Review: Bride and Prejudice

Hello readers!

Some of you will remember that I wrote a review a while back about a Sense and Sensibility Kollywood adaptation that Aishwarya Rai was starring in, as the Marriane-inspired character. Well, she has had a hand in more than one Indian cinematic Jane Austen adaptations, because she also plays the Elizabeth Bennet lead in the Hollywood meets Bollywood Pride and Prejudice adaptation, “Bride and Prejudice,” directed by Gurinder Chadha. Of course, as always, I rented from Scarecrow Video in Seattle. One of my readers from that old review had recommended I review this movie, so here I am.

If you are curious, here is the trailer:

The trailer itself actually purports in many ways what Lalita (the Elizabeth Bennet Character of the film) was trying to counteract in many of her interactions with Will (Mr. Darcy). It advertises somewhat of an imperialized and Anglo-cized version of Indian cinema, and this trailer version seems directed at an American audience.  At one point in the film, Lalita says that Will, an entrepreneur from America, is trying to sell India to tourists who don’t want to see the real India, but who instead want to have “a touch of culture thrown in” during their vacation. Tourists who, “want to go to India, without having to deal with Indians.” This moment is made light of in the film, but it is a serious concern for the main character. Disappointingly, the movie almost becomes just that in its marketing strategy, geared towards an “Americanized” audience used to Hollywood films.

This movie is pretty hard to explain, but I will do my best to give you what in my opinion were the best and worst moments.

Think: cultural cross-pollination and filmic shots between Amritsar in India, London in England, and Los Angeles in America, with some big name stars and some who may be unknown to you.

screen shot from B & P

Pros:

  • Pretty colors, and lots of them;
  • First wedding dance number is very fun, and really sets the tone for excitement throughout;
  • Lots of music to dance to (if you are into that);
  • Aishwarya Rai plays a much better Eliza Bennet character than she does a Marianne, in my opinion.
  • Fun if you are an Austen fan to see how the director interprets some of Austen’s characters from P&P;
  • Underlying critique of American Imperialism;
  • Defense of a developing India after independence from British rule;
  • Not your typical Bollywood film, and quite a bit shorter, which is refreshing;
  • Balraj (Mr. Bingley) is one of the actors from the old television show Lost- Naveen Andrews;
  • “Take me to love” song and Montage that includes helicopter rides, a canyon, and epic choir moment on a beach…

Cons:

  • Unrealistic acting, singing (often in English), and storyline;
  • A definite classism, with characters easily able to traverse the world, and even the “poor” Bakshis (Bennet family) have quite a few servants at their disposal (which is actually true in the original novel as well);
  • Light and fluffy in places it might serve from its modern direction and have some sort of social commentary;
  • Has some pretty heavy colonial overtones in a lot of problematic ways, and makes light of some pretty serious cultural and racial tensions that are present in the movie
  • “Cobra Dance” as the youngest sister’s embarrassing moment- it just felt way over the top, and also kind of another moment of cultural clashing just barely touched on.
  • It must be hard to pull off a mix of so many different genres and cultural references, but I don’t know that this film necessarily did it in a very graceful way.

I won’t recommend it, even though I enjoyed parts of it, because honestly I think it appeals to a very specific niche, and falls short in many other ways. If you love cheesiness, silliness, Pride and Prejudice and dancing, then you may enjoy the movie. Honestly, if you are strapped for time, I would recommend the two songs mentioned above- epic choir moment and intro wedding dance number, as they are probably two of the best moments in the movie.

For story coherency, creativity, energy, and the way it connects back to its source of inspiration (you can at least tell who the characters are supposed to represent from the novel within the first 20 minutes), I would say that the film Bride and Prejudice deserves a 2.5-3 /5 rating.

Warning: do not watch this movie unless you in the mood for pure brain candy, or if you want to do an analysis of the cobra dance moment and share it with me. Honestly, right now I just don’t have the mental energy.

Happy Monday,

Miss E

Sense and Sensibility adaptations: Janeite Movie Marathon!

Sense and Sensibility Movie Adaptations all over the place.

Last week I rented the 2007 BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility from Scarecrow Video, which came with a bonus disc, Miss Austen Regrets. When I checked out Sense and Sensibility, I was blissfully unaware that the bonus disc was included in my rental. Scarecrow Video came through for me yet again. Needless to say, I was very happy when I got home. Two movies for the price of one, amazing. Extra surprise Jane Austen-based movie to feed my addiction, priceless.

I also found a movie with Aishwarya Rai,  advertised on the cover as a Tamil “Kollywood” adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, called I Have Found It. I figured that renting two different adaptations of Sense and Sensibility would make for a fun-filled movie marathon.

I got both of them from the Literature section of Scarecrow’s vast room selection.

Literature room at Scarecrow Video, Seattle

I watched the two BBC movies first , and loved them both.

Let’s start with the BBC version of Sense and Sensibility. This same version of Sense and Sensibility was playing every Sunday on Jane Austen Season when I was staying in London, Spring 2007. I have also seen bits and pieces on PBS Masterpiece Theatre in the states, but it was really nice to view the film in its entirety. The whole movie felt right- it felt like being in the novel, with rustic simplicity of the English countryside in the background.

