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Bride & Prejudice Review

By Elaine G. Flores

Austen, We Have A Problem

Bride trips on the way to the altar

Rating: Two Out Of Four Stars


Things get thorny for the protagonist when East meets West in director Gurinder Chadha’s Bride & Prejudice. The same can be said for the film itself. This contemporary take on Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice starts off with a delightfully audacious notion -- Bollywood weds Hollywood. You have to hand it to the filmmakers for daring to be different. Unfortunately, the Miramax musical does an awkward job of merging the styles and the result is two mediocre films in one.

In this adaptation, Austen’s 19th century English countryside is
now modern Armistar, India. Brainy, unconventional heroine

Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) and Darcy (Martin Henderson)
Elizabeth Bennet has been reincarnated as the independent and proud Lalita (Aishwarya Rai). Darcy (Martin Henderson), her high-born foe/love interest, is an American hotel scion who travels to India to expand his family’s empire. As in the novel, Lalita’s family is struggling financially and her mom’s idée fixe is to marry off her daughters to men with money. She speaks with reverence of a prospective husband who moved to America and owns three Subway franchises.
Photos courtesy of Miramax Productions

Pride & Prejudice’s classic line was, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” As Lalita puts it, “All single guys with big bucks must be shopping for a wife.”

Lalita finds Darcy lacking when she first meets him at a wedding. While Austen’s Darcy was abrupt, haughty and sarcastic -- traits perfectly conveyed by Laurence Olivier in the 1940 screen version -- Henderson comes off as more of an insensitive brat, who might be acquainted with Paris Hilton. He offends Lalita when he refers to the area he’s visiting as “Hicksville, India,” mocks the dancing and criticizes arranged marriage as “backward.” This turns out to be a hypocritical statement since Darcy’s snobbish mother is determined to see him with a rich girl from back home. At a time when the U.S. isn’t winning any Miss Congeniality awards, it was appropriate to paint Darcy as the arrogant American. Lalita lays into Darcy about his plans to buy a resort in India, which she fears will be devoid of any cultural authenticy. In the movie’s sharpest bit of dialogue Lalita says, “I thought we got rid of imperialists like you.” To Darcy’s argument, “ I’m not British, I’m American,” she snaps, “Exactly.”

Though the film struggles mightily to make a statement, it often misses the mark by going being too broad and too obvious. The role of Lalita’s obnoxious, but wealthy and smitten relative Kholi (played by a fearless Nitin Ganatra) is supposed to provide comic relief with his desperate attempts to assimilate into American culture. (The comedy involves his spouting the stalest of slang, such as “whazzzzzup?”) This might have been effective, but Kholi’s absurdity is compromised by the fact that the movie’s take on American culture is just as dated as his.

From Justin To Kelly called and they want their outtake back.


References to MC Hammer, Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210 make for unintentional humor and at certain points this reviewer feared that a Fonzie joke was coming. Instead, something far more cringe-worthy happened: A gospel choir inexplicably descended on a California beach to serenade the couple. Oh, and there, were dancing surfers, too. From Justin To Kelly called and they want their outtake back.

The movie’s strongest assets are the lead's attractiveness, charm and game attitude, which helps her to transcend the creaky material. The movie does offer some lovely visuals, particularly during the song and dance sequences that take place in India. But this production is not for everyone; Austen devotees and moviegoers who prefer subtlety should stay home. On the other hand, if you want colorful spectacle and a frothy girl-meets-boy story where everyone is happy in the end, the eager-to-please Bride & Prejudice will do as a fun popcorn-movie.

 


Elaine G. Flores is a feature writer for Soap Opera Digest, columnist for the St. Louis American and freelance writer. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and lives in New York.


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