PRIDE AND PREJUDICE RECAP:
Miniseries in 6 eps, 1 hour each.
(Note: I wrote this recap in May 2005, so some of the references are dated [ie, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy]. I'm not going to correct it, since that defeats the purpose of a recap, which is to recreate someone's personal experience of watching a bit of cinema.)
Credits. They appear over a very pretty cream-colored montage of fabrics, by the way.
For our first scene of P&P, we get not Elizabeth doing some domestic duty, but shots of horses galloping through the countryside, accompanied by regal sounding French horn on the soundtrack. Because P&P is action-packed! And fast-paced! And masculine! Or not. Actually, I enjoyed the masculine screenplay by Andrew Black, and his policy of adding gratuitous action shots to spice it up. More on that later. The horses are being ridden by Bingley and Darcy, or their stunt doubles, who stop at a vista of Netherfield Park and admire it.
“Now, it’s nothing to Pemberley, I know,” Bingley expositions, “but I must settle somewhere.” Darcy, who is trying to hide his face from the camera until he gets a dramatic entrance, warns him that the neighborhood may not be up to par, but Bingley’s enthusiam remains enthused. “Then you’d better take it,” says Darcy, who seems to be in an unusually good mood. I wouldn’t think Darcy would really be happy to have Bingley take the house, especially since he seems so miserable there later. Anyway, with Darcy’s approval, Bingley decides to let the estate right then and there, and they merrily gallop away to find an errant attorney.
Cut to a close-up of Elizabeth Bennet’s face, trying to convince us that she’s watching the riders, who were obviously filmed at a different location. Elizabeth strolls around, double checks that she’s not within eyeshot of anyone, and breaks into a run. Then she strolls back to her house with some flowers she gathered. Ah, we get it. She’s down-to-earth, girly, and secretly an athletic tomboy.
As she approaches her house, Longbourn, the sounds of her sisters Lydia and Kitty fighting are audible from the . . . graveled driveway? Was that common in Regency times? Elizabeth walks over to a window to exchange exaggerated eye-rolls with her father at her sisters’ hijinks. It seems that Lydia has stolen Kitty’s bonnet, and in a blatant show of favoritism, their mother lets Lydia keep the bonnet. Kitty runs out of the room crying. This behavior would be more acceptable if Lydia and Kitty were five and seven instead of fifteen and seventeen. The mother melodramas, “What is to become of us all? Jane? Lizzy?” Elizabeth and Jane (the oldest girl) sigh exasperatedly but grin, and go to comfort Mrs. Bennet. So Mr. Bennet is the henpecked husband, Elizabeth is daddy’s girl, Mrs. Bennet is embarrassing and foolish, Kitty and Lydia immature giggly girls, and Elizabeth and Jane responsible and likeable. Thank you. Now that we’ve had the character introductions, let’s have some plot development!
And we get it! Mrs. Bennet is gossiping with some lady outside church, so I suppose Elizabeth got up early to go for a walk before the Sunday service? Oh, well, let it go. Mr. Bennet rounds up the girls to walk home, and Mrs. Bennet comes scurrying up to share the good news: Netherfield Park is let at last! “Let” being a British word meaning the same thing as rent, by the way. And guess who’s taken it? “You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it,” Mr. Bennet replies. Mrs. Bennet is oblivious, and regurgitates the details of a Mr. Bingley renting the place. Apparently Mr. Bingley is single, rode down in a chaise-and-four (though we saw him on horseback–hmm), and, most important, has “five thousand a year!” “What a fine thing for our girls!” Mrs. Bennet says. “How so? And how can it affect them?” says Mr. Bennet, stopping the tracking shot to glance back at his daughters. I forgot to mention that all this dialogue is in a tracking shot with the actors struggling to keep up with the camera. It must be pretty hard to walk at a stiff pace, hit all your marks, and spew out the Austenite dialogue at the same time, but Alison Steadman and Benjamin Whitrow pull it off perfectly.
Anyway, Mrs. Bennet snaps, “You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.” Elizabeth gets to quote the first line of the novel, “For a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It’s better if it starts, “It is a truth universally acknowledged ...” Lydia and Kitty giggle. Mr. Bennet mocks Mrs. Bennet and she is oblivious. Mr. Bennet refuses to visit Bingley. Mr. Bennet jokes about Mrs. Bennet being as good-looking as her daughters (she isn’t), and Lydia snorts. They’ve arrived home. Scene.
Mrs. Bennet is all in a flutter, and calls for Hill–yay, Hill!–the housekeeper. Mrs. Bennet is in despair over Mr. Bennet refusing to visit Bingley. Hill gets to say, “There, there,” which is two words more than most servants in Jane Austen adaptations get to say. I don’t know why I like Hill’s inclusion so much, but it irks me when the Austen adaptations cut around the servants, or pretend as hard as they can that they don’t exist. It’s as if the film makers are ashamed at the realities of Regency life, and think that if the audience actually saw, say, the hero ordering his butler to bring round the carriage, they would turn away in disgust. Maybe the Britishness of these film makers helped them to see it another way.
Anyway! Jane assures her mother that Mr. Bennet is just teasing her, but Mrs. Bennet fusses, “You know that your father has a will of iron!” Which is hilarious. Mr. Bennet offers to write to Bingley, telling him to pick whichever of the girls he wants. “They’re all silly and ignorant like other girls,” says Mr. Bennet, getting a head-turn out of his wife, “well, Lizzy has a little more wit than the rest, but then he may prefer a stupid wife, as others have done before him!” I think it’s cold of Mr. Bennet to insinuate that Jane is silly and ignorant to her face. The favoritism is obvious so no need to comment on it. Elizabeth and Jane are all smiles. Mrs. Bennet fusses, and snaps, and–she just has a shrill voice, y’all. Assume she says whatever she says in the most piercing, shrill voice imaginable. I’m just going to transcribe the rest of the dialogue:
Mrs. Bennet: Oh, you take delight in vexing me! You have no compassion on my poor nerves.
