Bride & Prejudice (2004)

(In theaters, February 2005) This, all things considered, isn’t such a great film: As a hybrid adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in an Indian/Western setting, it wastes its potential. The dialogue is ordinary, the Darcy character is bland, the acting has rough edges and the third act seems thrown together. But you know what? Scarcely anything of that matters once the film is over and it makes you feel as if the world is a better place. Hot on the success of Bend It Like Beckham, director Gurinder Chadha delivers a clever blending of Indian, British and American culture, playing both to Eastern and Western crowds through its adaptation of Bollywood and Hollywood movie conventions. The tone is fast, colourful, breezy and definitely playful (Bride & Prejudice tickles the fourth wall at least twice, calling the purpose of the first musical number and, later, double-staging a fight in front of a movie screen.) Aishwarya Rai definitely lives up to her advance billing as “the world’s most beautiful woman”: her universal appeal shines brightly every time she’s on-screen, despite stiff competition from a number of other gorgeous Indian women. While there’s an energy lag in the third act (probably linked to the dearth of musical numbers in the film’s second half), the film ends on a suitably high romantic note, leaving you with the impression that the world is in better shape at the end of the movie than at the beginning.

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