Elizabeth Bennett is the second-born of five daughters. Her family is comfortable on their family land known as Longbourne, but English laws of the early nineteenth century allow an estate to only be inherited by a male heir. The Bennett girls will be homeless and penniless upon the death of their Father. Despite this threat, Elizabeth and some of her sisters still dream of a marriage for love.This 2005 retelling of the Jane Austen masterpiece is true to the original plot. Elizabeth is a witty, stubborn girl. She is the favorite of her clever yet weary Father. Jane, the eldest daughter, is called the family beauty. She is as kind as she is beautiful. The younger sisters lack the maturity and social awareness of the older two. Lydia and Kitty are boy crazy and beyond silly, not unlike their Mother. Mary is serious but socially inept.
When an eligible bachelor rents the nearby estate, Netherfield, the pressure to find a husband of means is intensified for the Bennett sisters. At a ball, they are introduced to the tenant, Charles Bingley, his haughty sister, Caroline, and their dear family friend, Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s first impression of Darcy is not good. She finds him to be conceited and insulting. Mr. Darcy sulks the entire evening and refuses to dance with anyone. Though he tries to hide it, Darcy is obviously curious about Elizabeth. She is different from the other ladies. Mr. Bingley takes an instant liking to Jane Bennett. The two are inseparable the entire evening. The rest of the Bennett family manages to embarrass themselves in one way or another.
Then the next day, Jane is invited to dine with Caroline Bingley. Her Mother makes her go on horseback as rain is expected. Mrs. Bennett’s wishes are granted as the rain does come. As a triumph for her Mother, Jane catches a severe cold and must stay at Netherfield for a few days. Elizabeth also stays with the Bingleys to look after her sister. In the evening, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy continue to squabble over minor things such as what defines a woman as accomplished. Caroline maintains a rude aloofness toward Elizabeth unless trying to draw the attention of Mr. Darcy.
After Lizzie and a recovered Jane return home, a guest arrives at Longbourne. It is Mr. Collins, the relative upon whom Longbourne is entailed. Mr. Collins is an arrogant, bumbling man. He clumsily makes clear his intention to find a bride from one of the Bennett daughters. He is steered away from Jane and sets his sights on Elizabeth.
While in town purchasing ribbon, Elizabeth and her sisters make the acquaintance of a soldier named Mr. Wickham. Lizzie’s first impression of him is that he is an easy going, worthy man. The younger Bennett girls flirt with him mercilessly. While walking, the group encounters Bingley and Darcy. It is clear that Darcy dislikes Wickham. When Darcy storms off without any civility, Wickham spins a sinister tale. He reveals that he and Darcy were boyhood friends and as close as brothers until Darcy denied him the living the late senior Darcy desired him to have. Elizabeth’s dislike for Mr. Darcy increases.
Mr. Collins accompanies the family to yet another ball where he is also an embarrassment. Lizzie had looked forward to seeing Mr. Wickham and is disappointed to learn that he will not attend the ball. After dancing with Mr. Collins, Elizabeth is shocked when Mr. Darcy requests a dance. She is too flabbergasted to refuse. As they dance and banter, Elizabeth makes known to Darcy that she disapproves of his treatment of Wickham. As the Bennett family leaves, Bingley’s sister hammers in that she disapproves of Charles’ attachment to Jane.
Later, Mr. Collins obtusely proposes to Elizabeth, who rejects him. Mrs. Bennett is infuriated by her daughter’s refusal. She tells her that she will never speak to her again. Her Father claims that he wouldn’t speak to her if she did marry him.
Jane receives a curt letter from Caroline Bingley that they are closing Netherfield. Jane is devastated. Everyone is confused as they were sure Mr. Bingley was falling in love with Jane.
Elizabeth’s dear friend, Charlotte Lucas, visits Elizabeth. Charlotte shares that she has accepted a proposal from Mr. Collins. Elizabeth can’t hide her disappointment. Charlotte explains that she is twenty-seven and she is tired of being a burden to her family. She feels she will be happier as Mrs. Collins.
