Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Aren’t you curious why women love this film?

Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesFirst I gave you a positive review of Jane Got a Gun, and now I admit without shame that I fully embrace Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. To paraphrase Kelly Le Brock and her lamentable old TV commercial for Pantene, “Don’t hate me because I am mentally ill.”

To begin with, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does full justice to Jane Austen’s novel with or without zombies. There was no cutting corners with the dialog, and the wardrobe of all the parties accurately reflected life in 19th century England.

However, what makes this movie work is the fact that women are the stars of a Hollywood action film. For all the discussions surrounding the topic of diversity heading in to this year’s Oscars, what is completely overlooked is the subject of women becoming a dominating force in a film genre previously dominated by men.

More to the point, these women do not sit around and cry out for help. Just like you saw in this year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Daisy Ridley, Lily James’ Elizabeth Bennett does not want her hand held. These ladies may understand the significance of a kitchen, but they are first and foremost warriors.

While Hollywood continues to wrestle with the issue of race as does most of our country, women have made a startling breakthrough in the cinema this year. Think of Charlize Theron and her band of sisters in Mad Max: Fury Road. Need I remind you of Rebecca Ferguson in the most recent Mission Impossible where she is called upon to repeatedly rescue Tom Cruise, not vice versa? And then there was Evangeline Lilly, who played a mean arrow-shooting elf in the last two Hobbit films (2013 and 2014). She also helped to breathe a bit of life into last year’s Ant-Man.

Here, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies focuses on the four Bennett sisters. They all dress appropriately as their mother (Sally Phillips) prepares them to entice a wealthy suitor as a husband. On the other hand, you see them hide knives and daggers in their boots and sheer hose as they dress, and you quickly learn that these sisters could easily join Charlize Theron’s gang in Mad Max.

Sure, there are some interesting male leads, particularly centering around Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy and Jack Huston as George Wickham. One is a hero while one becomes a villain, but it is our girls who will decide who they marry, not vice versa.

I should also mention the wonderful performance of Charles Dance as the Bennett sisters’ father. He is splendid in every scene as he encourages his daughters to stand strong and unafraid, and it is worth remembering his recent performances in Woman in Gold (2015) and his superior role as the commander challenging Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (2014).

While this is a film that many will avoid, remember that most of the audience embraces this movie from beginning to end. I was one of them.