It’s been a few years since I read P&P. I was not too fond of it and found it a little harlequin romancy. From what I remember, Lizzy was a strong, confident, and independent woman in stark contrast to the typical female norms of the time. I believe that's what Austin was going for. I thought Kiera portrayed those qualities really well.
Would be interested to hear your thoughts about it.
Hehe, it's funny because I've just engaged in a heated debate on Facebook with male friends about Pride and Prejudice and how it is absolutely NOT a harlequin romance novel at all.
And, you know, I am the type of person who is a strong advocate of the gender theory, etc, so I don't like to tell people they act in a certain way because they're male or female. But with Austen, I have always had the feeling that there was a huge gender gap in the ability to appreciate her works or not. What I mean is, many women rate her very highly and love her works, while men overwhelmingly despise her and find her overrated (or they are at least mystified as to why she should be considered a great author).
I'm still trying to find out the reason why, but usually, even male readers who say that they love the works of the Brontë sisters or other female authors are somehow struggling to relate to Jane Austen's works. They often see her books as "glorified romance novels", which they certainly aren't. I have a number of hypotheses to explain that, but I don't have time to carry some proper research so I'd better stick to the Joe Wright movie. You'll just have to take my word that there is far more to P&P than glorified harlequin romance
(This interesting article addresses the issue: http://gabrielswharf.wordpress.com/2...ck-hates-jane/
Now, I have read this book probably around 5 times, not only because I love it, but because I had to study it intensively for one of my exams (incidentally, I also had to study Joe Wright's adaptation).
At first viewing, I didn't like the Joe Wright version at all. Of course, I had already seen "THE" version of Pride and Prejudice, the one by the BBC starring Colin Firth and Jenifer Ehle, which is for me the most faithful, pitch-perfect adaptation you could think of.
To me, Joe Wright's version is absolutely not faithful to the novel, in many ways.
But with hindsight, I think I understand what his purpose was. After all, we do not need ten faithful versions of Pride and Prejudice. Just like he seems to have done with Anna Karenina (judging by the reviews and trailers, since I haven't seen it), Joe Wright only tried to give us his own, very personal interpretation of Pride and Prejudice. And, while analyzing it with the help of a teacher, I did discover that he had sometimes done a pretty good job, with a few really insightful inventions, even though they were more or less lost on me when I viewed it for the first time (I'm thinking for instance about the Pemberley statues, when Lizzy's gaze lingers on the statue of a woman with a veil, which is most probably there to represent her prejudice, her own "veiled" eyes...)
Now, to go back to the actors... McFadyen portrays Darcy far more as a "miserable", bored-looking man, than as the haughty, detestable man who antagonizes people with his superior manner. BTW when Lizzy first sees him, she remarks that he looks "miserable". That's not really what the sarcastic, arrogant M. Darcy is like in the book. Darcy does not inspire pity or mockery because he looks sad, he inspires outrage because he appears so full of himself.
As for Lizzy, it's more difficult to explain why I don't think Keira Knightley portrays her well... I don't know, as you said, she seems to have retained only the strong, independent and unconventional side of Elizabeth. She turned her into some kind of feminist stereotype. Elizabeth is not just a sassy girl who likes to shock people and laugh about it, she is also rather calm and subtle. And she is not strictly speaking a feminist. Some critics will even argue that she is not a feminist character AT ALL, since one of the main themes of the book is how Elizabeth is "humbled" when she discovers that she has misjudged Darcy's character completely, although she used to take pride in her ability to judge people's characters. Elizabeth is not someone who intentionally acts in a shocking manner, or who takes pleasure in shocking people. She is not that emancipated from social norms. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the book, this kind of complex mix of subversion and social conservatism.
So on the whole, I thought Joe Wright had changed the nature of both main characters. Lizzy is turned into some kind of sassy, lively and rather stereotypical feminist figure, while Darcy is turned into a miserable man who needs the bright Lizzy to discover he's alive... That's not really what the book is about IMO. It feels a bit like an "updating" of the book, but at the same time, it dumbs it down a little.
I think Jenifer Ehle is a far more subtle actress and comes much closer to capturing Lizzy's complexity than Keira Knightley does.
But then again, it is Joe Wright's personal version of Pride and Prejudice, so he's free to do what he likes with it, and purists can stick to the BBC version
Oh and also, I have to admit, after watching part of "King Arthur" a few days ago, that Knightley's teeth tend to annoy me intensely (she seems to act with her teeth, if that makes sense)... That might influence my appreciation of her acting in the wrong way