My favorite things about this version:

  1. The Casting. Most of the characters really seemed authentic to the period, and behaved in believable ways, or as their characters might be expected to from what we know of them. It took me a while to warm to some of the secondary characters, but it was not long before I fell in love with them too. In my opinion, the cast in this newer Sense and Sensibility just felt right. For example, Mrs. Dashwood was cast wonderfully. She was just aristocratic enough to be polite in rough situations, and to whether the family crisis with class, while still not quite understanding the financial predicament that her family was really in.
  2. The script. The words in the script were chosen very well, and it seemed enough like the sentiment and tone of the novel without being a recitation of the novel.
  3. Costumes. Marianne and Eleanor were dressed very believably, and so were the other characters. They were not so worried with appearances, especially when they moved to the cottage. Marianne dress was simplistic with a touch of whimsy to match her character’s personality, and Elinor’s sensible and more rustic dress suited her character as well.
  4. Marianne. I was bracing myself to hate this new version of Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne, since I loved the 1995 version with Kate Winslet so much. Although Kate Winslet is one of the best actresses in the world, (and I still love the older version of S&S), I thought this Marianne (Charity Wakefield), knocked her role out of the park as well. She was not only NOT disappointing, but was instead very much like Austen’s Marianne.

Marianne from the 2008 BBC Adaptation

This new Marianne looked and acted as I’d imagined her character when I read S&S for the first time, and it was refreshing to see her vs. Kate Winslet’s version of Marianne. Kate brought more fervor and passion to the role, but Charity Wakefield brought more subtlety, and I think was closer to the correct age of the character when she played her. Her hair also seemed more natural, and Kate Winslet’s blond curly wig in the 1995 version just drives me bonkers when I watch it because it doesn’t even look like real hair.

Three rainy versions of Marianne

  1. The awkwardness. This awkwardness, created by the crass country company and the impropriety of the new connections is downplayed by the social skills of Elinor and her mother; although Marianne handles it somewhat less gracefully, she also confronts the rudeness more directly and changes the behavior of her “attackers.”

What I didn’t like about this adaptation:  honestly, I can’t say much about that. Besides missing Kate and Alan Rickman simply for nostalgia’s sake,  I enjoyed this new adaptation thoroughly. It was one of the first times I’ve really been able to sit and watch an adaptation without critically analyzing it. I think this is because it felt so comfortable to me. As I said, the film makers really did a wonderful job with it, and the music was spot on to convey the tone of the different scenes, none of which were hyperbolic or as dramatic as the older movie version. I was impressed. I would recommend watching this movie with a cup of warm cider, since the scenery gets a bit chilly and wet.

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Now, I Have Found It, although intriguing on the exterior, was a little too far out there for me. I was definitely in the right mood for a long Bollywood-esque movie, which I later learned (thanks M.) is different from Kollywood, and prepared myself to sit for hours on the couch enjoying musical numbers and Janeite references. However, I was pretty confused during the first 30 minutes of the film. It starts with footage of a war, and gun fighting, which of course was never a part of Sense and Sensibility.

I didn’t really understand at all how this movie had been even loosely adapted from the novel until at least 30 minutes in when the family loses their home to their brother and his wife (who seems really nice at first, and then suddenly turns into a greedy evil sister-in-law,  an unrealistic character shift). The person who is responsible for the home is the dying grandfather (not father/ husband of the Dashwood women), so that threw me off.

Once I finally figured out which character was supposed to refer to which, I didn’t feel that the sentiments of those characters were in any way matching. I was also disappointed in Aishwarya Rai’s portrayal of a young and excitable “Marianne.” Her acting was too controlled and had no emotion, the opposite of Marianne. She kind of just acted like a spoilt brat through most of it.

Aishwarya Rai

The cover says that the film is about two sisters who are opposites, (ahem, one with “Sense” and one with “Sensibility”) but it really seemed to be primarily focused on the Colonel Brandon character, and his struggle loving the Marianne character unrequitedly. He is also a war vet (hence the first part of the film), is a raging alcoholic when first introduced on screen, and has lost his leg. It seemed a bizarre representation of his character, and although I appreciated a more imaginative Colonel Brandon, the Marianne character still seemed to keep him grounded and sober, while in the novel he is the steady one who rubs off on her more.

So, not only did the director choose to focus on the man and his plight, making the female story less impactful, but the gender roles between Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s characters were reversed as well.

I could go on and on about this movie, but really, it doesn’t seem worth it. If interested, I found this fairly entertaining and pretty thorough summary of the film. I think that Jane Austen’s works are so fabulous because they are open to various interpretations. However, this one really missed the mark, and I think that it is almost nothing like the novel. In fact, they may have just referred to already popular and already very famous Sense and Sensibility to sell more movies.

If you value your time and sanity, don’t watch this movie. I would not recommend it to anyone, not even to someone with loads of time on their hands, and will never suffer through it again myself.

Until next time,

Miss E