Pride And Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy (2003)
Cast: Kam Heskin, Orlando Seale, Ben Gourley, Lucila Sola
Director: Andrew Black
A modern version of Pride and Prejudice? I never thought I would see the day, and yet I stumbled across this diamond-in-the-rough only last week. I say diamond-in-the-rough because it honestly would need a lot of fixing up to make it anywhere near palatable to most P&P fans. In its current state it sits somewhere around the mark of painfully silly, almost to the extent of being a parody. The characters don’t seem to sit well, Jane is almost unlikeable, and Lydia seems to be a caricature of her Austen counterpart. On the positive side, Darcy, played by Orlando Seale, still has that rugged tall-dark-and-handsome thing going.
There are some great little alterations to make Elizabeth fit in the modern day. She is a college student who wishes to be an author and her sisters are now her flat mates, however her character deviates so much from the Lizzy we know and love that instead of being witty and intelligent, she is clumsy and spends too much time whingeing onscreen. She is a washed-out version of the strong Elizabeth, and doesn’t speak her mind the way she should. Similarly, her relationship with her flatmates has none of the tenderness present when they were sisters. She outwardly dislikes Lydia, fails to even really connect with Jane and, although we see a moment of sweetness with Kitty when she saves her at Charlie’s party, there is no affection between the girls.
The humour of the piece is of a ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ style, and most of the laughs come from the characters’ awkwardness. The placement of quotes from the book written on screen is quite effective, and serves to break the film up into chapters, however I found that it was distracting and even felt out of place- as though the director was desperate to make the connection between the book and the film apparent. This strain to keep an association was also seen with the out-of-place naming of the restaurant where Darcy and Elizabeth meet as ‘Rosings’ and calling the road they live on ‘Longbourn’. It was also agitating that Lydia’s pet pug was called Austen. These sorts of elements kept cropping up throughout, with Elizabeth even studying Jane Austen at college, screaming “Hey! HEY! This is meant to be a clever re-make you know!”.
I am generally a huge fan of Mr. Bingley, however the parallel character, Charlie, was a massive disappointment in this version. He seemed stupid, easily led and nothing like the “sensible, good-humoured” Bingley we have all come to know. He also does not seem to match Jane, and this leads to several awkward scenes. I was, however, rather impressed with Caroline Bingley. She seemed severe enough to make you dislike her, but with the elegance and manipulation that make you believe she could perhaps get Darcy to like her.
I miss Austen’s ironic voice, and social commentary- and it seems a shame to see a bunch of girls in the modern age just “dying” to be married. It just isn’t realistic. The book itself offers numerous possibilities that could have worked better when transposing it to the screen of a modern audience. The girls could have been younger, with Lydia being a bit of a teenage rebel- dating many guys, while Kitty is in the gifted (but socially-awkward) class. Perhaps they are trying to get dates for the school dance or something. Alternatively it could be a workplace setting. There could honestly be another fantastic version in the making. This, however, falls a bit flat as the director has tried to change too much about the characters’ personas but hasn’t played with the full possibilities of the storyline.
The characters in the film are Mormons, and it is a latter-day saints film. Although the Church moments seemed to fit the book, I felt that a retelling could’ve done with doing away with the religious overtones. However, I did watch the modified version that differs from the original theatrical version, and this cuts out some of the more overt religious references. I have also been advised that some of the jokes require an understanding of the mormon traditions, and as I am no expert I perhaps lost some of the appeal of the movie to an ignorance of the context it was placed in.
Honourable mentions: Jane and Elizabeth’s ice-cream binge prompting the line- “Triple Choc-choc-choc-chocolate chunk or Uncle Bubba’s Big Belly Butter Brickle?” “Both” and the casting of Orlando Seale.
Dishonourable mentions: Accidentally leaving Charlie behind at the petrol station, and the unbelievable nature of most of the events (the picky Lydia getting married in some shack in LA… I don’t think so…).