Like a lot of people, I saw the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie before I saw the 1995 adaptation. Since I was so blown away by the 2005 movie, it took me a while to begin appreciating the 1995 TV series. Now I love both – the 2005 movie for its unbelievable soundtrack (I’m currently learning to play “Dawn” on the piano) and breathtaking cinematography, as well as the intense chemistry between Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen’s Mr. Darcy; and the 1995 TV series for its length (6 hours! quite enough to bring to life a lot more of the story) and faithfulness to the novel.
In this blog entry, I will try to compare the performances of the cast, and pick the one I liked better. Since there are so many of them, I will start with the family from Longbourn, the Bennet family.
Benjamin Whitrow (1995) vs Donald Sutherland (2005)
Much as I like Donald Sutherland as an actor, I think Benjamin Whitrow was able to capture the crustiness of the character in general. But there was one line by Donald Sutherland that I particularly loved. This was when he said, “How happy for you, Mr. Collins, to possess the talent of flattering with such (pause) delicacy.”
TALLY – 2005: 0, 1995: 1
Alison Steadman (1995) vs Brenda Blethyn (2005)
They were both able to portray the cringe-enducing character of Mrs. Bennet, but I prefer Alison Steadman because she was shriller and a lot more over the top and ridiculous, adding a bit of comic relief.
TALLY – 2005: 0, 1995: 2
Susannah Harker (1995) vs Rosamund Pike (2005)
I thought Susannah Harker looked a little too old to play the part of the lovely Jane Bennet. I also thought she was a little too passive and beatific, so I guess it’s safe to say Rosamund Pike wins it for me. She was not only incredibly lovely, she was also very composed and kind.
TALLY – 2005: 1, 1995: 2
Jennifer Ehle (1995) vs Keira Knightley (2005)
This was the easiest choice for me. At first, I couldn’t get myself to watch the 1995 adaptation because Jennifer Ehle did not meet my idea of Lizzie – except for her dark hair. She was, once more, a little too old and a little too smiley for my taste. And I got distracted by the fact that she had a resemblance to Meryl Streep. I’m sorry. I guess it’s just that I thought Keira Knightley played the role of Lizzie extremely well.
TALLY – 2005: 2, 1995: 2
Lucy Briers (1995) vs Talulah Riley (2005)
Both of them didn’t have much screen time, but I’m going for Lucy Briers because she was more plain-looking and had more of a touch of conceit about her accomplishments and wisdom. I actually thought that Talulah Riley was quite pretty and had a nice voice.
TALLY – 2005: 2, 1995: 3
Polly Maberly (1995) vs Carey Mulligan (2005)
This is a very tough call for me since both didn’t have much screen time either. However, I particularly liked Carey Mulligan’s highly excited plea to Mr. Bingley – “Oh, do have a ball!” – when she went with her mother and sisters to Netherfield. Just for that line alone, I’ll have to choose Carey Mulligan though I really liked Polly Maberly as well.
TALLY – 2005: 3, 1995: 3
Julia Sawalha (1995) vs Jena Malone (2005)
So the tie-breaker goes to the youngest Bennet. This is another tough call for me because I thought they were both sufficiently irritating and insufferable. The only problem was that I was quite distracted trying to remember where I saw Jena Malone before (it was “The Ruins,” as I found out later on by checking IMDB). I loved Jena Malone’s evident silliness when she said excitedly, “Officers! As far as the eye can see!” However, I would give this win to Julia Sawalha simply for the scene where she was seductively rubbing Mr. Wickham’s back with her toe.
FINAL TALLY – 2005: 3, 1995: 4
For the cast of the Bennet family, the 1995 adaptation wins!