Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bride and Prejudice

2004, UK/US, directed by Gurinder Chadha

Rating: **

Gurinder Chadha's
Bride and Prejudice is ultimately a rather unfortunate dilution of the Bollywood style, designed to appeal to the multiplex audience. The idea of using the template of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice isn't a bad one - after all, Amy Heckerling's 1995 film Clueless made good use of Austen's Emma in a California high school setting - but the film sticks too closely to the original blueprint and has to cram far too much incident into its running time. The final 20 minutes are particularly compressed as a consequence, but earlier scenes also seem to run disjointedly together (at the more standard Bollywood running time, this probably wouldn't be an issue...).

Things begin brightly enough, with an Indian family in a social whirl, trying to marry off four daughters, and the initial musical segments are lush and often amusing. The opening promise isn't sustained for long, though: the songs quickly become insipid, and are few and far between by the second half of the film, as if a producer somewhere simply ordered them to be snipped. It's also hard to become too involved in such a terribly upwardly-mobile world, which seems to take wealth - even great wealth - entirely for granted, while it's impossible to take the characters' protests about the failure to discover the "real India" too seriously when the film itself whips up such a fairytale version of the country for our consumption - failing, in the process, to understand much of the point of Austen's novel, which made a virtue of its setting among the landed classes.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States