unleashing mr. darcy

Donovan Darcy (Ryan Paevey) awards Lizzie (Cindy Busby) for her participation in a dog show in Unleashing Mr. Darcy

Nearly every time there is a whisper of a re-imagining for a Jane Austen story, I’m in. Recently, Hallmark decided to join the fun with their own re-tooled version of Pride and Prejudice with Unleashing Mr. Darcy. The first hint the made-for-TV movie was connected to Jane Austen was, of course, the titular and iconic name of Mr. Darcy in the title. Further reading revealed that Unleashing Mr. Darcy was indeed a contemporary spin on the beloved Pride and Prejudice. Having never seen Hallmark Channel create a classic for the 21st century, I pressed “play” on Unleashing Mr. Darcy with a serious dose of curiosity.

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Our Lizzie in this scenario is a 30-year-old D.C. teacher, Elizabeth Scott (Cindy Busby). After finding herself made an example of by one of the wealthy parents at her private school, she is forced to reinvent her life when she  loses her job. At one of the high-end dog show events where she shows her spaniel, Bliss, Lizzie meets Donovan Darcy (Ryan Paevey). Proud and far as she can see, arrogant, the wealthy Donovan’s life seems to be one party after another, yet even still, Lizzie is intrigued by him.

Lizzie’s frustrations and curiosity grow when she winds up living right across the street from him thanks to her new job. As the pair continue running into one another both socially and professionally, their witty banter and arguments help ignite sparks of romance between the two.

unleashing mr. darcy

Zara (Sarah Desjardins) and aunt Violet (Frances Fisher) in Unleashing Mr. Darcy

Adapted from a novel by Terri Wilson, this cute romantic comedy has gumption and I like that. Though the condensed time constraints make it difficult to paint a proper Pride and Prejudice story, this film actually does a decent job of doing just that in spite of what the naysayers may say. What I enjoyed were the unique ways in which the writer coaxed the familiar out of a modernized New York setting. Some of the familiar cues are subtle, others more obvious, but that doesn’t detract from what winds up being a chick flick lover’s dream.

Aside from the well-plotted (and condensed, speaking in terms of comparison to the period drama films) script, the cast is really quite good too. Cindy Busby doesn’t give Lizzie quite the same spirit as those who have played the character before her yet I can appreciate the shifts because of a contemporary setting. The role of Darcy was in excellent hands thanks to Ryan’s cool and sophisticated portrayal; he’s appropriately arrogant while bringing out a more human side to the character. Sarah Desjardins was also darling as Darcy’s teenage sister Zara (Georgiana). Pushed aside in favor of the primary, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Greg (Bingley) and Jenna (Jane) who have a sweet romance moving parallel to Lizzie and Darcy.

unleashing mr. darcy

Darcy and Lizzie share an impromptu kiss

By setting this classic story among the world of professional dog shows, the writer didn’t have to sacrifice some of Darcy’s prejudices, which was a nice touch. Those of us who enjoy wholesome and sweet romances will find a gem in this charmer. There are plenty of laughs along with the required Pride and Prejudice ballroom scene. If this is an indication of what Hallmark can do with contemporary classics, I’d like to see them produce more of the same.

Unleashing Mr. Darcy premiered Saturday, January 23rd, but check your local Hallmark listings; it re-airs a handful of times between now and February 21st, beginning this afternoon.

Photos: Hallmark

Overall Rating

Four and a half corset rating

“You had me at hello.”

Romance Rating

four heart rating

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”


Read our list of 15 Favorite Hallmark Channel Romances or Fifteen Hallmark Hall of Fame Films to Watch. Plus visit our review archives to see what else we’re watching.

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