Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Because this movie rocked my socks off as always, even on the millionth viewing, I want to break down why it works. It is one of the few “I hate you, but by the end of the movie, I love you” movies that work.
I’m going to use notes on rom-com structure from this fine tome.
Set up – what are each of the protagonists missing?
What he is missing is more readily apparent. He is obviously miserable. Perhaps lonely. A number of walls between his true self and his outward appearance. He doesn’t converse well with strangers, by his own admission later in the film.
What she is missing is more problematic to think about. She seems happy. But she isn’t like her sisters. She doesn’t like performing for strangers. She is constantly demeaned by her mother and others for being headstrong, bookish and plain (plain in Hollywood is Keira Knightley). Perhaps what she unconsciously looking for is a place where she can be herself and be loved anyway. But for that, she’ll need to give up her peace and quiet and that of her family’s as well. Something she, like her father, values far too greatly.
For him, it is practically love at first sight. It is obvious. Even to her. But he insults her instead. Like a damn fool.
Negging doesn’t really work in the real world, bruv. Just so you know. (I think he knows.)
What I love about this scene is that it’s apparent how vulnerable the falling in love has made him feel. How the walls almost immediately start to crumble. And he immediately armors up by insulting her.
She of course never lets him off the hook for his behavior. Not for the entire film. Which is great fun to watch.
This is her usual teasing behavior but this time, it causes much more trouble than it usually does.
This is either Jane getting sick.
Or Elizabeth finding herself attracted to Wickham, who is Darcy’s sworn enemy.
Jane getting sick leads to a very sexy hand-holding moment.
I always find it unbearably charming that he stands every time she enters the room. And doesn’t join Bingley’s sister in finding fault with her ‘wild’ appearance (that’s my girl). And did you see the way he starts when the footman says her name? Gah. It’s the little things, dudes. The little things.
And you see in this moment? Ms. Bingley is making pretty obvious plays for him, but he chooses with his eyes.
The city girl/country girl dichotomy is apparent here. Though is it the virgin/whore dichotomy? That’s less apparent.
Wickham is definitely a complication. Though not particularly sexy. Like most of us, she’s looking for love in all the wrong places.
Hook (midpoint) – stakes-raising bonding moment.
Oh but this is the clever bit.
Darcy proposes; she rebuffs him in no uncertain terms. And accuses him of ruining both her sister and Wickham’s life.
He writes a letter telling her the truth; about Wickham’s deceit of Georgiana Darcy, and his own mistaken view of Jane Bennet’s affections for Bingley.
Why does this bond them? It is after all a deeply painful moment.
Well a good argument is always rather sexy. Meanwhile an exchange of truths, even in very heated terms, is still a deeply intimate conversation, particularly for the walled-off Mr. Darcy. She tells him about her relationship with her sister; he tells her of his relationship with Bingley. And later his history with Wickham.
This shakes our Elizabeth to her core. What Darcy has said to her would shake her sisters to the core as well, but she prefers – not unlike her father – to keep the peace. A choice she will pay for later.
There are more small moments that show the gradual breaking down of Darcy’s defenses.
He admits her, in the most goshdarn endearing and adorable manner, that he is bad at talking to people.
He tries in an awkward but sweet way to have a conversation at dinner with Elizabeth. His aunt immediately cock-blocks him. He shows many signs of visible irritation as she lays into Lizzie. Something she could not have missed. Though Lizzie, always our girl, holds her own.
Swivel – Second Act turning point decision that lays tracks to climax.
She and another aunt and uncle go to Derbyshire. Their carriage breaks down near Pemberley. Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle want to visit; Lizzie doesn’t want to, but decides to anyway. Against her better judgment.
In the course of visiting, she finds herself in the family’s private chambers where she spies Georgiana playing the piano. And Darcy come home to surprise his sister. They spot her; she’s embarrassed. He’s very gracious. But her heart has already been softened towards him.
Did the dirty great big house change her mind? The lake for miles? The tons of naked statues? More likely, the view of Darcy as a man begins to melt Lizzie. He is unfailingly generous, according to his housekeeper; plus, much like her, he dotes on his sister.
And here again is another one of my favorite scenes.
What I like best about this scene is the numerous times he says “I love you still” without really saying it.
Going after her in the first place instead of letting her go.
Asking if she had a pleasant trip.
Upset that she’d be leaving the next day.
Reassuring her that she hadn’t intruded.
“May I walk you to the village?”
Trying every which way to prolong the conversation.
Reaching the inn even before she gets there to invite her family to dinner, so that she might meet his sister. Lizzie is deeply troubled by this invitation.
Which leads to an exchange between the two, the only civil conversation they have the entire film. And also the only time Mr. Darcy smiles. My heart is mostly mush anyway, but this made it goo.
Lydia’s marriage to Wickham. Darcy tries to comfort Lizzie but is a man of action more than words. He leaves immediately without telling her what he intends to do.
Lizzie’s keeping of the peace has led to the precise opposite. Her family is almost ruined by scandal and her heart is broken by her own sister.
When Lizzie finds out that her sister’s marriage is bankrolled by Darcy, well….not much left to say or do really. Other than propose.
There is a clash between two titans. The aunt and the prospective niece-in-law. Lizzie holds her ground and refuses to refuse to hook up with Darcy.
Note here – he didn’t stalk her. He didn’t try to convince her to marry him. He backed off UNTIL his aunt probably came home in a puff and said that that blasted Bennet girl must have the hots for him.
And then of course, is the best proposal ever.
Except in the US version, there’s this wonderful ending scene. Darcy is smiling. Elizabeth is teasing him but also at peace and in love. And you have that first kiss we’ve all been waiting for. Or is that just me?
I’d have to find the script to see if it was in the screenwriter who wrote in these gorgeous moments or in fact if it was fabulous acting and innate understanding of rhythm on the director’s part.
I must read the books again. And I must watch the mini-series. But I refuse to watch Lizzie kill zombies. I refuse.
Should I? I don’t know. I’m punch-drunk on Jane Austen.