This version of Jane Austen's fiercely beloved novel has the daunting task of living up not only to the classic book, but also to the excellent 1995 miniseries of the same name. Yet 2005's PRIDE & PREJUDICE is up to the task, thanks to lively pacing, a witty script, an excellent cast, and clever direction from British newcomer Joe Wright. The surprisingly still-relevant story follows the five Bennet sisters as they deal with suitors and love, as their mother desperately schemes to marry them off advantageously. Sweet-tempered beauty Jane (Rosamund Pike) develops feelings for the equally amiable and extremely wealthy Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), but forces conspire to keep them apart--while Lizzie (Keira Knightley) finds herself first appalled by, but gradually drawn to, Bingley's aloof, intelligent, and socially awkward friend, Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFayden). The movie, at just over two hours, is forced to cut and condense a number of the book's subplots, and at times it tries to heighten the drama of certain scenes. But, for the most part, it's as faithful to the spirit of the original as time and cinematic convention allow.
The tremendous supporting cast includes Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet and Donald Sutherland as her wry, withdrawn husband; Jena Malone as teenage twit Lydia; Judi Dench, effortlessly haughty and imperious, as Lady Catherine de Bourg; and Tom Hollander, who steals every scene he's in as the ludicrously pompous and awkward Mr. Collins. The movie's script, adapted by Deborah Moggach, manages to be proto-feminist without becoming anachronistic--and, like the novel, it is incisive about the class politics and gender inequalities of the day.