Jane travels to London to visit her aunt and Uncle in the hopes of seeing Mr. Bingley. Unfortunately, this does not happen.
Elizabeth visits the new Mrs. Charlotte Collins at Rosings. Charlotte confesses that she avoids her husband as much as possible and is quite happy running her home. The Collins and Lizzie are invited to the grand mansion of Lady Catherine DeBurgh. Elizabeth is surprised to see Mr. Darcy. He is the nephew of the Lady and the intended husband for the sickly Anne DeBurgh. Lady DeBurgh is rude and meddling. For the first time, Elizabeth and Darcy actually have a civil conversation. She playfully tells his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam how rudely Darcy behaved when they met. Darcy explains that he is not good at conversation with strangers. Elizabeth suggests that he practice, as she should practice playing music.
The next day, Elizabeth is alone in the Collins home. Mr. Darcy appears and seems rather unsettled. He makes some small talk and abruptly leaves. Later at church amid a boring sermon by Mr. Collins, Col. Fitzwilliam lets slip that Darcy is a loyal friend. He praises Darcy for saving a close friend from a bad marital match. Elizabeth stews as she realizes Darcy is the reason Bingley left so abruptly, jilting Jane. Elizabeth walks in a rainstorm seeking solace. She runs into Mr. Darcy who shockingly proposes to her. Elizabeth is surprised and insulted. She is insulted because he also told her how it went against his better judgment to care for her but he wanted her as his wife anyway. Lizzie’s pride is injured and she angrily refuses him. He asks for an explanation. Lizzie tells him that his manor of proposal and the fact that he caused the unhappiness of a beloved sister and his ill treatment of Mr. Wickham meant he was the last man she could ever marry.
Mr. Darcy presents Elizabeth with a letter of defense. In his writing he explains that Wickham was a family friend but not a trustworthy one. Darcy reveals that Wickham gambled the money he had been given. Then he deviously tried to elope with Darcy’s then fifteen -year old sister to get his hands on her inheritance. Elizabeth realizes that her first impressions about both men were very wrong. Darcy then explains that he did not believe Jane had strong feelings for Bingley and he was protecting his friend from embarrassment. He outlined that aside from Elizabeth and Jane, the rest of the Bennett family did not always behave appropriately in public. At this time in English history, manners and public behavior were a big deal. The letter humbles Elizabeth.
After her return home, Elizabeth is invited to travel with her Aunt and Uncle. They are near Pemberly, the lavish home of Mr. Darcy and decide to visit. Elizabeth is assured that Darcy will not be home. Elizabeth is in awe of the beautiful mansion and grounds. She gets behind the tour and is shocked to stumble upon Darcy and his sister at a pianoforte. She flees outside and is followed by Mr. Darcy. She apologizes for the intrusion. He is kind and gentle, so different from her first impression of him. He invites Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle to dine with them.
Elizabeth and Ms. Darcy are fast friends. She has a wonderful visit at Pemberly and gets along well with Darcy. Upon their return to the hotel, there is an alarming letter for Elizabeth. Lydia Bennett has run off with Mr. Wickham. Lizzie now knows his character and doubts his intentions can be good, especially since Lydia has no inheritance. When Mr. Darcy learns of the calamity, he excuses himself. If Wickham does not marry Lydia, she will be considered a ruined woman by society. The family would be stained and the rest of the sisters could forget their marriage prospects and any hope of a comfortable future.
The situation miraculously is resolved and Wickham does marry Lydia. When the dubious newlyweds visit Longbourne, Elizabeth can barely look at her new brother in law. Lydia lets slip that Mr. Darcy was at their wedding. Elizabeth realizes that his intervention is what saved the day. Mr. Bingley returns to Netherfield and proposes to an eager Jane. When a contemplative Lizzie stumbles upon Darcy on an early morning walk, she thanks him for all he has done. He confesses that he did it only for her and renews his marriage offer. “You have bewitched me body and soul and I love, love, love you.” Lizzie graciously accepts this time. The film ends with the happy couple sharing a quiet moment alone. (Sigh)