One of the reasons I love to watch "period" movies is for the historic stuff. I love to see what china they use, how they do the costumes, how they portray the manners and customs of the times. This movie was a disappointment in that regard.
This latest version of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice has some good points. But there is, sadly, an absolute DERTH of tea moments! I felt cheated, in spite of the gorgeous cinematography. They replaced many opportunities for tea moments with outdoor shots, beautiful scenery to be sure, but no replacement IMO for beauty of china or the satisfying ceremonies of tea. I don't mean tea scenes should be placed randomly or arbitrarily. But it was such a big part of the culture, that it really should be worked into the story in appropriate ways, to enhance or move the story along. Sense & Sensibility is a good example of ways to use tea moments as tools in the storyline. I always anticipate how they're going to work a tea scene in, I actually wait for it. So this movie was a disappointment for my inner Tea Party Lady.
Here we have a shot of the china (finally!) in use at the breakfast table. (Click to see the larger versions in the photo gallery)
I'm not sure what that is just behind the tea cup. A butter dish maybe, with a cover on it? Looks like a cow head.
And here we have Charlotte, now Mrs. Collins, pouring tea for herself and Lizzie, a ritual she proudly performs as mistress of her own home.
She never actually gives a cup to Lizzie, and they never actually drink the tea. This is a blip of a moment in a scene that quickly shifts to other things.
This was an interesting shot that could only be called a "tableau", as if they're posing for a portrait. I've cropped the picture here to show the "tea moment", but the two women drinking tea here are just the tiniest left portion of the picture. (click to see the full version)
The teacups in the hands of the two women here seem to almost be an afterthought on the director's part. Maybe he thought it would be strange to have all those people in the tableau with empty hands.
I did enjoy this scene near the end of the movie, where we see the Bennett family "at rest", although I kind of doubt they would realistically ever have lolli-gagged about the way they're doing here. Then again, what do I know. In any case, the "before" shot shows them all relaxed in their own messy home.
They appear here perfectly composed, perched on chairs, each with a book or a piece of needlework, as if that's what they do all day. There was a similar scene near the end of Sense & Sensibility, although not quite so exaggerated.
I think the most disappointing thing about this movie was the way they modified some of the characters. Mr. Bennett is suddenly a wonderful loving father. Mrs. Bennett is a heroine, working valiantly against all odds to get her daughters married. Mary is no longer insufferably pedantic. Thank god Lydia is still silly and superficial.
But these changes are just the beginning, the basis for a larger and more radical change.
Mr. Darcy is no longer prideful! No, he's just shy. And misunderstood. There is no transformation for him as a character, all the changes take place on Lizzie's part. And that's just wrong. The book makes it plain that Darcy is prideful. He DOES look down his nose at the Bennetts. When you remove the flaws of the family, and Darcy's pride, you remove a large part of the reason why Darcy and Elizabeth are at odds. The resolution then isn't satisfying, because it's one-sided. Lizzie just "comes around" and admits that she has blindly misjudged him.
Maybe I'm too demanding about these things. I tried to give this movie a chance, I really did. I tried not to be one of those people who having read and loved the book are automatically prejudice against the movie. But when you mess with the basic premises of the relationships, you go awry. Transformation in love relationships is important!
I would still recommend this movie for the beautiful cinematography. But there's little else to recommend it. Buy the book. Or get one of the BBC versions of Pride & Prejudice on DVD. They're much better!