Films rarely get as bright or cheery as “Bride”. Combining the classic Jane Austen story with a westernised Bollywood tone, this is pure light-hearted fantasy that is so gleefully optimistic without coming across as pandering that it’s hard not to enjoy oneself during the assorted dance and musical numbers. Like all Bollywood films the costuming and locations are lavish, the look modern and yet ethnic, and locations ranging from Los Angeles to Amristar all looking far cleaner and more glamorous than they could ever be in reality.
Combining this aesthetic along with contemporising Austen’s scathing study of the class system and courtship actually proves smoother than expected. Director Gurinder Chadha effectively covers the main points of the original tale whilst still indulging in tangents ranging from street parties and beach raves to one interesting little homage to “Grease”. However compressing the story and chucking out the little details has left the plot line decidedly bland, whilst none of the actors really set the screen alight short of the lead heroinne.
In that role, the unique looking Rai does a decent job as the indecisive Lalita – combining the emotional load with a strong assertive personality to deliver an effective characterisation that has more guile than Austen’s Miss Bennett (but lacks much of her charm or wit). Henderson does fine for his part but feels inappropriately cast, Gilles is bland, and the rest including the embarassingly stereotyped mother and ‘geeky suitor’ just feel plain awkward. “Lost” star Naveen Andrews however as Darcy’s friend acquits himself whilst leading the film’s best dance number (albeit one with totally unneeded subtitles).
The pacing is fine, some of the songs go on a bit long and others aren’t needed, but when it turns back toward the source material it becomes interesting again. It’s a little too long, and little too awkward, yet with such a pretty appearance, lots of athletic dance numbers and a genuine sense of playful enthusiasm it’s easy to get swept up in all the fun and overlook its problems.