"Just get a room!" -- it's the phrase applied by others when a man and woman begin their relationship by spitting venom at each other, and it seems to derive mostly from Jane Austen's fabled "Pride & Prejudice," in which Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy begin as fiery opponents and end up as married lovers.
It's not quite the taming of a shrew, because in Austen's worldview, leading ladies of beauty and wit weren't shrews and never had to be tamed, but merely loved and respected, and good things would follow. That's the main trajectory of "Pride," a story given an interesting, even diverting treatment by director Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew MacFadyen as the initially dour, snotty Mr. Darcy.
Films derived from Austen are usually set in a decorous indoor world, with the rigidity of the homes standing for the rigidity of society. Wright's "Pride" is a boisterous, loud, dance-mad kind of place, full of ruddy-faced peasants, dirt and hay. The whole thing feels like it was art-directed by Bruegel on holiday. No minuets or waltzes here, but spirited, flashy, almost cloglike dances by firelight. Oh, it'll make purists insane, as will the insistence on playing most of the scenes outdoors as opposed to in candle-lit rooms amid silk damask and vellum books. But in a sense it's necessary: Knightley is too vast a force of nature to be contained by tiny rooms.
Lord God, can she take control of a scene, dominate a movie, project to the last seat, radiate power and personality unto the rafters. It's a great performance. I love the way Knightley's eyes light with furious intelligence when she cuts the pompous Darcy a new something or other. MacFadyen grows on you; at first he seems not merely boorish and tongue-tied but stupid. As Austen's machinations play out, the whole performance warms up to the point where he's actually likable. More important, you feel the chemistry between them growing.
Kids, get a room!
-- Stephen Hunter