It's Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth, who is absolutely my favorite Elizabeth. Specifically, because of how incredibly expressive her face is.
Elizabeth Bennet is kind, generous, affectionate, and sarcastic as fuck, which she inherited from her creator, as Austen spends two thirds of every novel deadpanning like its going out of style both textually and metatextually.
Sadly, most Austen movies tend to err on the side of earnestness (and depressingly, readers do too, which is how we get the insane Knightly Is a Pedophile), but Ehle spends a lot of time offsetting it with weaponized expressiveness.
(This may or may not be a paean to Ehle's eyebrow action when talking to Darby, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, the way her mouth twitches when someone is being ridiculous, the half-beat she pauses when before answering when someone is being a dick, and her gleeful weaponizing of the rules of civility. I don't think anyone ever has ever conveyed 'fuck you so very much' with an eyebrow.)
I also vote for this being the best Lydia; the actress looks and acts like a ditzy, spoiled sixteen year old gloriously.
However: there's the problem of Jane Bennet.
The thing is, I don't think it's the actress herself so much as the problem of Jane Bennet's entire character being the ideal Regency gentlewoman: quiet, sedate, well-bred, kind, earnest as fuck. She actually does follow the book Jane, and that characterization works fine in text, but when you take it to the visual medium, you're sharing the screen with Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet's sarcasm and mockery, Mrs. Bennet's pseudodrama, Lydia Bennet's melodrama, Darcy's mandrama, Bingley's overwhelming perkiness, and Mr. Collins mortifyingly earnest smugness (and that's just the people who share a screen with her; Catherine de Borough eats scenery almost as well as Mrs. Bennet).
To put it succinctly: Jane Bennet is boring. And the thing is, she's pretty much supposed to be.
Most of more engaging Jane Bennets had actresses who made her much more animated, which yes is more interesting to watch, but is also just not Jane Bennet. Jane is quiet, sedate, not one to show her feelings, reserved: when Darcy the Repressed is commenting on someone being Too Reserved, that's like, wow. And Elizabeth acknowledges that as true (as does Charlotte early on). That's a fairly important characteristic, since that sets up a major plot point.
The 1995 version also benefits from being five hours long, granted. Like, a lot. And not just to capture all the major and minor plotlines; if you're an Austen fan, you're aware how a two hour Austen movie butchers Austen's humor and slaughters every joke before it gets a chance to gasp the punchline.
Note: I'm about to engage in a Mansfield Park re-reading and once again be baffled how different it is from literally everything else Austen wrote. I mean, I would take the argument that it shares some characteristics with Sense and Sensibility, but only very superficially. There is no goddamn way it exists in the same Regency universe as Pride and Prejudice or Emma or Persuasion (and oh God not Northanger Abbey).
And I say this as someone who loves the book and has at one time or another loved and hated every character in it by turn depending on my mood during re-reading (I can write a condemnation and defense of every single character except Mrs. Norris who I always hate). Honestly, it's the one I re-read the most because there's so much in it, which makes no sense since there's actually only one real major plot (yes, there are a lot of subplots, but they all literally are offshoots of the major plot).
(Last read, I was eighty percent sure the ending was supposed to convey the good luck of the Crawfords in escaping matrimony with anyone in that family. I continue not to get how anyone, anywhere, ever, would be attracted to Edmund Bertram. He has no sense of humor. Sure, neither did Fanny, but as he was her primary influence growing up, she never really had a chance. With Crawford, I don't say she expressed the possibility of having one, but the potential was definitely there.) Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1082600.html. | You can reply here or there. | comments