When Wimbledon wobbled and Thunderbirds tanked and word reached Total Film that Working Title planned to adapt Jane Austen's original Bridget Jones's Diary, cynicism and indifference were rife (even more so than usual). Pride & Prejudice is, after all, a banker: a cash cow designed for the sort of people who "just never" go to the movies and, therefore, hard to approach without dread for those of us who do.
Expectations were hardly heightened by casting Keira Knightley opposite that Spooks bloke (Matthew MacFadyen). But you just know where this is going...
Pride & Prejudice is good. Very good. A surprise and a laugh and romantic in a way that makes you grin without wanting to chunder. And Knightley is good. Very good. Sparky and smart and beautiful without being statuesque or smug. She is not alone: the film is exceptionally well cast. MacFadyen brings the requisite blend of boo-hiss, simmer and charisma to Darcy. Rosamund Pike benefits from director Joe Wright roughening her relationship with younger sister Lizzy (Knightley) - her Jane is sweet without rotting teeth. Donald Sutherland gives the story its centre and soul as the Bennet sisters' warm, loving patriarch. Even a potentially throwaway part - that of the traditionally obnoxious Reverend Collins, an easy role from which to draw cheap laughs - is given heart and a sense of humanity in a very fine turn from Tom Hollander. Wright shoots with a lightness of touch - invigorating Steadicam, elegant framing, seamless cuts - that makes the film feel immediate and modern without being anachronistic.
The disc carries featurettes on the production's country houses, 17th-century dating and endearingly sincere raves about how lovely everyone was on set. It would have been good to hear Wright joined by writer Deborah Moggach on his commentary, but he makes an engaging and frank host, confessing of one bedtime scene with Knightley and Pike: "It was heaven - shooting under the covers with these two." So much for The Age Of Innocence.