Mr. Bennet: You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They’ve been my old friends these twenty years at least.
Mrs. Bennet: You don’t know what I suffer!
Mr. Bennet: Well, I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of five thousand a year come into the neighborhood.
Mrs. Bennet: It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.
Mr. Bennet: Depend upon it, my dear: when there are twenty, I’ll visit them all.
Exit Mr. Bennet. I love Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet moans some exposition about not having any sons, and Mary–oh, yeah, Mary is the fifth Bennet sister. She’s been in the last scenes, but hasn’t had any lines. She’s the nerdy one. Anyway, she spouts some over-obvious platitude about misfortunes. Lydia: “Lord, I’m so hungry!” Yes. Lydia is immature and rude, and Mary is the plain know-it-all. We get it. Let’s have some action! Some plot!
But this time we get a set-up scene of Jane and Elizabeth getting ready for bed and talking about their marriage prospects. Elizabeth: “If I could love a man who would love me enough to take me for a mere fifty pounds a year, I should be very well pleased.” Oh, you don’t say. I could call that the worst line of the miniseries, but Elizabeth redeems it somewhat by joking that any such man would be have to be an idiot, and Jane has a real stinker coming up, so I won’t. Jane: “A marriage where either partner cannot love or respect the other, that [sic] cannot be agreeable. To either party.” Your line isn’t agreeable, Jane. If this is the deepest these girls can think about marriage, then we’re in real trouble for the rest of the miniseries. And haven’t Jane and Elizabeth talked about this before? Ever? Elizabeth and Jane play the exposition game, which amounts to, “As you know, we have no dowries and therefore must hope that we fall in love with someone rich.” They babble on for a while, and Jane and Elizabeth engage in some cute sisterly banter, but I’m not recapping any more of this scene.
Elizabeth says goodnight to her mother, who has a headache, and Kitty and Lydia, who are giggling about some guy.
Mr. Bennet, in his Reading Room of Refuge, is making all the numbers add up in the books. He rubs his forehead and reaches for a glass of something alcoholic. I can sympathize, since I feel that way after math class.
Lizzy’s Boudoir. Elizabeth critically examines her face in the mirror, no doubt wondering if she is pretty enough to attract a very hot man with a large estate in Derbyshire and twice Bingley’s fortune. She blows her candle out, and all goes dark, except for the wall behind her bed. I bet it’s annoying to sleep in a room that is always partially lit.
Outside, Lydia, Kitty, and–oh, surprise, Mary–meet Elizabeth on one of her secret tomboyish walks on their way back from town and wave frantically. They can’t wait to tell her the news . . .
... that Bingley has moved into Netherfield, and Sir William Lucas has attempted to gain the advantage in the marriage game by calling on him, as Lydia and Kitty explain to their mother in the Longbourn Lounge. Kitty is coughing so that Mrs. Bennet can yell at her, and Kitty can complain that she doesn’t cough for her own amusement. Mrs. Bennet doesn’t want to hear about Bingley if there’s little chance of his marrying one of her daughters, but Lydia and Kitty spill the news anyway, getting all the numbers and facts messed up, ending on the report that Bingley is going the assembly with a party of indeterminate size. Mrs. Bennet declares she is sick of Mr. Bingley, giving Mr. Bennet the cue he needed to dramatically reveal that he has already called on him! “I’m afraid we cannot escape the acquaintance now.” Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed. When she says that now all her girls can dance with Mr. Bingley, Mary grimaces and goes back to her book. Hee hee. Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth snark, but Mrs. Bennet, now in a good mood, declares that “nothing you say shall ever vex me again!” “I’m sorry to hear it,” Mr. Bennet deadpans, and scurries off to the Reading Room of Refuge, tosses a one-liner about Kitty’s coughing over his shoulder.
By the way, Elizabeth and Jane were present in that scene, though Jane said nothing and Elizabeth had two lines. Just two. The interaction between a large number of characters gets a little iffy sometimes.
Meryton. Assembly Halls, which are apparently the same thing as the Red Lion Inn. A carriage pulls up, and the jodhpurs of Bingley appear, followed by – yay! – jodhpurs of Darcy. Bingley’s unmarried sister Miss Bingley and his married sister Mrs. Hurst and her husband spill out of the carriage. All right, I might as well describe these characters since we’re going to be spending some time with them. Mr. Hurst is universally ignored so I won’t go beyond constipated and possibly suffering from gout. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley are both stick-skinny snobs who wear lots of peacock feathers, though Mrs. Hurst wears more mommy-like hats to signify that she is a married woman. Mr. Bingley is more cheerful and likeable than Darcy, so he is played by an actor shorter, blonder, curlier, and smilier. And Darcy is taller, darker, frownier, and played by Colin Firth, whose voice is oh-so-sexy it should get second billing. “Starring Colin Firth, and Colin Firth’s Oh-So-Sexy Voice!”
Miss Bingley puts her conniving, snobby head by Darcy’s ear, and says “Shall we be quite safe here, Mr. Darcy, do you think?” in re of the slightly seedy exterior of the inn. Darcy ignores her. Mr. Hurst slurs something. Everyone ignores him. All three gentlemen are wearing ludicrous three-cornered hats the size of Maryland in this scene, by the way. Darcy looks at the inn with an ambiguous expression on his face. Darcy, I love you, but take off that hat. Now.
Inside the Assembly, some boot-scootin’, rip-snortin’, booty-hoppin’ high-kickin’ is going on! Seriously, this is the Regency version of a square dance. I even hear some yips and yeehas. The dancers are really into it, too, jumping around with such enthusiasm that the snobbery outside seems completely unfair to these cheerful country lads and lasses. The music comes to an unsteady conclusion, everybody bows and claps, and who should appear to awkward silence but the Netherfield party — the large hats have disappeared, yay! I hope the coat-check attendant “loses” them. The sisters are stone-faced, Bingley uneasy, Darcy skulks near the back of the group, and Mr. Hurst meanders out to the front of the group, no doubt looking for booze.
