Byline: CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY
Pride And Prejudice (U)
Verdict: Classic romantic drama -and Keira Knightley is breathtakingly brilliant *****
JANE AUSTEN'S best and most loved novel is, in a way, the template for the whole of romantic fiction. As far as I'm concerned, Elizabeth Bennet is the most psychologically attractive heroine in all literature.
And although I find Mr D'Arcy a dull stick, millions - probably billions - of women would disagree.
There was a polished, reasonably entertaining Hollywood Pride And Prejudice made in 1940, with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier; but it has taken Working Title, the UK company that has given us such romantic comedies as Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings, to do Jane Austen proud.
This is, beyond any doubt, the romantic comedy-drama of 2005.
Despite minor faults, this is a marvellous, beautiful and moving film that will deliver a literary classic to a new and highly appreciative, non-literary audience who have never heard of Jane Austen, let alone read her. I really, really loved it.
And I particularly loved Keira Knightley. Keira's been a lustrous presence in movies, but her acting up to now has had only to be adequate in lightweight films such as Bend It Like Beckham, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Love Actually and King Arthur.
Her best performance was, regrettably, in the minor thriller, The Jacket, little seen by anyone except critics.
Lizzie Bennet is the transforming role which finally proves she is more than just a pretty face.
The camera adores her mercurial, ever-changing features and her swanlike neck, but it is her freshness, her unaffectedness and her emotional transparency that will endear her to audiences all over the world.
If there is any justice (which, of course, there isn't), Keira will win Best Actress at next year's Oscars. …