The Quarantine Stream: The Keira Knightley 'Pride And Prejudice' Is Good, Actually

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The Movie: Pride and PrejudiceWhere You Can Stream It: NetflixThe Pitch: As headstrong Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) faces mounting pressure from her parents to marry, she is introduced to the rich, upper-class gentleman Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden), who immediately insults her family and lower station. But circumstance keeps bringing them together, and both Elizabeth and Darcy must come to terms with their own stubborn natures.Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: Did you know there's a whole community of Jane Austen fans who hate on Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice? Oh yes, they turn up their nose at the blatantly romantic movie, at the swooning score, at the "too pretty for Elizabeth Bennet" star Keira Knightley. They scoff at the movie that doesn't capture every satirical facet of Jane Austen's classic novel. I've always bristled at snooty Jane Austen fans who call Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice trash, stuttering out, "Well, it looks beautiful!" in response to someone who had the nerve to tell me that. But you know what, I'm here to finally stand my ground and say Wright's Pride and Prejudice is good, actually.

I'm tired of talking about why I love the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film only for someone to tell me, "well the BBC miniseries is better." I'm sure it is (out of sheer spite, I've refused to watch it), and I know Colin Firth is a hunk and a half, but I've always loved how unapologetically romantic Pride and Prejudice is. Though Wright is known to put too much stock into his grand visuals, his Pride and Prejudice never feels suffocated by the aesthetically pleasing shots and austere designs. Instead, it only magnifies the emotions of his characters, in what I believe is the most powerfully romantic Austen adaptation.

I enjoy a good bit of Austen banter myself, but when Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden are exchanging that banter in whispered tones, standing an inch away from each other, or giving each other stomach-fluttering stares from across a 50-foot wide room, Pride and Prejudice taps into a kind of simmering sensuality that few Austen adaptations have done.

It's the "look." That gaze of unbridled want and admiration and awe (and yes, lust), that makes every romance movie sing, and makes or breaks a romantic leading man. (It only makes me a little sad that Macfayden never truly took advantage of his romantic lead chops and instead found a great second wave in his career as the brilliant stooge.) Pride and Prejudice has "the look" in spades, and boy, does it deploy it well. Before Portrait of a Lady on Fire distilled why the act of looking was an act of lovePride and Prejudice touched on it, with Wright's inarguably gorgeous direction enhancing the emotive, electric chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden.

Coupled with a colorful supporting cast with standout performances from Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, and Brenda Blethlyn — who all provide as much comic relief as they give the film a lived-in feeling — and Pride and Prejduice is an endlessly rewatchable film that reminds me of the feelings of grand romance that I believed in as a teenager.