Bride & Prejudice [2004]

The exotic sounds, vibrant colors, and ecstatic dancing of Bollywood collide with the cunning storytelling of Jane Austen in Bride & Prejudice (from the writer/director of previous East/West hybrid Bend It Like Beckham). When smart, outspoken Lalita Bakshi (Indian beauty Aishwarya Rai) meets Will Darcy (Martin Henderson, The Ring), she finds this American businessman arrogant and conceited--but because his best friend is falling in love with her sister, Lalita agrees to travel around India with Darcy. On the trip, a childhood friend of Darcy's named Johnny (Daniel Gillies, Spider-Man 2) both tickles Lalita's fancy and confirms her worst suspicions about Darcy. But as events unfold, Lalita wonders if she hasn't misjudged Darcy--and Johnny. Austen fans will be find much to criticize; Bride & Prejudice transplants the basic plot of Pride & Prejudice to modern India, but not much of Austen's sly wit or her insights about character and society have survived the translation. Henderson, though handsome, lacks the intimidating charisma of previous Mr. Darcys (including Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth). Thank goodness for the delightful Rai, here making her first all-English-language movie. She commands the screen like a true star (unsurprisingly, she's hugely popular in India, and previously starred in a more homegrown Austen adaptation: I Have Found It, based on Sense & Sensibility). For Western audiences unfamiliar with the freewheeling exuberance of Indian movies--wild musical numbers can break out at almost any moment--Bride & Prejudice offers an engaging taste of this fantastic cinematic style. --Bret Fetzer

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