Ah, but the little hitch is smoothed over when Sir William Lucas warmly greets Mr. Bingley, and is warmly greeted in return. “There’s nothing I love better than a country dance!” Mr. Bingley gushes. His friends roll their eyes in unison. No doubt over breakfast Bingley declared that there was nothing he loved better than an unbuttered English muffin.
Charlotte Lucas, Sir William’s daughter and Elizabeth’s best friend, joins the older Bennet girls in the corner to gossip about the newcomers. She expositions their names, but I’ve already introduced them to you so I’ll skip it. Upon hearing that Mr. Darcy is not married to either of the Bingley sisters, Elizabeth exclaims, “Better and better!” At least I think it’s Elizabeth, it could’ve been Jane. Jane thinks Bingley’s party is “elegant,” but Elizabeth, insightfully, says, “Better pleased with themselves than what they see, I think.” Mrs. Bennet calls them over to where she has apparently been pumping Charlotte’s younger sister Maria for information. She quickly expositions that Mr. Darcy is about twice as rich as Bingley--ten thousand a year. Enough with the exposition, let’s have some plot! “Don’t you think he’s the handsomest man you’ve ever seen, girls?” Mrs. Bennet gushes. “I wonder if he would be quite so handsome if he was not quite so rich,” Elizabeth replies. Mrs. Bennet, who only enjoys her family’s wit when she’s in a good mood, laughs. Sir William is taking Bingley over– quick, girls, looks natural! Darcy wanders over as well, skulking vaguely behind Bingley and looking like he’s about to whine, “I’m not having fun, Bingley, take me home,” the way my mother did while attending frat parties with my dad when they were in college.
Bingley wants to be introduced to the Bennets. Well, it seems that there was no real need for Mr. Bennet to go visit him after all. Mrs. Bennet crows over him, and introduces the girls, but I’ve already done that and I’m getting bored. Was there no way to condense all this exposition somehow? Mrs. Bennet awkwardly segues into a hint about dancing, and Bingley, very sincerely, asks Jane to dance with him. Jane quietly melts at the invitation, and shyly accents. Bingley grins hugely. Aww. Mrs. Bennet fawns over Bingley and urges her daughter, “Thank the gentleman, Jane!” “Mama,” warns Elizabeth quietly. Mrs. Bennet abruptly changes tack and asks Darcy if he’d like a dance. Everyone is surprised, not the least Darcy, and Bingley covers by retroactively introducing Darcy. “I hope you have come as eager to dance as your friend has!” Mrs. Bingley says. “Thank you, madam, I rarely dance,” Darcy replies in a strange moment of voice-over. It sounds like he’s using the Voice of God here.
“Well, let this be one of the occasions, sir, for I’ll wager you’ll not easily find such lively music, or such pretty partners,” replies Mrs. Bennet in a line that sounds like it was written by Austen, but wasn’t. Darcy bows and walks away without a word. Ha! Mrs. Bennet is shocked. Bingley excuses himself to hunt down Darcy and ask what’s got his knickers in a twist.
Mrs. Bennet decides that Darcy is the Prince of Darkness himself. “Well, the very rich can afford to give offense wherever they go,” says Elizabeth. “We need not care for his good opinion.” Mrs. Bennet heartily agrees. Elizabeth asks if Mrs. Bennet thinks Mr. Darcy is still as handsome, and, surprisingly, she doesn’t. I think he gets handsomer the ruder he is, but that’s just me.
Bingley and Jane dance. Bingley smiles at Darcy, standing on the sidelines. Darcy smiles indulgently back and rolls his eyes. Well, I say he smiles back, but you must understand that Colin Firth, as Darcy, never actually moves any facial muscles. It’s as if Colin Firth was like, “Hmm, I wonder if I can go the entire mini-series without ever changing my facial expression. At all.” For some reason, though, every emotion clearly shows through. It’s very strange. He has the most expressive unexpressive face I’ve ever seen.
Anyway, Darcy turns away from the dance with a non-expression of satisfaction, and catches sight of Mrs. Bennet grousing to a group of ladies, no doubt about Darcy’s rude behavior. Darcy scowls, and looks uncomfortable. Lydia giggles and waves a ribbon around while she dances.
Outside the Red Lion, a few winos listen to music. One of them leaps up to demonstrate a dance step and falls into a trough. Not something you see in every Jane Austen film.
Inside, Bingley introduces Jane to his sisters. This is shown briefly in long shot, without repeated any of the dialogue we’ve heard three times about who’s who. Good. Everyone dances. Darcy skulks. Sir William says, “Capital, capital!” inaudibly. Something happen, please. Oh, Elizabeth is sitting in the sidelines with Mary. Mary wonders about Kitty and Lydia. They like dancing so much. Elizabeth complains about the lack of partners. “I believe the rewards of observation and reflection are much greater,” Mary deadpans. I’m pleased to report that the actress who plays Mary, like the one who plays Charlotte, is genuinely plain, not a supermodel who’s wearing a pair of glasses. I hate it when they do that. The reason for it is simple: if you put out an advertisement for a “plain actress,” the only applicants you will get will be pretty girls who have enough self-esteem to pull a Charlize Theron. I have no idea what Lucy Briers and Lucy Scott look like in everyday life, but they both give touching and hilarious performances. Anyway. Bingley stores Jane in a corner, then accosts Darcy with, “Come, Darcy. I must have you dance.” Darcy’s non-expression is annoyed. Bingley repeats himself about three times, saying, “I hate to see you standing about in this stupid manner.” Elizabeth, who is close enough to hear them, laughs to herself. The rest is better blow by blow:
Darcy: I certainly shall not. In an assembly such as this? It would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged at present, and you know perfectly well it would be a punishment to stand up with any other woman in the room.
