Series Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

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The BBC series adaption of Pride and Prejudice is nothing short of iconic. You mention Pride and Prejudice and the majority of people are as likely to think of this series as they are of the novel. While there are other adaptions (such as the 2005 adaption and the ridiculously fun 2016 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), the series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth will always be used as a benchmark for the book. As otherwise as I usually like to be, I sat down with the series after I watched the other two films.

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Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet is my favorite version of Elizabeth. She manages to capture Elizabeth’s independence and intelligence, and she always seems to be constantly smirking at Darcy. In my opinion Ehle is much prettier than Susannah Harker’s Jane Bennet – I only mention this because in the book it is clear that Jane is supposed to be the prettier one. Harker makes a decent Jane, though she falls short of my favorite. Jane is always the sweet sister, and although there is nothing wrong with her she is definitely the more stereotypical female of so long ago.

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Crispin Bonham-Carter as Charles Bingley is my favorite Bingley. He is as charming, sweet-natured and handsome as Bingley is supposed to be. The character will always be the direct opposite to Darcy, which always makes their friendship baffling and sweet. Bingley is besotted with Jane, and only his inability to see his sister Caroline (Anna Chancellor) for the horrific person she actually is makes him do silly things such as run away from Jane.

Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet achieved what the other ladies in her role couldn’t achieve – the woman drives me crazy. If you’ve read the book you will remember that this character is supposed to drive you crazy – so this statement is an accolade rather than an insult. Mrs. Bennet is self-involved, silly, a really poor mother, a huge embarrassment to her older daughters, an enabler in her younger daughters’ poor behavior and just generally the most frustrating character to be written in a long, long time. I also enjoyed Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennet – he had a lot of the sarcasm and sass Mr. Bennet is supposed to have.

As for the sisters other than Jane, Julia Sawalha as Lydia Bennet and Lucy Briers as Mary Bennet are favorites. Julia captures Lydia’s callous disregard for her family and Briers was a perfect Mary – long suffering, dull, and despite her attempts to appear noble and wise as shallow and embarrassing as the majority of her family. Kitty Bennet is always a bit on the background and not as focused on. Polly Maberly did good in that role as well, but as it is rarely focused on I won’t claim it is my favorite performance.

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And last but not least for the character discussions, there is Mr. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. In the role that started and defined his career, Firth gives as a Darcy that we can strongly root for. Darcy is such a poop in the beginning, but as Zoë and I discussed, his atrocious snobbery and behavior makes him falling so hard for Elizabeth that much more rewarding. His character undergoes such strong changes when he ultimately falls for Elizabeth – it is rewarding and beautiful and powerful.

I really liked the costume and set design. The dresses are gorgeous and styled, something which lacks and seriously grieved me in the 2005 adaption. They also kept the house good looking, again a flaw in the 2005 version, as the Bennets’ are never poor, they just aren’t as rich as the elite. I really did like the dresses they put Elizabeth in, so white and gorgeous. The hair – those curled fringes, made me want to cry. No woman, no matter how beautiful, can make such horrid styling work. It was deplorable.

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The only thing that made me enjoy the series a little less was the music score. I’ve never been a fan of classical whiney screechy music, and it is all over the series. It deducted from my experience. The flashback moments done in the series had me smirking and sighing, but they probably did the best they could with their available technology.

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The ultimate love declaration? This is the closest to the book. I like it for the pure Britishness of it all. It is like “I love you, but let’s not embarrass ourselves”. Something I like about the entire story is how Elizabeth’s feelings change towards Darcy – it’s not sudden, it is a gradual realization that he’s not so bad as she thought and her realization of her own mistakes. If I can say, controversially, that my favorite declaration of love still comes from Mr. Darcy in PPZ, you must please forgive me. His deliverance and his Elizabeth’s reaction are so incredible that it not only stands out in this little genre, but across a large part of movies for me.

The Pride and Prejudice Series conclude my watching of Pride and Prejudice work for the first time. I am really sad about it, so anyone who wants to do another (GOOD) adaption, please see this as a beacon call for it to happen. I enjoyed all three films, and Zoë and I plan to do a discussion post soon about it, and then you will really know which actors act where in there for us.

Have you seen this? Please let me know so we can fan-club together!

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12 thoughts on “Series Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

  1. Great write up bestie! This was a really loyal series, and I enjoyed it. Colin Firth was an absolutely amazing Darcy, and Ehle is the perfect Elizabeth Bennet. I have actually been itching to rewatch the movie and PPZ again. Sometimes I miss having free, open days xD Can’t wait for our huge collaboration post. It is going to be a thing of beauty.

  2. Oh yes, I have. I saw this just after reading Bridget Jones’ Diary where Bridget keep raving about Colin Firth as Darcy. I had to see this series to know what the fuss was all about 🙂

    • It’s done really well and it is the closest to the book compared to the other series. I would love to see the 1940s adaption if I ever manage to find a copy here in SA.

  3. I really liked the costume and set design. The dresses are gorgeous and styled, something which lacks and seriously grieved me in the 2005 adaption. They also kept the house good looking, again a flaw in the 2005 version, as the Bennets’ are never poor, they just aren’t as rich as the elite.

    As members of the gentry class, the Bennets are part of the elite. And Mr. Bennet’s two thousand pounds per year is pretty nice fortune. The problem is that Mr. Bennet never made the effort to put aside money for his daughters’ personal dowries because he thought he would eventually have a son. By the time he realized that he would only have daughters, it was a bit too late.

  4. Nice review! I love this production. Jennifer Ehle is lizzie for me and Colin Firth is Darcy. I have nothing wrong with Mathew Macfadyen but he is not as good as Firth. Keira is awful too sulky teenager. I have to admit I like Rosamund Pike as Jane better thought. Harker is not classically beautiful and Pike is that is what Jane is meant to be.

  5. Pingback: Watched, Read Loved and what I’ve been up to in 2018 – Life of this city girl

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