“Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.”

In pastoral England, men and women tended to pair off for land and title advancement more than love, but if it’s up to Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle), she’s going to end up with a gentleman she fancies. Strike that: burns for. But she is choosy about who to lend her heart to, and when the tall, dark and enigmatic Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth, Love Actually) shows up on the scene making the googly-eyes, she recoils: the man is a grade-A dink.

Meanwhile, all around her swirls melodrama and intrigue, as her sisters too look for love. How is one woman supposed to navigate such a vortex of emotions and betrayal? By dancing of course. And that’s what Lizzy does: dances and dances and in between dancing finds time to drop some major truth bombs on Darcy. Which of course just gets his motor cranking even more.

What more needs to be said about this legendary miniseries? I suspect anyone with even a remote interest in Jane Austen or period drama has already checked this one off the bucket list years ago. Or, perhaps, you’re like me: late to the party, but brought on board thanks to a significant other’s prodding, only to be hopelessly, haplessly bewitched. Yes, I am not too up my own kiester to admit, with full-throated glee, that BBC’s Pride and Prejudice is awesome.

Why? From a perch of objectivity it’s impossible to deny the high-quality of the production. The costuming and set design is transportative and the casting and performances are top shelf across the board. But Pride and Prejudice has that special, intangible juice that elevates it to the Hall of Fame. The credit for this should go to the writers — who beefed up the male focus, giving Darcy and company a stronger role (thus making it more accessible for cretins like myself) — and, of course, Firth and Ehle.

I know many a female friend who kicked off a vigorous and unhealthy Colin Firth obsession thanks to his role, and Ehle, in my book, is about as awesome a lady protagonist as there is (Ellen Ripley grovels before Lizzy’s Empire waist!). Forgive me for descending into a clichéd exhortation of traditional male/female attraction, but, really, this is why I think Pride moves from just “a good adaptation” to “the definitive adaptation;” the filmmakers gave us two characters that appeal to almost everyone.

Look, with Mr. Darcy you’ve got a man who’s tall, dark, handsome, enigmatic, unattainable, deep-voiced, filthy rich, and prone to jumping into ponds in his underwear. Lizzy? She’s only beautiful, clever, smart, practical, well-read, independent, hard-to-get, fit from hours of strolling and eager to sport décolletage. These genius bastards have tapped into something primal and universal and the payoff is a five hour marathon of dress-up that is hyper-dope.

But you knew that, right? Of course you did. This is the Die Hard of period romantic dramas, with subsequent imitators ringing hollow and always falling short of the original. And now, with this “keepsake edition,” the ultimate version is here.

The 1.78:1, 1080p HD transfer is gorgeous, a crisp. detailed piece of work that delivers the very best picture the series has ever enjoyed. The rich colors of the bucolic scenery spring to life and the ornate costuming has never looked better. I know it’s a cliché, but, screw it: this is a feast for the eyes. Sound is clean and low-key with a LCPM 2.0 mix. The extras are where this release shines. Four brand new featurettes headline the offering:

“The Definitive Pride and Prejudice,” an HD look at how the miniseries came to be;

“Love or Money? Courtship and Marriage in Pride and Prejudice,” a feature about the historical place of marriage in Austen’s era (also in HD);

“The Music of Pride and Prejudice” (HD) looks at the recognizable score and its composer;

“Lifestyles of the Wealthy in Early 19th Century England,” an HD exploration into what life was like for the well-to-do.

Rounding out the set are repurposed features: “Pride and Prejudice: A Turning Point for Period Drama,” a bit on the technical restoration, the lengthy documentary “Lasting Impressions” and a walkabout with Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers.

THE VERDICT
Hey, Austen-heads. This is the one to get.

 

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