“The only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up”- ‘Jane Austen’ fictionalized in Miss Austen Regrets
Before I say that I loved this little dramatized biography of Austen’s life (directed by Jeremy Lovering), I need to point out that it is a complete understatement. I spammed my friends to watch this, because it was so insightful and heartfelt. Obviously, any biographical material of Jane Austen (fictionalised or otherwise) will include great insight into Pride and Prejudice, by matter of association. Miss Austen Regrets is no exception and I completely loved the small snippets of Darcy that we got through this BBC film.
I’ve read some criticisms that Jane (played by Olivia Williams) is too sharp and mean in this production, with one user commenting on ImDb that Austen appeared “unpleasant, sarcastic and resentful” however I felt none of that. I thought she was real and witty, and reminded me very much of Elizabeth Bennet (as well as a smidgen of Emma Woodhouse and even Elinor Dashwood at times). I loved how certain lines from Pride and Prejudice were weaved into the piece, supposedly said by Jane herself out loud, or as a result of having written it. “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” I noticed come up in the scripting. It was great to see this, as it suggested that her writings (which she called her children) were very much always at the forefront of her mind.
The piece itself is also very pretty, with fantastic camera angles and dramatic effects. The costumes are beautiful, there’s plenty of childish playfulness, romance, action and sadness. It’s completely different to Becoming Jane– so don’t expect even a similar storyline. Both of the films are filled with assumptions and a lot of artistic license, but I think that this one feels more “Janeish” to me. Imogen Poots as Fanny Knight was also a delight, if a little bratty at times, and is completely beautiful.
The concerns that Austen purportedly had about Pride and Prejudice, and the types of readers who were her fans as a result of it, were things I had never considered- definitely an eye opener. Will readers prefer Pride and Prejudice to Emma? Is Emma too serious for Pride and Prejudice readers? Austen’s agonizing continues on-and-on, and you can understand why. This was a woman who, as is so often pointed out, never had her Mr. Darcy, but wrote about him so well, a woman who was modern in an old-fashioned society.
An honourable mention HAS to go to the feeling of sisterly affection that I got between Jane and Cassandra (Greta Scacchi). Some of the moments were incredibly heartfelt, and all the sacrifices they made for one another were lovely. I have to say, it reminded me a lot more of Elinor and Marianne than of Lizzy and Jane, despite Austen being so ‘Elizabeth’ esque.
But, I think the question that comes from this drama-film… would Austen have regretted her life? Would she regret refusing Harris Bigg? If she could see the effect she has had on today… would she regret her life?
Psst… word on the grapevine says you can pick it up from your local ABC shop for only 20 bucks!