Do you like zombies? Do you like romance? Do you like stories containing headstrong and capable women? How about awesome ass-kicking action? And last but not least, do you like cleavage and cute chicks? If so, you’ll love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!
Burr Steers brings us a truly FUN film in his fourth feature length endeavor. P&P&Z is a fantastic date night movie, as it contains just enough romance to make any lady happy, but balances out any possible sappiness with sly humor and wonderful action sequences. Just as the title suggests, this is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a few major twists.
The zombies are obviously not in the original story, and neither is the ass-kicking nature of most of our main characters. We have Seth Grahame-Smith to thank for this tangle of concepts, as he penned the original novel that the film is based on. He is also the author of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (the novel), and Dark Shadows (screenplay). As a strength, he brings a fresh light to old stories, something that is desperately needed in this era of film remakes. I, for one, am tired of old stories being regurgitated by studios in order to be on the safer side of earning profit, so I truly appreciate a familiar story presented with flair and, of course, plenty of the undead.
Our story centers in on the independent and lovely Elizabeth Bennet, played by Lily James, and her gaggle of adorable and marriage-ready sisters. Well trained in the Chinese martial arts, these ladies enjoy girlish chatter and they practice full-contact sparring in night shifts and cotton gowns with empire waistlines. They are as full of feminine whimsy as they are lethal, for in their world, zombies are an eminent problem to society, and all who have the means train themselves in combat as a basic necessity of the times. Just as in the Austen’s original novel, they are not of the highest class, nor did they train with the elite of society. While the whole of high society trains in Japanese martial arts, their father chose to train them in Shaolin kung fu, a blemish to their social standing, and a source of ridicule from their snooty peers. The debate between the merits and/or superiority of karate when compared kung fu is addressed smartly in the film and martial arts film nerds (like myself) will rejoice at this homage to their genre. Personally, this aspect earned the film another shiny gold star in my book.
Clever genre-bending aside, the movie holds up as entertaining, beautifully shot, and well-paced, for the most part. It gets a little slow around the third act, mostly because the novelty has worn off by then and the movie is forced to rely on its merit as an action film. It manages to save itself before the tipping point of becoming too predictable, considering most of the well-read audience at least will know how this story ends. This was a great relief, because this is the kind of movie that you hope does well in the box-office, if only to make a mark against the terrible and cookie-cutter romantic comedies that make us all roll our eyes in annoyance.
The script is solid, the performances satisfying, and the choreography light and playful. This is by no means a serious martial arts film, but it delivers fight scenes with impact and some over-the-top sound design. Punches sound like muffled explosions, but that in itself, is immensely pleasing and adds to the whimsical nature of the movie.
I was in love with the aesthetic of the film, from the first establishing wide-shot of a rider galloping across an estate’s countryside, to the fabulous wardrobe design as a period piece. Details were well-minded and I was unable to spot any continuity errors as I watched. It takes itself seriously as a period piece, and though humor is abound, it is not a cause for dumbing down the set design nor the character’s gravitas. Particularly hilarious, is a performance by Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. His portrayal of a superficial aristocrat grounds him as the central comedic character and he steals every scene he’s in, even when his glib comments come from off screen.
Lively and full of quirky romance, I can’t help but smile when I think back on the many merits of this film. Maybe I’m crazy to like my sigh-worthy romance brilliantly crafted with a gory action twist, but I must not be alone or a movie like this wouldn’t exist. Thank goodness it does, strong women need romance too, but in refreshing tropes where we don’t roll our eyes, and can still feel our hearts flutter without guilt. Well done, Burr Steers and company!
Thanks for reading!
Diva Del Mar