Book Adaptations: Pride and Prejudice

Screenshot from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2005) starring Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfayden. Copyright of StudioCanal and Working Title Films.

Hi! It’s Annie!

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen has been one of my favorite books for years, so it’s safe to say I’ve watched several different adaptations of this classic novel. Because honestly, what’s not to like? ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as a story features romance, amazing insults, clever dialogue, and a feminist character who was way ahead of her time. There are books out there that have been adapted several times and no one can quite get it right. I’m definitely glad to say that this isn’t one of them. Not to say that there haven’t been bad adaptations of this story, because there definitely have been. When they’re bad, they are BAD. I just thought, since one of the versions of this recently hit Netflix, it might be good to go over some of the adaptations so hopefully I can steer you towards some good ones and away from some really, really, bad ones.

Pride and Prejudice (2005):

This is the one that stars Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfayden. Likely, if you’ve seen a version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, you’ve seen this one. This is also my personal favorite of all the adaptations I’ve seen. Elizabeth Bennet in the book is extremely sassy, but because the book is written from her perspective, much of that sass is told to you through a thought format. As this is impossible in movies, I’ve found that other adaptations portray Elizabeth as more of how society would see her. It’s really nice to have a version of this that shows Elizabeth as being just as strong-willed and opinionated to other people as she is in her head. In terms of Mr. Darcy, one of my favorite things about his character is that he’s meant to be awkward, which Mathew Macfayden portrays amazingly. (Can we also talk about how sweet he is in the scene where Mr. Bingley is practicing his proposal on Mr. Darcy?) This movie is also just gorgeous to look at. Every scene feels like a painting and it really is one of those movies that feels transportive with its visuals. I’m not sure there will ever be an adaptation of this book that beats this movie for me. But enough about this one, because most people already know about this one.

Pride and Prejudice (1995 mini-series):

This is the other most popular adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, this time starring Jennifer Ehle and, of course, Colin Firth. This one is probably the most true to the book of any adaptation just because of how much they were able to fit in given that it’s a mini-series rather than a movie. Colin Firth’s performance as Mr. Darcy in this is nothing short of iconic. There is a reason why you can’t talk about Mr. Darcy without somebody bringing up Colin Firth. I will say that for the average watcher, this is definitely a dryer version of this compared to the one I just wrote about. The movies condense the book to give the audience just the exciting bits, so this one is going to have much more sitting and waiting around. It also does not give you all of Elizabeth’s thoughts, so she’s definitely a dryer character. The reason to watch this adaptation is mostly the portrayal of Mr. Darcy. That’t not to say that this adaptation is bad in any way! It’s a very good adaptation and I don’t think the dryness takes away too much from the story. If you are interested in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at all, this one is worth a watch.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:

I don’t see enough people talking about this one. This is a web-series that you can find entirely on Youtube with one of the main creatives behind it being none other than Hank Green. Each episode is usually only five to ten minutes long, but there are around a hundred episodes. This follows Lizzie Bennet in a modern setting where she navigates her social life through companies while finishing her graduate degree, all in the format of a video blog. This show does less for the character of Lizzie than many other adaptations, but it is the best adaptation for the side characters. I have never loved Jane Bennet or Charlotte Lucas more than in this adaptation. They are actually given lives and flaws along with their own stories that portray them as independent and badass. If you thought that no adaptation would ever make you like Lydia, this will prove you wrong. You also can’t miss out on Mary who you will only get much of if you also watch some of the vlogs Lydia posts. I am honestly of the opinion that the way they portrayed Mary would have been slightly more suited to Elizabeth, but I digress. Elizabeth isn’t bad in this version, but she’s not very Elizabeth either for the sake of making the character more relatable. But you will binge watch this for all the other characters. Fair warning, Mr. Darcy doesn’t come in until later, but the mystery of it actually makes his introduction even better.

Death Comes to Pemberley ( 2013 mini-series):

This is a bit of a cheat because it isn’t exactly an adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. This takes place after the events of the novel at the Pemberley Estate where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are already happily married. As the name suggests, this is a murder mystery and actually a pretty good one at that. It involves the characters from the original novel and expands on ones that weren’t given much time. For example, Georgiana is one of the best characters in this show. This is not going to be one of the best things you’ve ever watched, but it is a good watch if you’re at all interested in the world of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and just wanted to know what would happen next with the characters. This is also another BBC mini-series, so you don’t have to worry about it being too incredibly cheesy.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016):

We’re finally getting to the bad adaptations that you should never watch. I watched this movie as a joke and I regretted it. You know when you cringe so hard that your eyes start to water? This was me throughout this entire movie. I’m not sure I even have to say that this was a bad idea, because I think anyone who read the title probably already thought that to themselves. This was sort of a parody and sort of not, but it wasn’t funny. I love Lily James as an actress and it literally pains me to see her in this movie. For those of you that might want to watch it for the horror aspect, it’s not worth it. I am incredibly afraid of horror films and I sat through this just fine. Just…do yourself a favor and never watch it. If you really need a tipping point to be convinced, look up the ‘She’s Shy’ clip on Youtube. Not only did they take dialogue from the Keira Knightley movie that wasn’t even in the book, they also completely destroyed my favorite scene from the book and movie. I’m really not sure how I sat through this, so just do yourself a favor and don’t bother unless you want to suffer.

Anything from Hallmark:

There have been so many of these that I’m not going to pick one. I had the misfortune of seeing a couple of these when other people were watching, and they are exactly what you would expect from any Hallmark movie. Except this time they decided to take a famous book and make you cringe through a story you thought you would love no matter what. I apologize for being so harsh, but please do yourself a favor and never watch these unless you want to cringe-cry through these too.

Hopefully this gave you some idea on some more adaptations of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that are worth a watch and also helped you decide not to watch some others. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ has always been pretty close to my heart and Elizabeth Bennet was incredibly formative for me, so if you’re just getting into it now; Welcome! If you like any of the adaptations above I would highly recommend the book if you’ve got the attention span for it. It is a long and sometimes boring read, but I guarantee you it’s worth it in the end. If books aren’t really your thing, that’s fine too! Some of the adaptations mentioned above are great watches even if you haven’t read the book or aren’t planning to.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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