Death Comes to Pemberley: Book vs Movie

deathThis has got to be one of the only spinoff novels I’ve read that has a BBC miniseries of its own made out of it. Since I reviewed the book in my last post, I’m going to compare and contrast the book with the miniseries, which I found and watched on Youtube.

I am going to talk about the ending of the story, so if you don’t want to know, beware. Spoilers, Sweetie.

It’s a very well acted movie. The actors come with some serious BBC chops, including Matthew Rhys as Darcy, Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth, who I know from her absolutely lovely performances in North and South and Bleak House, and Jenna Louise Coleman, who plays Clara in Doctor Who, as Lydia. You know what they say about British actors. It’s not six degrees for them, it’s more like one degree because the good ones are in everything.

At first I didn’t think they made Elizabeth pretty enough. She’s supposed to be a well known beauty, and surely even after 6 years of marriage that wouldn’t have faded. Although Anna Maxwell Martin plays Lizzy as witty and sarcastic by turns, I did feel like they should have made her a little prettier. I mean, she wears the same dress through the whole story! Surely with the wealth of Pemberley, Elizabeth could afford more than one or two plain dark blue dresses to wear. Maybe they’re trying to show that life as mistress of Pemberley is wearing Lizzy down, and she has lost some of her bloom? Maybe they’re trying to say that Darcy doesn’t find her attractive, so she doesn’t put effort into it anymore? I just wish they’d given her some more pretty dresses to look at. Ah well, the actress is so good you forget about it within a few minutes.

The plot of the movie is quite close to the book, with a few notable exceptions. Probably to get away from all the information found out via letter than I complained of in my review of the book. This is most obvious in the conclusion, when the letter comes from Will Bidwell that he, and not Wickham, killed Capt. Denny. In the book, his confession comes via letter delivered by the parson. In the movie, Elizabeth realizes the truth while speaking with Will and Louisa, gets him to sign a confession, and rushes herself to the court to stay execution. While it’s not likely that as a gentlewoman, Elizabeth would think to rush out herself to save Wickham, it certainly makes things more exciting. Rather than a letter being handed to the judge, who then dismisses the case, Elizabeth has to march up the gallows itself, just as the noose is being tied around Wickham’s neck. Exciting stuff.

This is also evident in the subplot with Louisa Bidwell. In the book, she’s almost not important, and you don’t really pay attention to her. In the movie, there’s a lot more time spent focusing on her and her baby, and Elizabeth’s part in their lives. Again, Elizabeth’s intuition and observation skills come into play when she notices Louisa nursing the baby, and realizes its Louisa’s child and not her sister’s. Elizabeth then attempts to unravel who the baby’s father is, and we watch with dismay as Louisa recognizes the father of her baby as Wickham. In the book, all this information in conveyed by letters, and by Col Fitzwilliam’s confession. I, for one, prefer to witness Elizabeth figuring out the truth, rather than be told what happened after the fact.

Speaking of the Colonel, he’s treated very differently in the two mediums. In the book, he does indeed take part in Mrs. Younge’s scheme to get Louisa’s baby. But it’s seen as an attempt to save Pemberley from the disgrace of Wickham’s bastard child, and he is easily forgiven for it. His suite for Georgiana also doesn’t go very far. He mentions to Elizabeth that he wishes to marry Georgiana, but it seems he doesn’t ever speak to either Georgiana or to Darcy about it. When Georgiana clearly prefers Alveston, the matter seems closed. In the movie, however, he is portrayed in a much more sinister light. Not going to lie, I love it. So many people want Georgiana and Col Fitzwilliam to be together, which I find totally weird. He’s a father figure to her, twice her age or more. To make him villainous is kind of genius. Although he still has the same motivation – to protect Pemberley, in the movie he is doing it because it was smear Georgiana’s name to have Wickham’s scandal on their hands, and he wants to marry her for her money and family name. He asks her to marry him and Georgiana, trying to do the decorous thing, agrees. Georgiana, in essence, makes the choice that Darcy refused to, to marry who society expects her to rather than to marry for love. She is miserable with this decision, really loving Alveston, but knows that it is what is expected of her as a Darcy- duty before happiness. These changes to the plot were, I feel, for the better.

The movie fell into the trap, though. The trap of wanting to undo the work of P&P and make Darcy and Lizzy at odds with each other. Sure enough, in the movie, Darcy has grown distant. Although he still professes to love her, he doesn’t believe her when she brings to him her suspicions of Col Fitzwilliam’s ties to Denny’s murder. She confesses to Jane that she believes Darcy regrets his choice of her as a wife, and Georgiana’s insistence on duty before love seems to confirm it. I see why they did this – Darcy and Lizzy are the star couple, and we’re dying to see them happily married and into their happily ever after. To see them unhappy is heartbreaking and it needs to be resolved, like, now. I totally see why the filmmakers chose to give the story this conflict. I just think it’s so overdone. Just let them be happy already, and we can focus on Georgiana and Alveston as the star couple.

The book has its flaws. The movie fixes some of those flaws and ads its own. Both are pretty good. I enjoyed both thoroughly and would definitely recommend them. And hey, when’s the last time you got to say after 6 hours of BBC miniseries, “Yeah but there’s more”?

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