Film-Forward Review: [BRIDE & PREJUDICE]

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Lalita (Aishwarya Rai)
Photo: Miramax

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Directed by: Gurinder Chadha.
Produced by: Deepak Nayar & Gurinder Chadha.
Written by: Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha, based on the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Director of Photography: Santosh Sivan.
Edited by: Justin Krish.
Music by: Anu Malik.
Released by: Miramax.
Language: English, Hindi & Punjabi with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: UK/USA. 111 min. Rated: PG-13.
With: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, Naveen Andrews, Alexis Bledel & Marsha Mason.

After vowing audiences with her directorial debut, Bend it Like Beckham, director Gurinder Chadha follows up with this cheeky twist on Jane Austen's classic tale, Pride and Prejudice, mixing the singing and dancing spectacles of Bollywood with the timelessness of Hollywood romance.

Both films involve the cultural differences between East and West. In Beckham, Jess (Parminder Nagra), a smart and rebellious teen, dreams of being on the soccer field with her idol, David Beckham, and falls for her coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who's Irish. Her family is none to happy that she is not following in her sister's footsteps and marrying a nice Indian boy from a well-to-do family. In Bride, Lalita (the beautiful Aishwarya Rai, known as the "Queen of Bollywood") finds herself - much to her chagrin - betrothed to Mr. Kholi (Nitin Ganatra), an Indian who has completely assimilated to American life in California. Kholi, though boorish, can provide Lalita with immense wealth, but she'd rather marry for love. Once she swallows her pride and let goes of her prejudices about the rich and initially off-putting Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), she has found her true match.

Lalita and Jess are two very intelligent female characters unafraid to speak their minds. Jess comes off as more likeable as she's more willing to adapt to different surroundings, while Lalita is rather stubborn and short-sighted. She'd rather take the word of a smarmy English lawyer (Daniel Gillies) and believe the worse about Mr. Darcy, who admittedly upon first encounter is so woefully rude that he makes no attempt to disguise his condescension and borderline mockery of all things Indian.

Visually, Bride & Prejudice is stunning, the costumes and the locales (from India to England and California) are lush, but Rai and Henderson lack chemistry, though they are both immensely pleasing to the eye. Bride's wedding ceremony climax feels routine and tepid in comparison to Beckham's moving resolution. Like other movie musicals, it may take a few scenes to get used to the actors breaking out in song and dance, but the key is to not let these sequences overshadow the story itself. Two movies that successfully meld music with engaging storylines are Baz Luhrmann's fresh take on William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. Or even better, rent the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice, with the dashing Colin Firth as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett is truly luminous. There is no way you will not be enchanted. Tanya Chesterfield
February 11, 2005



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