Opens Fri Feb 25
Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bend It Like Beckham, has revamped Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice with a Bollywood aesthetic. Consider that Bollywood films are characterized by over the top musical numbers, factor in that Jane Austen was the 19th Century equivalent of Jacqueline Susann, and it's obvious this is not a movie to be taken too seriously.
While the film doesn't try to replicate all the twists and turns of Pride & Prejudice's plot (thank God), the major characters are all in place. Aishwarya Rai plays Lalita (or Elizabeth, for anyone who remembers P&P), the hot-headed, hot-tempered, and just plain hot daughter of conservative Indian parents who want nothing more than to see her married. Rai, a former Miss World who is often described as the "Queen of Bollywood," gives Lalita an appealing, intelligent edge; suffice it to say that her thoughtful indictment of British imperialism is only improved by the fact she's wearing a bikini when she delivers it.
Lalita is courted by haughty Englishman Will Darcy (the extremely bland Martin Henderson), who offends her within the first five minutes and spends the rest of the movie trying to win her back. Throw in three sisters who like to dance around in pajamas, an extremely unfunny Americanized suitor, and a troublemaking ne'er do well--then watch as the plot unfolds in its inevitable, happily ever after direction.
Essentially, this is a Disney movie for grownups, in which a recycled plot is dressed up with song and dance numbers that are just catchy enough to distract you from a nagging sense that there's probably some weird underlying racist/sexist shit going down. If the finger snappin' good music and appropriately over the top dance numbers aren't enough to distract you, there are also elephants, gospel singers, a cobra dance, and that chick from Gilmore Girls. A few self-referential nods to Bollywood make it clear that this tongue-in-cheek film aims to do nothing more than entertain--and by combining the campy, colorful style of Bollywood with Jane Austen's trashy social intrigue, it does just that.