Bingley: Good god, Darcy, I wouldn’t be as fastidious as you are for a kingdom! (Elizabeth smiles) Upon my honor, I never met such pleasant girls in my life! (He looks at Jane) Several of them are uncommonly pretty, aye, Darcy?
Darcy: You have been dancing with the only handsome girl in the room.
Bingley: Darcy, she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld. But, look! (Indicating Elizabeth) There’s one of her sisters. She’s very pretty too, and, I daresay, very agreeable.
Darcy: She is tolerable, I suppose, but she’s not handsome enough to tempt me.
I wish they had shown us Colin Firth delivering that line, but they kept the camera on Elizabeth. Darcy makes the hole he’s digging for himself bigger by snapping, “Bingley, I’m in no humor to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. Go back to your partner; enjoy her smiles; you’re wasting your time with me.” And as Jane Austen put it, Mr. Bingley followed his advice, and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She sits still for a moment, as if unsure how to react. She breaks out into a smile, gets up, and heads across the room, brushing by Mr. Darcy, who reacts to her with a non-expression that clearly says, “She didn’t hear me, did she? Shit.” Darcy watches Elizabeth talking to Charlotte; she glances back at Darcy, gets to the punchline, and both she and Charlotte crack up. Darcy sets his jaw and walks away.
Ah. Happy dancing. Happiness. Dancing. Where’s the remote? Fast-forward. Oh, there’s Mr. Bennet. We’re back at Longbourn, and Mrs. Bennet is recapping the evening for those of us who are just tuning in. She begins listing Bingley’s dancing partners in great detail, prompting Mr. Bennet to exclaim, “Enough, enough, madam, for God’s sake! Let’s here no more of his partners! Would he have sprained his ankle on the first dance!” Mrs. Bennet moves on to Bingley’s sisters, and their elegant dresses. “No lace! No lace, Mrs. Bennet, I beg you,” Mr. Bennet snaps. Mrs. Bennet moves right on to Darcy, describing how horrible he was and that strange whiff of sulfur that seems to follow him everywhere, and reports that he refused to dance with Lizzy. Mr. Bennet is interested in this. “I didn’t care for him either, father, so it’s of little matter,” Elizabeth says cheerfully. Mrs. Bennet urges Elizabeth to snub Darcy right back, and Elizabeth is amenable to such a recommendation.
The Netherfield Lounge of Snobbery. Miss Bingley is flirting with Darcy, teasing him about not liking any of the girls. Bingley, of course, had a superlative time. “Bingley, you astonish me. I saw little beauty and no breeding at all,” Darcy says. He allows the eldest Miss Bennet to be pretty, and Bingley exclaims, “Come, man, admit it, she’s an angel!” Bingley, you shouldn’t hold back your opinions like that. Tell us what you really think! Darcy, fussing with the fire, mutters, “She smiles too much,” which never fails to crack me up. Miss Bingley calls Jane sweet, “but their mother!” The Clock of Plot Development chimes as Bingley sighs and shakes his head. Miss Bingley says she heard Elizabeth being described as a local beauty, and asks Darcy his opinion. “I should as soon call her mother a wit,” he grumps. The sisters think this is hilarious. Bingley, uneasy with all this criticism, says he’ll never understand why Darcy never likes anything anywhere. Darcy replies he’ll never understand why Bingley likes everything, but with a little indulgent non-smile. “You shall not make me think ill of Miss Bennet,” Bingley asserts. His sisters decide to form a coalition of Jane fans, and approve of Jane as Bingley’s new girlfriend. Mrs. Hurst jokes, “You see, Mr. Darcy! We are not afraid of you.” “I would not have you so,” he deadpans. Mr. Hurst suddenly wakes up, with a snore, and slurs that the night was “a damn tedious waste of an evening.” Then he sees his shadow, declares there will be six more weeks of winter, and crawls back into his hole. His much prettier brother-in-law sighs.
Longbourn garden. Elizabeth and Jane are picking flowers. Jane is saying that Bingley is perfect in every way. Elizabeth agrees that Bingley has all the necessary requirements, and adds, “Now I give you leave to like him, you have liked many a stupider person.” Elizabeth does have a criticism about Bingley’s friends and sisters, though she realizes Bingley doesn’t have a whole lot of choice regarding the blood relatives. I would question his choice of brothers-in-law. Jane assures Elizabeth that his sisters are very nice. Elizabeth looks skeptical. Jane adds that even Darcy, the devil himself, may improve on closer acquaintance. Elizabeth declares, “Never!” and imitates Darcy rejecting her in a fake deep voice. Oh, there’s Charlotte. Elizabeth acts the way a sixteen-year-old might when her best friend drops by, and jogs across the gravel to greet her. Charlotte came by to drop off some exposition: “My father is to give a party at Lucas Lodge, and you are all invited.”
