Happy Endings Preview: Pride & Prejudice

Last January, lovers of Jane Austin celebrated Pride & Prejudice’s 200th birthday with reading marathons, plays, tributes, balls, and even Pemberley themed desserts. English women recently ranked it as the most influential book in their lives. The novel’s been adapted to film five times in the last 60 years (including a Bollywood adaptation titled Bride & Prejudice). Despite two centuries and a vast cultural divide, Pride & Prejudice continues to capture our imagination.

Nonetheless, all of this was lost on me when Pride & Prejudice opened in theaters in 2005. I rued all romantic comedies as predictable, trifling, snuff that couldn’t warrant my time. I only viewed Pride & Prejudice several years later to please a new girlfriend (now wife) who said it was her favorite movie. I humbugged, but obliged.

The film humbled my pride and prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy felt like living people. The happy ending wasn’t trite, but true. So utterly real, in fact, that I expected to find them living somewhere in England. I wasn’t alone in my disdain turned admiration. When director Joe Wright received the script for Pride & Prejudice he wasn’t interested. He thought himself “more edgy” than that. He shared in an interview,

But then I read the script and I was surprised I was very moved by it. And then I read the novel, and the novel was an amazing piece of character observation and it really seamed like the first piece of British Realism. It felt like it was a true story; had a lot of truth in it about understanding how to love other people, understanding how to overcome prejudices, understanding the things that separate us from other people.

Wright captured Austen’s realism pristinely, not by aiming for a perfect recapitulation of the narrative (which is impossible in 2 hours), but instead for Austen’s pathos. Tight shots of laughing and agonizing faces channel Austen’s careful observation of the soul. Long cuts of hands twisting and flexing, offer subtle windows into the disorientation of love in the face of prejudice. Wright’s sets are earthy; his actors are sweaty. His Bingley is winsomely awkward; his Jane is (not annoyingly) unassuming; his Elizabeth is laughingly self-effacing; his Darcy is painfully shy.

More profoundly, he captures Austen’s anti-romanticism. This is not Notting Hill or Pretty Woman; it’s not about two people who fall madly in love and cast off all inhibition to gorge themselves on sex and love. That story is mocked in Lydia and Whickham’s romance.

Nonetheless, Wright, remaining true to Austen, shirked modern cynicism about love and lasting happiness (think Revolutionary Road, Blue Valentine, and Melancholia) by proving that authentic love is possible when pride is humbled into devotion, and prejudice rebuked into adoration. It’s about slow love. He grasps at Austen’s secret: a happy ending not easily won is easily believable, because lasting love requires hard work. Joe Wright said this about the film’s happy ending,

Pride & Prejudice is my first film with a happy ending. Before, I naively thought they were a cop-out, but now I’ve come to believe happy endings and wish fulfillment are an incredibly important part of our cultural life. …The book was written, I think, with a lot of love. I hope that when people watch the film, the part of them that is still filled with love will recognize this in the film and be re-ignited by that. …I hope it makes people love. That’s it. I hope it makes people love. …That’s a really cheesy thing to say, isn’t it?

Sometimes it’s cheesy. Not here. This is a film that trains proud and prejudiced hearts (like ours) to love well. That’s one reason you don’t want miss out on Pride & Prejudice with us tomorrow evening.

Here’s the important information:

  • Showtime is 6:00 p.m. at Ragtag Cinema (10 Hitt St.). 
  • Admission is free. We’ve already given out our allotment of tickets, but you can still pick up tickets at the Ragtag box office beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. 
  • We ask that you arrive by 5:45 so we can determine how many seats we have available for those still waiting to attend. 
  • We’ll have a short discussion following the film.

(Pride & Prejudice is rated PG for some mild thematic elements. For more information on the film and its content, visit IMDb.com or kids-in-mind.com.)

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