November 10, 2005
From today's Lloyd Grove "Lowdown"
Everybody just calm down. Sheesh.
Austen flick irks those with Jane addiction
There's a spot of bother brewing between fledgling Brit director Joe Wright - whose movie version of "Pride and Prejudice" opens tomorrow - and members of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
I'm told that in a National Public Radio report, also scheduled for tomorrow, diehard fans of the 1813 novel voice a litany of complaints about Wright's mushy, souped-up version - the latest in a long line - of the precise and elegant Austen.
Wright responds with an impolite suggestion.
"They can go jump in a lake," Wright, I'm told, advises NPR L.A. correspondent Kim Masters for her piece on "Morning Edition."
Wright sniffs that he's not interested in "quibblers," adding that he didn't make the film for them. "I made it for myself, really," he reportedly reveals.
The trouble started a couple of months ago when University of Colorado English Prof. Joan Klingel Ray, president of the Jane Austen Society, slagged off the movie in an interview with the U.K.'s Telegraph, criticizing everything from Matthew MacFadyen as the male lead, Mr. Darcy, to the movie's in-your-face sexual imagery.
"The Darcy in the film does not have the quality of attractiveness that Colin Firth has," Ray asserted, referring to the star of the acclaimed 1995 miniseries.
She added: "The film is full of sexual imagery, which is totally inappropriate to Austen's novel. In one scene, a wild boar, which I assume is supposed to represent Darcy, wobbles through a farm with its sexual equipment on show."
After her interview ran, Ray reveals, Focus Features threatened to cancel a screening of the film in Milwaukee for the Austen Society's annual convention.
The screening was held, though, and while some Austen aficionados liked the movie, others complained about "lame" dialogue and Keira Knightley's posture.
I hear that a Focus Features flack actually tried to forbid Masters from quoting Ray because the professor is no longer president of the society.
Wrong. Ray's term ends next month.