Cut to said party. Sir William is embarrassing me with a very friendly speech to the Bingley sisters, who are so bored. Sir William says that they can all gather here with no pretense or ceremony, and Miss Bingley deadpans, “Quite.” Anna Chancellor cracks me up. I see she will shortly be appearing in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Hmm. Oh, yeah, the recap. Mrs. Bennet is embarrassing Elizabeth by bragging about Bingley and his “five thousand a year!” A military fellow named Colonel Forster wanders up with his wife. I must admit, when I read the book I never imagine Mrs. Forster to be all of twelve. Lady Lucas interrupts Mrs. Bennet to be polite to Colonel Forster; he expositions that the regiment will be staying in Meryton for a while. Lydia is doing her part to make them feel welcome by flirting with them. Col. Forster’s Child Bride giggles something, but I’m too disturbed by her to understand it. On the other side of the room, Sir William is still embarrassing me with his well-meant conversation. The Bingley women end the conversation, and sit on a couch complaining about his “insufferable conceit.” Miss Bingley snarks about Sir William “keeping a shoppe” before his knighthood, conveniently forgetting that her own father was a businessman as well. “Poor Darcy,” Miss Bingley adds; “What agonies he must be suffering.” Let’s find out! Darcy is leaning against the mantel piece, staring at––we pan––we’re panning––we’re panning too quickly (Dear Camera Operator: when you pan, it’s important to do so slowly enough to ensure the audience doesn’t become sick; it may seem horrendously slow when you’re filming it, but afterwards you will thank me)––and we land on Elizabeth. Yep, Darcy is staring at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is aware that he is watching her, but tries to ignore him and asks Col. Forster if they’ve come to Meryton to fight the French–a nice shout-out to the political situation of the Regency times. Col. Forster wants his officers to socialize; Elizabeth suggests a ball. Col. Forster’s Child Bride loves the idea; so does Lydia, who has a couple of teenage Redcoats at her side. Lydia exclaims that her beau (Denny) would love a ball! So would be Kitty’s, a stuttering adolescent with record-breaking bad teeth. Lydia marches over to the pianoforte and demands Mary, who’s been dourly playing, play dance music. “But there are still two movements!” Mary exclaims. Hee. I know plenty of music majors like her. With a perfect teenage whine in her voice, she appeals to her mother, “Mama! Tell them it isn’t fair!” “Oh, play a jig, Mary, no one wants your concertos here!” Mrs. Bennet snaps. The Bingley women exchange a significant glance. Darcy shifts uncomfortably.
Poor Mary looks like she might cry, but Sir William proves he wasn’t knighted for nothing. “I fear their taste is not as fine as yours and mine, Mary,” he charms, “but let us oblige them this once! For there is no one here who plays a well as you.” Forget the knighthood, he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Mary concedes, but snaps she isn’t a jukebox. Kitty and Lydia’s dates run over to dance; aw, they’re letting a couple of the Lucas kids dance with them. How sweet. Kids are another thing you rarely see in Jane Austen adaptations.
Charlotte has noticed that Bingley is giving Jane special attention. Elizabeth beams. “I’m very happy for her, Charlotte.” Charlotte is surprised to hear that it’s getting serious. She opines that Jane should perhaps amplify her show of affection, “if she is to secure him.” Elizabeth laughs. Charlotte is serious. Elizabeth thinks that Jane should be sure about liking Bingley before she tries to “secure” him. “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance, you know,” Charlotte foreshadows, “there will always be vexation and grief. It is better to know in advance as little as possible of the defects of your marriage partner.” I’m not sure she’s wrong, there. Elizabeth can’t take Charlotte seriously. “You would never act like that yourself!” she says. Poor Elizabeth. Her friendship with Charlotte is going to be broken up by this. The subject shifts to Darcy, who has wondered into the background of the shot; Charlotte points out that Darcy keeps looking at Lizzy, and Elizabeth is bothered by this, though she jokes about it.
Sir William wanders over to speak to Darcy, who’s now watching the dance. “Nothing like dancing, you know,” Sir William says. “One of the refinements of every polished society.” “And every unpolished society,” Darcy says with a sassy little non-grin. Sir William doesn’t understand. “Every savage can dance,” Darcy explains. Poor Sir William is bewildered. Right then, Elizabeth decides that Lydia needs some calming down, and moves towards the dancers. Sir William accosts her, and suggests she dance with Darcy. Darcy looks like, “Hmm, that wouldn’t suck.” Flustered, Elizabeth begs off, saying she never intended to dance. Stiffly and sincerely, Darcy asks her dance with him; just as stiffly and sincerely, she thanks him but refuses. Sir William can’t see why not, seeing as how Darcy wants to, “though he dislikes the amusement in general.” “Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” Elizabeth says, grinning. Sir William asks who could object to dancing with Elizabeth. Elizabeth raises an eyebrow, and walks off. Darcy gives her the little Regency bow, and looks very sexy doing it.
Miss Bingley sneaks up behind Darcy to get in some flirting; Darcy is looking at something offscreen with a non-expression of huge smugness, so you don’t get any bonus points by predicting that he’s watching Elizabeth. Miss Bingley thinks she knows what he’s thinking. “I should imagine not,” says Darcy, with a non-smile at what would happen if she did know what he’s thinking. She guesses that he’s inwardly complaining about the Merytonians. Darcy assures her he was thinking of something much more pleasant, namely “I’ve been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” Miss Bingley glows, and coyly asks who the woman is. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” he says. Smackdown! Miss Bingley, horrified, focuses on Elizabeth, who does look very pretty and sparkly as she laughs with some random Redcoat. Miss Bingley forces a laugh and beats a hasty retreat. Darcy gives Elizabeth The Look. You’d better get used to That Look, because Darcy is going to be giving Elizabeth That Look intermittently for the next four and a half hours.
Loungbourn. The Bennets are eating dinner, or possibly lunch. Jane has gotten a letter from Miss Bingley. “Well, that is a good sign too,” Mrs. Bennet says, and snatches the letter out of her surprised daughter’s hand. Mrs. Bennet reads the Cliff’s Notes version: “‘Dine with Louisa and me today’– la di da, la di da– ‘as the gentlemen are to dine with the officers,’ oh, that’s unlucky.” Jane asks for the carriage the way one would ask for the car keys; Mrs. Bennet exclaims that Jane should go on horseback, because it’s going to rain. “Then you will have to stay the night!” Thunder rolls on cue. Jane is horrified, but Mrs. Bennet will not change her mind. Jane looks at her father for support, but he just makes a face like, “I’m not arguing with her.” Mr. Bennet, by the way, compensated for having no lines by making a series of hilarious expressions.
Poor Jane is riding through the rain, getting absolutely soaked. She’s also riding pretty slowly. I wonder if there was no real point in hurrying, or if she simply lacked the fortitude of character to make the horse do what she wanted.
Loungbourn Lounge. Elizabeth is worried. Mrs. Bennet doth protest too much.
