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Pride And Prejudice (1996)

A&E

Cast: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, David Bamber, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Julian Swalha.

Rating: G.

Run time: 310 mins

Genre: The ultimate romantic drama.

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

The definitive BBC TV version of the classic Jane Austen novel sweeps all other pretenders aside.

Colin Firth (Bridget Jones's Diary, Love Actually) is perfect as the seemingly cold and haughty Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle is superb as the spunky Elizabeth Bennet, who gives as good as she gets in their verbal sparring.

Of course, it helps to have a leisurely five hours to tell the story - an advantage over the many theatrical versions which simply must cut out so much to focus on the unlikely growing romance between Darcy and Elizabeth.

In this version, you really get to know all the colourful characters that populate the story and can understand the family and class dynamics at play during the early 19th century.

Elizabeth is one of five unmarried daughters of a respected country "gentleman" in a world in which obtaining a good marriage is paramount. Elizabeth's father (Ben Whitrow) is comfortable, but not wealthy. That makes the task of getting them married off more difficult. Her excitable mother (Alison Steadman) is obsessed with finding her daughters husbands - to the point of embarrassing her family.

When the eligible bachelor Charles Bingley (Crispin Bonham-Carter) moves into the community, Mrs. Bennet goes into action and is delighted when he takes a fancy to her daughter Jane (Susannah Harker). But Bingley's friend Darcy (Firth), disparages the locals and declares there are no beautiful women who could tempt him. But he is already uncomfortably aroused by the feisty Elizabeth, who clashes with him at every meeting.

A story packed with incident, family crisis and insight into the nature of love and relationships, this version boasts superb locations, great stately homes, magnificent costumes and fine performances from a big cast. There's also a nice score by composer Carl Davis.

The 2-disc edition includes featurettes on the making of the film

It's the best!

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