Picks and Pans Review: Pride & Prejudice

UPDATED 11/21/2005 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/21/2005 at 01:00 AM EST

Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn

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It takes a while getting used to the fact that Mr. Darcy, played by Macfadyen in this engaging film version of Jane Austen's classic 1813 novel, is a big lug. Darcys of the past, most notably Laurence Olivier in a 1940 movie and Colin Firth in a 1996 TV miniseries, have been fine-boned, somewhat priggish fellows. Not so the hulking Macfadyen, who brings to his Darcy a brooding, almost sullen quality more appropriate to Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. This guy is hurting and it shows. But Macfadyen's take works, as does this latest rendering of the rocky romance between Darcy and sharp-minded Elizabeth Bennett (Knightley). His gloominess proves an effective foil for Knightley's initially giggly Elizabeth. As the film goes on, her performance grows, turning darker as Macfadyen's lightens.

While he hasn't made the definitive Pride and Prejudice (that may be the '96 miniseries), first-time director Joe Wright gets much right here. This P&P makes obvious Elizabeth's rural roots, with a pig waddling through the Bennett house and geese, cows and chickens in the yard. And deft supporting turns bring joy, particularly Blethyn as Elizabeth's dithering mom, Judi Dench as an imperious aristocrat and Tom Hollander as a fulsome clergyman intent on winning Elizabeth's hand. (PG)

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