Netherfield Dining Room of Snobbery. Jane is eating dinner with Louisa and Caroline Bingley, wrapped in a blanket. I bet they didn’t offer her a change of clothes. Savages. Mrs. Hurst snootily repeats to Jane what she just told them: her mother’s sister, Mrs. Phillips, lives in Meryton, and Mr. Philips . . . ? “He’s an attorney,” Jane explains. There’s an interesting angle on Miss Bingley, with a lobster featured prominently in the foreground. “And your mother’s brother lives in London?” says Mrs. Hurst. That was a catchphrase in my house growing up. Strange but true. Jane, who looks faint, explains he lives on Gracechurch Street. “In which part of London is Gracechurch Street?” asks Miss Bingley, pointedly, over the lobster. Jane is overcome by the snobbery and vomits. Again, not in your mother’s Austen adaptation. Miss Bingley sends for help without the slightest flicker of concern.
Loungbourn Dining. Mr. Bennet tells his wife that if Jane’s fever kills her, at least it was all in pursuit of Bingley. Mrs. Bennet is a little too defensive, so I think she’s worried too. Elizabeth says she’s going to Netherfield. Mrs. Bennet doesn’t like the idea, and adds, “You know there is nothing for you in Netherfield.” Just the indescribably hot millionaire who was making eyes at her the other day. Mr. Bennet offers to send the carriage, but Elizabeth stops him. After all, if she showed up in the carriage when Jane had to ride on horseback, it would look really fishy, wouldn’t it? Elizabeth is just going to walk. “Walk three miles in all that dirt, you’ll not be fit to be seen!” her mother shrills. “I shall be fit to see Jane, which is all I want!” Elizabeth says. Aww. Life without a man can be so simple. You have time for sisters. Kitty offers to walk Elizabeth as far as Meryton, as she and Lydia are going to harass a couple of soldiers there. Lydia suggests they call on Denny before he is dressed. What sort of soldier sleeps after sunrise? Lydia and Kitty giggle. Mr. Bennet: “A life holds few distinctions, Mrs. Bennet, but I think we can safely boast that here sit two of the silliest girls in the country.”
Meryton. Kitty and Lydia part from Elizabeth.
Elizabeth walks through a field, climbs over a turnstile, and lands in the mud. Her shoes are basically covered in mud, and the hem of her gown doesn’t look good. She grimaces, but decides it doesn’t matter. It’s not like she’ll walk around this bush and straight into–
Darcy! Yay, Darcy! It seems he went out for a pre-breakfast stroll as well. “Miss Bennet,” he says, non-looking pleasantly surprised. He’s also squinting in the sunlight, so add that variation to the default scowl. Elizabeth, stiffly and unsmillingly, curtsies, and explains she’s coming to see her sister. “On foot?” he says, with a skeptical non-expression. “Duh,” Elizabeth replies. Darcy just stares at her with an enigmatic expression, even for him. Elizabeth purses her lips exasperatedly, and has to ask him to take her to Jane. Darcy raises his eyebrows (a millimeter) and stands aside, like, “Hey, I’m not in your way.” He’s wearing a full-length coat that is very spiffy. I want that coat. Elizabeth, by the way, is wearing a black velvet half-coat with a white skirt, and gloves, which I think make her adorable.
Sad Suite of Sickness by Snobbery. Jane is sick. Elizabeth is sad.
Netherfield Dining Room of Snobbery. The Netherfieldians are having breakfast. How early do the Bennets get up? Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley are bagging on Elizabeth for the stunt she pulled. Mrs. Hurst declares that Elizabeth’s petticoat was “six inches deep in mud, I’m absolutely certain.” Bingley says he didn’t notice. “You observed it, I am sure, Mr. Darcy,” says Miss Bingley. Darcy: “I did.” Miss Bingley: “I’m inclined to think you wouldn’t wish your sister to make such an exhibition.” Darcy: “Certainly not.” Miss Bingley grins. Miss Bingley: 2. Elizabeth: 0. Then Miss Bingley goes for the killer: “I’m afraid, Mr. Darcy, that this escapade may have affected your admiration for her ‘fine eyes.’” Darcy: “Not at all, they were brightened by the exercise.” Smackdown! Miss Bingley’s face is frozen in a smile. Mrs. Hurst covers by bringing up what Jane told them over dinner about her relations. “Their uncle, she told us, is in trade, and lives in Cheapside.” The Bingley sisters snicker over the idea of their even setting foot in Cheapside. They’re jinxing themselves. Bingley wins my everlasting love by declaring, “They would be just as agreeable to me, had they uncles enough to fill all Cheapside!” Darcy killjoys that the girls don’t have a good chance of marrying well (unless they marry people like Darcy and Bingley, who can pretty much marry whomever they want). And maybe Darcy should have kept his mouth shut, because Elizabeth walks into the room after he’s put the smackdown on her relatives. Bingley asks after Jane, but Elizabeth reports she is very sick. Bingley says he’ll send for the doctor, and have Elizabeth’s clothes sent over so she can stay. Darcy: Stare. Bingley sisters: Slump. Mr. Hurst: “Is there going to be any shport today or not?” Everyone is surprised to discover he can talk.
Netherfield grounds. Darcy and Bingley kill some birds.
Sad Suite of Sickness by Snobbery. Jane, sick. Elizabeth, sad.
Netherfield grounds. The Netherfieldian gentlemen walk home after a long, hard day of bird-killing. I want Darcy’s coat.
Sad Suite of Sickness by Snobbery. Elizabeth has prepared herself for some evening socializing with the Netherfieldians. Sisterly banter. Elizabeth assures Jane that Bingley likes her. Aw.
Staircase of Snobbery. Elizabeth looks lost and cute here, all curls and her plain white dress. I can see why Darcy is attracted to her. Elizabeth is startled by a servant in livery, a moment that would be accompanied by screeching violins if this were a horror movie and not a period romance. “I believe you’ll find Mr. Bingley is in the drawing room,” the servant says helpfully, though if Bingley had given him that raise, he would have been a little more helpful and told her where the drawing room is. It doesn’t escape my notice that the servant is better dressed and more at ease than Elizabeth. Alone again, Elizabeth hears someone in the other room and goes to investigate.
