A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Death Comes to Pemberley is a period-piece murder mystery that's beautiful, slow, and talky and will positively bore the stuffing out of young viewers. However, there isn't much to worry about should older kids catch a glimpse of the goings-on while Mom and Dad watch. There is some talk of ghosts, and a murder occurs off-screen. A dead body in rigor mortis is shown at length, with a fatal head wound examined and shown. The dead person's loved ones shriek and cry in grief and fear and describe his murder.
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What's the story?
Six years after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew Rhys), the beloved characters originally introduced in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are now readying themselves for their annual estate ball when DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY. It seems that George Wickham (Matthew Goode), the husband of Elizabeth's sister Lydia (Jenna Coleman), was riding in a carriage to Pemberley with Captain Denny (Tom Canton) when the two men had an argument and exited the cart, presumably to duel. Two shots rang out. Now Captain Denny is dead, and Mr. Wickham is accused of his murder. Can Lizzie sniff out the murderer in time to ensure all the silver is polished for the ball?
Is it any good?
The potent pleasures of a period piece all are on display here: sumptuous Regency costumes, shining horses plunging and rearing, servants in little hats. It's also typical for a period piece to move slowly and deliberately, with scenes of action undercut by long, leisurely scenes in which people discuss the impact of what just happened. However, Death Comes to Pemberly is a particularly slow-burning example of the genre -- so slow-burning that some viewers might find the miniseries dull. Anna Maxwell Martin, so good in other period dramas such as Bleak House and The Bletchley Circle, seems both too mature and too staid for fizzy Lizzy, whose keen and sardonic wit distinguishes her from blander literary heroines. Jenna Coleman is, in a word, shrill as her sister Lydia. And though Matthew Rhys has gravitas, his Mr. Darcy comes off as more of an insensitive jerk than ever.
On the other hand, Austen fans will be thrilled for a new take on the author's much-adapted works. And since the Pemberley miniseries was made under the umbrella of PBS's long-running Mystery brand, it shares a similar vibe with old Inspector Poirot or Agatha Christie mysteries. Pemberley is beautiful, and thoughtful and slow, but it's not an unrewarding viewing experience for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the setting for this story. To what book do we owe the literary creation of Pemberley, and what is its place in history?
Why are there so many adaptations of Jane Austen's work, including books, movies, and television shows? Why does the work of an author dead for two centuries have relevance for viewers and readers today?
Are the Darcys wealthy or poor? How can you tell? Who in the cast has less money? Who has more? How do the filmmakers show the disparity in wealth among characters?
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