I think it would be accurate to say that at first, with its low production values and the I feel like I’m watching a play sense it gives off, I didn’t love the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. However, it has grown on me so much I now consider Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul to be the real Elizabeth and Darcy, and each time I watch it I find another little moment that makes me enjoy the production more.
The second proposal.
This version is often touted as the one that is closest to the book, and I think people mean in spirit rather than page by page, as there are plenty of differences. The silliest one would have to be Elizabeth running all the way to Pemberley when she finds out her sister has taken off with a man, though the scene that follows really works for me.
Despite occasionally looking like a young woman straight out of the late 1970s, complete with shoulder-length frizzy hair, Elizabeth Garvie captures the archness and the manners of the Elizabeth Bennet of the book. She is polite but also witty, and she has the youthfulness and growth that I find sorely missing from Jennifer Ehle’s interpretation in 1995.
I can see why Darcy was confused when she rejected his first proposal, as unlike Ehle, who scowled and rolled her eyes whenever Darcy was within shouting distance, Garvie’s Elizabeth is a lovely young woman trapped in an embarrassing family with poor finances.
Darcy sees Elizabeth at Rosings
David Rintoul is the only Darcy I find physically attractive (though don’t do what I did and Google recent images of him!). He is tall and intimidating and oh so aristocratic. Criticisms of him playing the role too stiff and dull are probably justified, but the more I watch him, the more I catch his subtle smiles and his meaningful looks. By the end, when he is shocked and happily surprised Elizabeth wants to marry him, he does much more with the scene than fan favourite Colin Firth ever did in the 1995 version.
You see him change over the course of the story, and gradually see what’s going on beneath that exterior and that posh, posh voice. I’d marry him. Even if this version of his house is in desperate need of a clean! Those black stains on the exterior!
Elizabeth runs to a rather dirty Pemberley!
Together, they work perfectly for me. They didn’t toss all the social rules out the window, and when Elizabeth starts crying about Lydia’s elopement, all Darcy can do is hover, unable to touch her to comfort her.
I love when period dramas can capture that total absence of physical contact and the strain it causes, and I’d love to see more of that in historical romance books.
Elizabeth and Jane
Jane and Bingley work for me in this version. Jane is pretty and smiling and has lovely manners without being insipid. The scene where she first glimpses Bingley from a window and starts waxing poetic about him after two seconds is utterly ridiculous, but I don’t have any other complaints.
Bingley is a bit of a dorky oaf, but he is also a genuinely nice man. He is the only Bingley out of the 1980, 1995 and 2005 versions who isn’t a bumbling idiot. While I don’t think he’s even remotely handsome, he’s a good person, has a physical presence, and is the only one who is a match for Darcy.
Mr and Mrs Bennet are the closest to the characters from the book. Most adaptations make Mr Bennet too nice, and I like what was done in this version. It should never be forgotten he has made some selfish decisions that have put the ladies’ futures in jeopardy.
As for Mrs Bennet, she over-talks without being a screeching idiot (a la 1995). She remembers who she is and what social customs need to be followed – as she would have! – but still manages to overdo things. She’s the best version of this character I have seen.
A very old-looking Lydia!
The rest of the Bennet girls are not so good. Though I believe the actresses were close to the ages of the characters they were playing, both Lydia and Kitty look middle-aged and I can never tell them apart.
God only knows what they were thinking giving Mary that hairstyle. She looks out of place in the family. Could they have made the nerdy one look any more clichéd? It’s a little offensive.
Mr Wickham is too unattractive for his role, sorry!
I loved what they did with Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. This is the ONLY Mr Collins who matches the description from the book. And he’s a dope without being a slimy paedophile. Charlotte is not ugly, but plain, and she is a lovely friend for Elizabeth.
There’s a totally made-up scene where the two girls laugh over a floatation hat, and though it’s a huge departure from the book, it gets a laugh out of me every time.
I believe the actress playing Miss Bingley is a direct descendant of the aristocracy, and I think she was perfect in her role.
Just as I think this Lady Catherine de Bourgh is perfect in hers.
A shared smile as Lady Catherine drones on.
The way she holds court in her scenes is perfect, and I especially love the smile shared between Elizabeth and Darcy when the woman just keeps droning on.
Questionable costuming and décor:
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Bingley at Netherfield Park
It has to be said that overall this production looks pretty dreadful. It’s not grand enough, and some of the costumes are odd. Though I am glad they didn’t try to make all the day dresses for the girls overly sexy, because that just wasn’t how it was (there’s A LOT of cleavage on display during the day in the 1995 version). However, the buildings are rundown and the filming looks cheap.
I suppose though, in the end it doesn’t matter. This is a character-based story, and I fell in love with this Elizabeth and Darcy more than any other.