But it is not Mr. Bingley in the drawing room, it’s Mr. Darcy, in the billiard room! Suddenly, we’re playing Clue! When he spots Elizabeth, Darcy, looking fine in a green silk waistcoat, stops fiddling with his stick and gives her a short bow. Hmm, Darcy playing pool by himself. I thought he was more of a book guy. Maybe he wanted to get away from Miss Bingley. Elizabeth looks at him for a moment, then flees. Darcy watches her go with a strange non-expression, then leans over and hits the ball a good one. Hole in one!
Sitting Room of Snobbery. Elizabeth is on the couch with a book. Darcy emerges from his pool-related activities, now wearing his coat. The Bingleys and in-laws are playing cards, and Mr. Hurst grabs a card with a “Hah!” The other Bingleys “oo” in unison. You have to hear it. Darcy ignores Miss Bingley’s attempt to get him to play cards, and strides over to Elizabeth, asking with The Voice of God after her sister. Elizabeth says she’s better. Darcy says he’s glad. Having fulfilled his daily quota of social interaction, Darcy strides over to a desk, doubtless to take out his list of “Things to Do” and mark out “Have deep and meaningful conversation w. crush.” Mrs. Hurst superciliously asks Elizabeth to join them, but she turns them down. Mr. Hurst: “You prefer reading to cards, do you? Singular.” Unlike you, Mr. Hurst, Elizabeth can speak in more than one-sentence blurbs. Maybe you should look into these things called books. Miss Bingley says that Elizabeth is a great reader and takes no pleasure in anything else. Elizabeth: “I deserve neither such praise nor such censure! I am not a great reader, and I take pleasure in many things.” Long walks, the countryside, making fun of Darcy–her life is chock-full of pleasure.
Miss Bingley asks Darcy what he’s up to, only she forgets to address him by name, and there’s a satisfying natural pause before he answers that he’s writing a letter to his sister. Ooing over “dear Georgiana!” Miss Bingley asks if Georgiana is as tall as her, and her siblings laugh (Anna Chancellor is over six feet tall). “She’s now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or a little taller,” Darcy replies cryptically. Miss Bingley can’t figure that one out, and so goes back to gushing about Georgiana’s great proficiency on the piano. “Do you play, Miss Bennet?” she snobs to Elizabeth. “Aye, but very little indeed,” Elizabeth says with the most adorable little blush.
Bingley pops in the conversation to add his two cents–he’s amazed that all young ladies are accomplished. Darcy, still playing Kaptain Killjoy, grumps that he knows maybe half a dozen women whom he’d call accomplished. Miss Bingley agrees (of course), and lists a long set of traits that she believes she possesses herself–poise, a certain air. “To all this, she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading,” Darcy adds. Well, that one’s not hard to figure out. Elizabeth grins at the implied compliment, then says, “I’m no longer surprised at you knowing only six accomplished women, Mr. Darcy, I rather wonder at your knowing any.” Darcy abandons any pretext of writing a letter, and turns around in order to properly goggle Elizabeth. Miss Bingley snots at Elizabeth that she knows many accomplished women, though she before agreed with Darcy about only knowing half a dozen. Mr. Hurst draws their attention back to the cards. Darcy stares.
Outside Netherfield, the much beleaguered Bennet carriage drives through the Gates of Snobbery, taking Kitty, Lydia, and their mother into the very heart of Snobbery itself.
Lounge of Snobbery. Miss Bingley snobs, “Are we to be invaded by every Bennet in the country?” and goes to sulk on the sofa. Mr. Hurst proves he has functioning brain cells by getting up and leaving, just as the Bennets, sans Jane, enter the Lounge. Bingley leaps to his feet, and greeting Mrs. Bennet, asks if Jane is better. Mrs. Bennet exclaims that Jane is very sick, but being good about it, for she has the temperament of an angel. Poor Bingley takes her seriously. Jane is too ill to be moved. The Bingley sisters slump. Boy, life before automobiles stank. I don’t see why Mrs. Bennet is keen to have Jane holed up in Netherfield. Bingley can’t see her when she’s in her Sad Suite of Sickness. The only good the arrangement does is allow for Darcy and Elizabeth to rub elbows. Bingley and his sister assure Mrs. Bennet that Jane will be taken care of, and Mrs. Bennet thanks them. She doesn’t just leave now, because nobody’s been insulted or embarrassed, so she babbles something about the House of Snobbery. “I believe I should be happy to live in the country forever! Wouldn’t you, Darcy?” Bingley says. Darcy is surprised both at being addressed and the sentiment, and asks if Bingley wouldn’t find the society “confined and unvarying.” Mrs. Bennet is displeased. “Confined! And unvarying! Indeed it is not, sir! The country is a vast deal pleasanter than town, whatever you may say about it!” Darcy, with his trademark scowl, retreats to look out the window. Elizabeth, embarrassed, tries to shut her mom up by defending Darcy. “I would have him know we dine with four and twenty families!” Mrs. Bennet snits. This is too much for the Bingley sisters. They snort. Elizabeth tries to change the subject by asking after Charlotte Lucas. Mrs. Bennet manages to turn the answer into an insult of the Darcy. The score is now Mrs. Bennet, two; Darcy, zero. Lydia suddenly darts forward and reminds Bingley that he promised to give a ball. Bingley can’t wait to keep his promise, and tells Lydia to name the day. Miss Bingley looks at her brother like, what? Mrs. Bennet crows over this and tosses another insult Darcy-wise. Mrs. Bennet: 3. Darcy: 0.
