It's amazing how Austen turns up suddenly and reaches out when you least expect it.
Sample this: I got home early, with a burning headache. I couldn't sleep, so I decided I'll read Pride and Prejudice. I made myself a hot cup of tea( while sorely wishing that I had this fabulous mug), settled down on my couch and started reading. After a while, I decided I'll check what's on TV. And voila!- the famous BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was about to begin. I couldn't believe my good luck- I'd always wanted to see for myself what most Austenites claimed to be a fantastic if not the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I also couldn't believe how I always end up seeing and reviewing Austen-related things that are not on my list ;) I'm not complaining though.
The first two episodes were on today, that is, till the scene where Charlotte invites Mr. Collins to stay at Lucas Lodge, after Lizzie had rejected his proposal.
I have to say here that I'm a great fan of Pride and Prejudice (2005 version) and Matthew Macfadyen is totally my favourite part of the film. Not as much Keira Knightley. So I was wondering how I'm going to get used to this new cast and this version.
As there is no need to summarize the story, let me just go to how the characters were handled in this series.
Let me start by saying that Jennifer Ehle is a brilliant Lizzie Bennet and totally trumps Keira Knightley's version, in my opinion. I love the fact that they establish the great relationship between Mr. Bennet and Lizzie in this TV series. Be it rolling her eyes at her mother's absurdity, playing around, arguing with Mr. Darcy or walking all the way to Netherfield Park covered in mud, Ehle has captured the Lizzie that Austen wrote, perfectly.
Jane Bennet as played by Susannah Harker was effective, though Rosamund Pike will always be the most beautiful Jane in my book.
Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet totally stole the show. She was loud, brash, impolite, socially naive and an absolutely great performer. Jumping around with Lydia and Kitty, chastising Mr. Bennet for not meeting Mr. Bingley, calling Darcy the most handsome man and within just minutes after this exorbitant praise, calling him exactly the opposite- she's brilliant as Mrs. Bennet, so much so that as I saw her on the screen, I could recall Mrs. Bennet's lines and description from the book. I could feel the character in the book, in her performance.
Kitty and Lydia were perfectly cast and did exactly what they ought to- make me feel so embarassed by their silliness. Mary was apt, and even looked like how I imagined her to.
David Bamber is hilarious as the obnoxious Mr. Collins, while Anna Chancellor is perfectly wicked as Caroline Bingley. Mr. Wickham is a disappointment- I don't find him handsome at all and I didn't find Adrian Lukis' portrayal very convincing either.
Crispin Bonham Carter is an impressive Bingley- always smiling, sort of naive and very believing. Benjamin Whitrow is great as Mr. Bennet. I used to love Donald Sutherland's Mr. Bennet in the 2005 version, but I think when I finish watching this series, I'd appreciate Whitrow more.
And yes, I deliberately saved Colin Firth for the last :P
I'm probably not going to find too many people who agree with me, but Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy did nothing to me in these first two episodes. Yes, he spoke his lines well, he was brooding, he kept staring at people well,he did 'brooding', 'haughty', 'arrogant' well, but there was something missing. It's probably too early to judge his Darcy( after all the famous wet white shirt scene is yet to come ;) ), but as of now, I'm not too much of a fan. I'm not saying that he wasn't good as Darcy. He just wasn't great so far.
I loved the fact that unlike the 2005 version, this TV series had the luxury of going in-depth to some of my favourite scenes from the book- scenes that I read and re-read with joy. There were some scenes for which I prefer the 2005 version. Like Darcy and Lizzie dancing at the ball- I thought the 2005 version had more of a chemistry and the music was just so brilliant.
But it was a delight watching the first two episodes of the BBC series. This is mostly truthful to the book, an Austenite's delight and has some brilliant performances. To sum it up, it was- let me borrow from Sir Lucas' vocabulary- 'capital' ;)
I can't wait to watch and review the rest of this series. The remaining episodes are being telecast tomorrow and the day after and I hope to review them on the same days :)