Originally posted by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Jane Austen’s enduring 1813 romantic novel “Pride and Prejudice” has been remade numerous times over the past 80 years in TV and film.
There’s the Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson classic from 1940. Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy in the 1995 miniseries (as well as in the comedic “Bridget Jones Diary,” a 2001 homage to the book.) Kiera Knightley earned an Academy Award best actress nomination as Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 version. And three years ago, there was actually a film called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
Now Lifetime has recast the novel in modern-day trappings featuring an all-black cast, dubbing it “Pride and Prejudice Atlanta.” The movie premieres Saturday night, June 1.
It’s a light, frothy 2019 version where women have far more agency (and far less incentive) to get married than they did in the 19th century.
The change in social norms only makes life more exasperating for the traditional mother of five daughters who remain unmarried. Jackée Harry (“227”) plays Georgina Bennet - who also has written a book on how to snag a hubby - with the proper mix of exuberance, whimsy and determination.
As the film starts, Mrs. Bennet sees pro golfer Charles Bingley (Brad James) at church and immediately tries hooking him up with her widow oldest daughter Jane (Raney Branch).
“I think we hit the jackpot this time!” Mrs. Bennet cooed in the opening minutes of the film. “A professional golfer, a churchgoer and single.”
But her tougher project is her closed-off social activist daughter Lizzie Bennet (Tiffany Hines).
She has yet to find Mr. Right. And she won’t go for Mr. Right Now. . “Marriage ain’t a plan,” Lizzie said to her mom. “It’s not the be all end all. If a woman ain’t happy alone, they won’t be happy with a man.”
Her mom’s old-school philosophy? “You can be a strong independent woman after you get married!”
Two possible suitors - politician Will Darcy (Juan Antonio) and real estate developer Antwan Tippett Jr. (Timon Kyle Durrett) - both have money and good looks but do they meet Lizzie’s high moral standings?
Despite Lizzie’s resistance, she faces constant and almost annoying feedback that she needs a man to be complete. “I know that you love to help people and I get it but what about your life? What about love?” her best friend asks Lizzie. “You can’t hide from it forever!”
Harry, who was handpicked for the motherly role, found the entire film a hoot to do. “I enjoyed every scene I was in,” she cooed in a recent interview. “I couldn’t wait to go to work!”
She not only praised Hines’ work ethic, she also loved being paired with her long-time friend Reginald VelJohnson (“Die Hard,” “Family Matters,”) as her preacher husband. “It was nothing but comfort,” Harry said. “I’d do anything for Reggie.”
Rhonda Baraka, the director and Woodstock resident, shot numerous scenes in Marietta, where she used to live. Lizzie in the film is trying to save the Strand Theatre from developers and several scenes are set in picturesque Marietta Square.
“We really amped up the activism part for Lizzie and make that an issue between her and Darcy,” Baraka said. “She’s a woman with a lot of heart.”
And for casting, there are some familiar Atlanta faces including Keshia Knight-Pulliam (“The Cosby Show”) and Reginae Carter (“Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta” and daughter of Lil Wayne).
Ultimately, Baraka said she hopes this film “exposes a classic story to a new audience. And culturally, it gives us an opportunity to tell it in a different way” through an African-American lens.
“Pride and Prejudice Atlanta,” 8 p.m. Saturday, June 1, 2019, Lifetime
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