Darcy in a tub. Yes, Darcy, with no clothes on, is taking a bath, with the help of a servant who pours hot water all over his head. Now, most of the ladies of Great Britain are probably wishing they were in the servant’s position, but frankly bathwater Darcy does nothing for me. He looks like he needs to lose some weight, have a shave, get a tan, and trim his hair. My grandmother, in her infinite wisdom, once said that most people look better with their clothes on, and I have to agree. But, to each her own.
The Garden of Snobbery. Elizabeth is trying to soak up some UV rays. She sees a dog–one of those big breeds, but beyond that I have no idea what kind of dog. I’m not a dog person. Elizabeth is, though, because she grins and chases the dog around.
Rub-a-dub-dub, Darcy getting out of his tub. The servant holds up a robe and blocks the view of any naughty bits. That noise you heard? That was the disappointed sighs of the female half of Great Britain, but see above re: naked Darcy and I. Darcy wraps the robe around him, but doesn’t fasten it, and then wanders to the uncurtained window, wantonly flashing any passers-by the full Monty. And who should be passing by but Elizabeth Bennet, though either luckily or unluckily for her, she doesn’t glance up and see him. She’s too busy mauling Bingley’s dog with a stick. Darcy stares. I’d go so far as to describe the non-expression as tender.
The Lounge of Snobbery. Sleepy silence. Miss Bennet is trying to get Darcy’s attention by walking around with a book. No doubt she remembers the thing about reading from last night. She abandons the book, and tries to read over Darcy’s shoulder while posing for him. He turns the page. Hee. Darcy is just not interested. Miss Bingley decides to engage in a scientific experiment; she asks Elizabeth, “Let me persuade you to follow my example and take a turn about the room, it’s so refreshing!” This is the strangest request that has ever been made of Elizabeth, but she gamely puts her book aside and she and Miss Bingley embark on their own miniature trek. Miss Bingley waits about two seconds, then asks Darcy to join them. Darcy’s body language has completely changed. His book is closed in his lap, and he’s sitting back, staring at them, in the vague hope that Elizabeth and Miss Bingley will start making out. I think Miss Bingley’s hypothesis has been confirmed. I also notice that Darcy is wearing a pinky-ring.
Darcy says that joining them would “defeat the object.” Elizabeth suggests they don’t find out what said object is, but Miss Bingley can’t resist, and lets Darcy have his kicker. “Why, that your figures appear to best advantage when walking, and that I may best admire them from my present position.” I (heart) Darcy, I really do. I’m ashamed to admit I’m part of the same fan club that includes Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who find that comment just as hilarious as I do. Miss Bingley wants to punish Darcy; Elizabeth has the solution. “Tease him; laugh at him.” “Laugh at Mr. Darcy? Impossible,” Miss Bingley says, physically distancing herself from Elizabeth now their ideas are no longer close. Miss Bingley declares Darcy to be a “man without fault.” Elizabeth raises her eyebrows. Darcy picks up on it, and claims that though he isn’t perfect, he isn’t exactly Bozo the Clown either. He says he tries to avoid certain weaknesses. “Such as a vanity, perhaps,” Elizabeth suggests, “or pride.” Darcy pauses for so long I wonder what he’s thinking. “Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed,” he finally answers, “but pride–where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.” Elizabeth just smiles, because it was the answer she was expecting. I wish Mary Bennet were here to inform us the difference between pride and vanity. Darcy seems angry–surprise!–and snaps that he has plenty of faults. “My temper I cannot vouch for,” he says, then hesitates a bit more. He’s being sincere here, though Elizabeth hasn’t picked up on it. “It might be called resentful,” he continues. “My good opinion once lost is lost forever.” If I didn’t know already, I would be genuinely wondering about Darcy’s backstory. Elizabeth admits he’s picked an unfunny fault. Darcy suggests that everyone has their own particular fault. “Your defect is a propensity to hate everyone!” Elizabeth cries. Maybe it is a funny fault after all. “Well, yours is to willfully misunderstand them,” Darcy shoots back. They could do this all night. They won’t, though, because Miss Bingley is tired of not being the center of attention, and lunges for the piano.
Avenue of Graveled Snobbery. Elizabeth and Jane have been packed into a carriage, I assumed Bingley’s carriage. Bingley is trying to say something meaningful to Jane, who he hasn’t seen for about a week. See what I mean? They exchange pleasantries, then bask in each other’s aura. “Goodbye,” says Bingley, sounding like a kid in junior high, and aw. I like that almost as much as the uncle-filled Cheapside comment. “Drive on, Rocester!” says Bingley, and Rocester drives on.
In the Dining Room of Snobbery, Miss Bingley is intensely glad of their regained privacy, and who can blame her? “But I fear Mr. Darcy is mourning the loss of Miss Eliza Bennet’s pert opinions and fine eyes,” she says coyly. Dear Miss Bingley: if you want Darcy for yourself–and who doesn’t?–you need to rethink your strategy. If you don’t want Darcy thinking about Elizabeth Bennet, don’t be continually talking about her. Yours sincerely, the recapper. Darcy assures Miss Bingley he is not missing anybody’s pertness or fineness, but his non-expression is so sad.
In the carriage, Elizabeth admits that, aside from Bingley, she couldn’t wait to get out of the House of Snobbery. Jane smiles at her and she smiles back. Freeze frame! Credits! The dum-da-da-da-dada-dum theme! Part 1 is done!
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Oh, such love! I adore the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with every fiber of my being (OK, so I adore Colin Firth with every fiber of my being, but P&P is pretty excellent as well).
I'm friending you, if you don't mind (if you do mind, just...thwack me with a newspaper or something). I definitely want to read the next installments!
Oh my god... I am in tears from so many belly laughs. I realize this is an ancient post, but I hope you're still around to receive this compliment, because this is just wonderful. I can't wait to read the others. <3
Also, I agree with you about Darcy in the tub! I still find him sexy, but I was hoping for a bit more muscle definition, or emphasis on broad shoulders or something.... but no, mainly just pastiness. Though I found his look while watching Elizabeth completely delicious.