Lost in Austen
The many Jane Austen adaptations produced since the 2005 Pride and Prejudice necessitated something new in the way of Georgian costume drama; the response from 2008 was Lost in Austen, a fantasy mini-series based on Pride and Prejudice and its role in modern popular culture.
The premise of the series was well-chosen. Many modern Jane Austen lovers think of the courtship of Lizzy and Darcy with regret and even envy; and in Lost in Austen, one such, Amanda Price, gets her way. She falls out of her unromantic relationship and dull job into the world of Pride and Prejudice, having exchanged places with Elizabeth Bennett.
Naturally, however well she knows the events of the book, Miss Price is bewildered by the practicalities of Georgian life – such as having to clean her teeth with chalk. She is completely cast adrift, however, when it transpires that, with Lizzie away in modern-day Hammersmith, the plot she knows and loves so well doesn’t seem to develop as it should.
Unfortunately, although the script writers have done their period research well, and include several amusing hints towards Jane Austen’s oeuvre, first of which is naming their main character Miss Price, on the whole the plot and characters of Pride and Prejudice are not improved by Lost in Austen.
Although both Mr and Mrs Bennett show some unexpected determination for a good cause towards the end of the series, and Lizzy appears to great advantage in modern-day London, neither Bingley nor Darcy comes off well. Bingley’s inconsistency, spinelessness, and maudlin self-pity, makes it difficult to comprehend Jane’s enduring love for him.
Darcy, unfortunately, does not receive the set-downs he deserves at Miss Price’s hands. The script seemed jumbled, and the ending was too rushed to satisfy all the problems thrown up by the changes in the plot.
Certainly the series produced a few little gems, notably in the casting, which featured Hugh Bonneville and Lindsay Duncan, both of whom appeared in the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park, and Guy Henry, who starred in the 1996 Emma.
It also went some way to weigh up the dreams and realities of life in Georgian England by showing Amanda’s stumbling in a world where everyone else glides through the etiquette.
However, these details did not reconcile me to such key plot points as Jane’s sacrifice to Mr Collins, or Lydia’s elopement with Mr Bingley. For a modern-day interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, I would recommend Bridget Jones’s Diary instead.
Featured image: Still from Lost in Austen (2008) via The Guardian.
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