Lost In Austen (2008)

Lost in Austen- TV miniseries

The idea behind this mini series is great.  An Austen fanatic ends up accidentally switching places with Elizabeth Bennet (through some weird-looking portal/door/cupboard in her bathroom), and has to try and fit in with her new life- who couldn’t adore that?  Unfortunately the series tries to change the storyline too much, to the point where the characters are no longer defined by those in the novel, and this makes it a bit confusing (lesbians, falling in love with the wrong people etc).

Jemima Rooper does well in this piece mainly because she isn’t trying to be Lizzy.  She pulls off the modern-day female freaking out from stumbling into the regency era, but she is no Elizabeth Bennet- and the lack of a proper replacement makes the entire piece lose its charm- there is none of the wit that we need to keep it alive.  Amanda Price (Rooper’s character) blunders through a lot of it, but this doesn’t act as comedy so much as it does to show us how awkward we would all be in the situation (no happy thought).  There are a few delightful moments where modern-day practices collide with the old gentility.  The notions of cleavage and lipgloss for instance.

 Unfortunately Elliot Cowan doesn’t quite make the mark as Mr. Darcy and appears like a child in dress-up.  He is at least rough and brute-ish to Miss. Price, but he doesn’t have the same softness to him that is needed to forgive his harsh words, pride and prejudice.  He does act well in the first scenes in which he appears, such as at the ball, as they are so different from the book that it’s more fascinating than critiqueable.

Although the faults are many, the simple genius behind the script and situation redeems the piece.  It’s also great for multi-layering some of the characters.  Lydia becomes quite likeable in this piece, and Bingley shows a roguish side.  There are plenty of plays on the ‘What if?’ scenario, particularly regarding Wickham, and it keeps your attention remarkably well throughout its 226 minute entirety.  If you want loud belly laughs with the girls, and yet something that will still allow you to get mushy at the romantic lines then this is a must-have for the P&P collection.

As for the other characters.  Mrs Bennet (Alex Kingston) is painfully mean in this version, but you can understand why in the context of the piece.  Some of her retorts to Amanda are pretty slack, and it was actually pretty cool to see her suddenly change her opinion about the characters she had read about for so long.  The Mr. Collins (Guy Henry) is the freakiest, creepiest Mr. Collins I have ever had the displeasure of watching in any version of pride and prejudice, and although it suited the series nicely… I was too freaked out to watch him on screen- similarly his brothers (another deviation from the book that appears to be solely for comic value) were all amusingly weird in their own ways, although none of them came close to being as repelling as Mr. Collins.

Several things jarred about the piece- The sisters’ reactions to Amanda turning up weren’t particularly natural, and not enough questions were asked to make it plausible in the slightest (particularly regarding where they met, her clothes, her life etc).  Mr Bennet was refreshing, and seemed to take much more of an interest in the daughters lives and care over them than in any other version- which set him in much more of a fatherly position. 

However the whole thing left me reeling with questions they could have attempted to answer.  Where was Austen in relation to this?  Why were there variations between the book and the “real-life” that Amanda sees?  Which version is the correct one?  If the mini series had answered these it would be much higher in my estimation, however I still loved it… and in a way, the small faults that I disliked were also elements that I found enjoyable. 

Honourable mentions: The scene where the book of P&P ends up torn up all over Pemberley… it’s so sad it’s just beautiful.

Dishonourable mentions: Um… Jane and Mr. Collins?  I seriously don’t think so.  And the fish monger scene, that just seemed a bit silly.

Rating: ****

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One response to “Lost In Austen (2008)

  1. Pingback: Lost In Austen (2011) « A universally acknowledged truth

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