he will care for her. Despite Georgiana’s “girlish” mannerisms, we earn glimpses of her manipulations with Darcy. She is smart enough to recognize Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth Bennet is unusual and, therefore, significant. Elizabeth’s call upon Pemberley brings a potential “sister” to Georgiana’s door. I find Miss Darcy’s teasing tone, furtive glances to Darcy, and her prompting of his shyness adorably tender. Moreover, the scene at Pemberley is the first one to which viewers are treated to Matthew Macfadyen’s infections smile. In that moment, we see a brother and sister claiming Elizabeth as the newest member of their family.
As a film student, I like the use of the servant in Mr. Bennet’s household. Sinead Matthews in the role of Betsy carries items from room to room while the camera follows her, providing the viewer with a look into the Bennets’ household. She brings ribbons and such to the Bennet sisters as they prepare for the Netherfield ball. Later in the film, she climbs the stairs to her attic bedroom right before Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn. Both times, she hums a song that serves to tie the scenes together. Just as the song at the beginning of the film when Elizabeth walks through the countryside is repeated when Georgiana plays the pianoforte at Pemberley, the use of the servant’s song and her movement through the household provides the viewer a glimpse of estate life with a means to advance the scenes.
Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal, and we cheer that she did. Then, seemingly the next day Charlotte Lucas is announcing her engagement to Mr. Collins. What were your thoughts on this development?
Sharon: I have to say that my gut reaction was something along the lines of, “Why, you sneaky girl! Swooping in and digging your hooks in while the fella is vulnerable!” Perhaps this is another story twist where not having read the novel prior, or seeing the 1995 version, made my reaction different. To me Mr. Collins was “ridiculous” as Lizzy says, and certainly a spineless sycophant, but not a heinous person either. I had suspected that Mary would grab onto him, so in that respect Charlotte “snapping him up” was a surprise.
Yet the obvious interest Mary showed for Collins softened his character for me, and the humorous way Tom Hollander —who I like immensely, and think rather handsome — played the role, didn’t make me despise him. I was pleased to see someone find him worth marrying, and Charlotte did make sense.
Natasha: Charlotte is pragmatic, while Elizabeth is romantic. It is clearly demonstrated that Elizabeth is not willing to be pushed into marriage with the man who will inherit the estate; although it is obvious that it would provide her and the family with security. In contrast, Charlotte who is 27 years old and does not view love as the most vital component of a marriage is more interested in having a home of her own. I certainly understand Charlotte’s actions with her considered to be too long on the shelf. It had to be very difficult living with that sort of pressure. I can only imagine the rude comments she might have overheard or being told directly to her face about how plain she was, which was also considered another deficiency. Charlotte felt that Mr. Collins was likely her best and only opportunity in such a stark landscape. She saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. He was actually a practical and good catch, if it weren’t for the fact that he is an odious and obsequious toad! I guess she figured that security outweighed her being attached for the rest of her life to a man whom she can barely tolerate his presence, or at best take in small doses. Thank goodness the garden needed to be tended... Charlotte chooses this path, but Elizabeth believes there is more to choosing a husband. It’s her boldness and integrity that stand out all the more, given the limited choices she has in life. When this book was written, women had few options in these things. Women were not equal under the law, had few opportunities for support, and were expected to get married to the best possible match. The dependence on securing a husband was germane to the period.
Jeane: I thought, "wow, Charlotte moves fast!" LOL! But then, I understood her reasons for accepting Mr. Collins' hasty (and desperate) marriage proposal when she explained why to Elizabeth on the swing scene because she said that she had been a "burden to her parents," "she's 27 years old," (that's considered an old spinster in Austen's time), "can't afford to be romantic," and she had been "offered a comfortable home." So, her only alternative choice for a man (of all men in Herthforshire) to marry was Elizabeth's rejected, "ridiculous" and "dreaded cousin," Mr. Collins (from Hunsford, Kent).
Regina: We see Charlotte eyeing Collins at the Netherfield ball, which should have served as a prompt for what was to come. Charlotte serves as Elizabeth’s confidant when Elizabeth makes light of Collins’ desire to remain at Elizabeth’s “side throughout the evening.” She realizes Elizabeth holds no interest in Collins, so why should she not take advantage of the situation? It would be unusual for few eligible men to enter the Meryton neighborhood. We also must remember that women of the era did not travel extensively. They were their father’s property until they became their husband’s property. Therefore, Sir William was the first to call upon Bingley, likely to do what Mrs. Bennet wishes Mr. Bennet to do, put his daughter forward, but Bingley chooses Jane. No eligible male chose Charlotte in her seven and twenty years. She is well on the shelf. In addition, we must consider that Collins lost nothing from the connection to Sir William, who was knighted. Collins realizes he cannot return to Rosings without a wife. He does not wish to face Lady Catherine’s disapproval. Moreover, the other Bennet sisters listened in on his proposal to Elizabeth, and Collins’ pride prevents him from claiming another Bennet daughter.
Austen’s novels reflect the anxiety over marriage in the early Nineteenth Century. The aristocracy meant to keep its hold upon political power, and endogamous marriages dominated. Meanwhile, the middle class sought out exogamous, companionate marriages. Fictional marriages required the “lovers” to exercise freedoms not allotted to women of the day.
To be continued with the last one of our movie discussion, Part 4...coming up next!