I'm a fan of Jane Austen, and have read Pride and Prejudice twice and watched the 2005 / Kiera Knightley version multiple times. I've also read Austen's other books and watched many versions of the movies.
This version, a five and a half hour TV version made for A&E in 1995, enjoys a reputation as one of the landmarks in the Austen media landscape. I mean, it has Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy - what more do you need to know? I'd seen it before, but it had been a long time and a friend wanted to see it. After watching it again, I have ... more opinions.
- accuracy to the original text - 5.5 hours gives you that option
- the best version of my favourite character, Mr. Bennet ever put on film: Benjamin Whitrow gets to deliver all of Mr. Bennet's best lines, and does it very well
- Crispin Bonham-Carter is one of the better versions of Mr. Bingley.
- "The Lake Scene." This is - in all seriousness - one of the most famous scenes ever filmed for British television. It's been recreated in multiple places, but probably my favourite was the direct reference in "Lost in Austen."
- Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet - although it's unclear if the fault here lies with the actor or director. Steadman uses a high pitched and annoying voice to deliver Mrs. Bennet's already annoying lines, and frequently throws sobbing hysterics fits. This is fairly accurate to the book, but nothing is done to humanize the character.
- David Bamber as Mr. Collins: this problem is very similar to Steadman as Mrs. Bennet: Collins is meant to be an obsequious moron, and that part works ... but he also "plays it by the book" and nothing is done to prevent him being a caricature.
- the run-time: 327 minutes is a bit much!
- excessively ornate hair and hair decorations - to the point that they're distracting (they may be accurate - I don't know)
I don't list "Colin Firth" as a "Pro" because the director appears to have told him "don't ever smile until well after Elizabeth Bennet tells you you're ungentlemanly." This is a turning point in the book for Mr. Darcy because it's when he realizes how arrogant and rude he's been his whole life, but this wasn't the best way to play it.
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth was fairly good, but I'm afraid Susannah Harker as Jane was ... forgettable. I think Keira Knightley and Rosamund Pike were the perfect pair of Elizabeth and Jane: Elizabeth is headstrong and opinionated, and who does that better than Knightley? But then you have to find a Jane who's even more attractive than Knightley: for that we have Pike, who's also one of Britain's best actresses. While I'm on the 2005 version: despite less screen time, both Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins came off more human in that version. And I think Matthew Macfadyen edges out Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy - don't get me wrong, Firth is probably the better actor, but Macfadyen got better lines in his adaptation and did a very good job of it.
Postscript: This rewatch also led me down a rabbit hole - learning about horse-drawn carriages.