Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest love stories (not to mention feminist ones) of all time. Don’t believe me? Ask any woman about headstrong (and yes, full of pride) Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy and watch that woman instantly swoon. Or rather, look up Colin Firth in the 1996 miniseries adaptation of the novel and you’ll still find Tumblr accounts devoted to him and his now infamous jump in the lake. That scene, as well as the the Bennet dining room set design from the near perfect 2005 Joe Wright film adaptation, is paid homage to in director/screenwriter Burr Steers’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a cheeky mashup of Austen’s Regency tome and the walking dead genre, adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith.
In this Austenland, a woman must be proficient, not only in the art of social graces, sewing, and music, but also the art of war against the hordes of zombies infesting the English countryside. The Shaolin-trained Bennet sisters (played by Bella Heathcote, Lily James, Ellie Bamber, Suki Waterhouse, and Millie Brady) are highly skilled with weaponry and they throw barbs regarding the prejudiced Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) as easily as they sling sharpened knives from the sheaths tucked away in their lacy undergarments.
The narrative of Pride of Prejudice is followed very closely, yet delivered at breakneck speed. If one isn’t somewhat familiar with the story, they may be easily confused why, for example, Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth, doing his best Chace Crawford impression) doesn’t immediately propose to Jane (Heathcote), or why Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Games of Thrones’ Lena Headey, in full warrior mode, replete with eye patch) is so discriminatory against Elizabeth (James). For those who know and love the original text, however, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is delightful fun. Real-life couple Lily James and Matt Smith (the former Doctor Who hamming it up as the bumbling Mr. Collins, a role previously played with comedic zest by Tom Hollander in the Wright version) are a particular joy to watch as they gracefully balance the rapid tonal changes of the script, with self aware tongues firmly in cheeks.