Another Pride & Prejudice
I admit that I kind of love the Mormon adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2003). In no other modern culture would Jane Austen's society of marriage obsessed young men and women make sense but in the bizarro world of a Utah Valley singles ward*. While this film, like many during the early 00s influx of Mormon culture movies, is full of cheese and "it's funny cuz it's true" sort of moments, it's endlessly amusing.
Elizabeth in this adaptation is a 26-year-old living in Provo/Orem, Utah (believe me when I say most of the outdoor locales looked familiar). She's (I'm assuming) a master's student studying English and a budding novelist who works in a bookstore. But most importantly, she's not married. To give you some context, I'm 22 and have lived in Provo for four years without getting married. However, by the end of this summer, 6 of my former roommates will have married. It's weird here**. Anyway, Elizabeth doesn't have the best of luck with guys. Her current situation with men is her sanctimonious stalker William Collins and the inactive Mormon friend Jack Wickham who clearly has the hots for her.
It was a genius move to have Collins and Jack already part of the story for a two hour film. Like I've mentioned before, trying to introduce and develop a relationship with Wickham in other adaptations is difficult because two hours is not enough time. The Mr. Collins character will always be odious and easy to establish and dismiss, but if Wickham is supposed to be an actual contender for Elizabeth, a brief meeting or two is not enough.
The sister roles are played out as roommates. Jane is Elizabeth's Brazilian best friend and roommate and is probably my favorite character. Kitty and Lydia are boycrazy and severe adherents to the new bestselling book about how to get a guy, The Pink Bible (probably the cheesiest of all the plot devices). Mary is a socially awkward young lady who's trying to be the epitome of a good Mormon girl. Mostly she's an embarrassment.
Another device in the film is the use of title cards which are kind of charming. Quotes from the novel Pride and Prejudice are placed in between scenes once in a while that are usually out of context for the storyline, but add some of Austen's wit and commentary into the film without awkwardly having the characters have to spew off regency-era dialogue.
Then of course you have Will Darcy and Charles Bingley. Darcy is appropriately pompous at first and then just a dork.His initial asking out Elizabeth scene (analogous to the first proposal) is wonderfully awkward when he tells Elizabeth she's "strangely attractive". Bingley is kind of just dumb in this adaptation***. He's rich for selling high pitched versions of classical music for dog, but whatever. He's adorable, which I guess is all you need.
But there's really just one scene that wins me over every time I end up watching this movie.It's after Elizabeth has had a bad meeting with a book publisher (of course it's Darcy) and Jane's just been email dumped by Bingley (who's going out of town). You see them both encrusted on a couch, covered in blankets and crumbs, with greasy hair and empty ice cream cartons and pizza boxes around them. To figure out if it's morning, Elizabeth picks up a nearby stick and moves open the curtains a smidgen and quickly hides her face from the bright morning light. And when their roommates drag them to the store, they just go for tampons and large vats of ice cream. I honor any film willing to make the women all-out ugly if only for a scene.
At the end of the day, this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is on the level of a made for TV movie, but it's so innocuous and fun that it's completely entertaining. Non-Mormons might be confused in some spots since the setting is assumed without a lot of explanation (which I think works in its favor), but it's always fun to see how people adapt favorite novels. For me, this version is far more enjoyable that the 2005 version, if only because it effectively establishes characters, makes the plot work for the time constraints, and keeps the the mocking, but accepting of society tone of the book. In the end, the film basically becomes a standard romantic-comedy, but you could do a lot worse than Jane Austen source material.
*Well, also apparently India.
**and I'm leaving Utah for grad school in the fall. Victory!
***Poor character always gets the short stick.