The Scoop: 2008 TV-14, directed by Dan Zeff and starring Jemima Rooper, Tom Riley, and Elliot Cowan
Summary Capsule: A young woman gets trapped in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Eunice’s Rating: I find myself at once both charmed and vexed. Perhaps even, one could say, quite flummoxed.
Eunice’s Review: Several years ago Lost in Austen, a four part miniseries about a Jane Austen fan who goes into Pride and Prejudice, had fans of Austen adaptions all aflutter. And, yea, much woo was thrown around. So when I first saw Lost in Austen my expectations were through the roof.
Our heroine, one Amanda Price, is your average late twenties modern day city dweller. She has a bitterly divorced mother, a job where she is beaten down all day, and comes home to her slob boyfriend. Her only relief from this rut is her favorite book, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. One particularly bad night when the boyfriend drunkenly proposes with a pull tab, an angry Amanda hallucinates that she sees P&P’s main character Elizabeth Bennet in her bathroom. Depressed, Amanda goes on a bit of a sulk-fest getting drunk on prose and Colin Firth.
It’s then that Elizabeth pops up in her bathroom again. A mystery door that has been walled up since before Amanda moved into her apartment leads to the Bennet’s attic at Longbourne. But it turns out Elizabeth wants to escape the book and tricks Amanda into going through the door locking it behind her. Now to continue, if you’ve never read the book or seen any of the adaptations, you may be a little confused from here on out, so I present… *drum roll*
Eunice’s Crash Course in P&P:
In the Regency Period are the five Bennet girls: Jane the oldest is quiet and kind, Elizabeth is the strong willed protagonist, Lydia is a dingbat who is uniform happy, Kitty is following close on her heels, and Mary is the olde times version of a nerd. They are all single, which is a problem. Stuff happens. Odious relation Mr. Collins is thinking about marrying one of the girls, but instead chooses Elizabeth’s best friend Charlotte Lucas. Jane falls in love with Mr. Bingley, but Mr. Bingley bows to the will of his friend Mr. Darcy, who thinks the match too low due to connections and lack of money, causing Elizabeth to hate Darcy. Stuff happens. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth who says she wouldn’t marry him if he was “the last man in the world.” Meanwhile Wickham has come on the scene, completely turning Lydia’s head, but we find out he’s a complete scoundrel. Stuff happens. Long story short, Lydia runs off with Wickham, Darcy overcomes his PREJUDICE and saves the day, Bingley asks Jane to marry him, and Elizabeth overcomes her PRIDE and realizes she loves Darcy. Everyone rides off into the English sunset in a coach and four.
At least that’s how it is suppose to go.
Elizabeth’s family, particularly Jane and the father Mr. Bennet, excepts Amanda as Elizabeth’s friend from near London and that the two have traded places. Amanda is wowed at meeting all these amazing characters she’s been in love with since she was a child and stays the night. When she wakes up and it’s not a dream, she freaks out.
She makes her first major mistake by standing out with her strange clothes and hair and way of speaking when Mr. Bingley arrives taking his attention away from Jane. Realizing the implications of no Elizabeth, she tries banging on the secret door. See, not only has she already messed up the story just by being there, she realizes the importance of Elizabeth not being there. Amanda has arrived somewhere near the end of chapter two, right before the all important Meryton ball that introduces the man, the myth, the brooding Mr. Darcy.
But Elizabeth won’t answer.
Unable to go back to the real world, Amanda decides to soldier on through the story. She’s read it a million times, so it should be easy right? Her lack of etiquette and proper manners at the ball causes her to stand out in every bad way, she dances badly, accidentally insults Bingley making Darcy angry at her, she gets drunk, and ends up kissing Bingley causing Mrs. Bennet to threaten her.
I was so looking forward to Lost in Austen the first time I saw it, that I started watching when I knew I couldn’t finish it. It was about here that I took my break. And I wasn’t exactly over the moon with it. So at work, while I maybe should’ve been working, I found myself pondering over what was wrong. I gotta admit I found myself very frustrated with Amanda. Like most of the naysayers of this miniseries, it almost lost me at the “landing strip” part. Yet, I continued to ponder. I’m a fan of Jemima Rooper, I still liked the idea, and the fact that I was thinking on it so much meant there must be something there.
And then it hit me. Amanda is NOT a Jane Austen fan. And certainly not what’s called a “Janeite.” She couldn’t tell you anything about Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot or Gathering Peascods. She is strictly a fan of of the one book and the 1995 Colin Firth miniseries. The way she thinks of Pride and Prejudice is more as a romanticized fairytale than as a story about people from a certain time and place. Armed with this new outlook, I found Amanda a much more sympathetic character. So be warned going in, Amanda comes off a little flighty and messes up a lot.
The best thing about Lost in Austen, for me, is that it takes the characters and makes them people. Also, that it asks the question of what would happen if the main character weren’t there, something I can only remember seeing in comic books. Usually with funny results, Amanda bumbles through the storyline because instead of filling Elizabeth’s role she tries to force events to happen, especially setting up Darcy with the absent Elizabeth while feeling guilty about her growing attraction to him.
As the characters become more like real people to Amanda it takes a bit of a dark turn. Jane marries Mr. Collins, Bingley becomes a drunk, Charlotte goes to Africa in despair, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are on the outs, Lydia still runs off, and Amanda ends up thrown out of Longbourne with nothing but the clothes on her back forcing her to get help from main antagonist Wickham. Without Elizabeth there to support Jane, keep the balance in the Bennet house, and give Darcy a verbal kick in the pants, the story spirals out of control.
I really only have two problems with Lost in Austen (well three including Amanda, but she grew on me) and the first is Elizabeth. She is so cold hearted in her selfishness, leaving family, friends, and Amanda to their fates, even though she can hear Amanda telling her how wrong everything’s gone. It is completely out of character. But I realize that if Elizabeth was there, there would be no Lost in Austen so I’ll forgive it.
Jane, however, in the absence of her sister and next to the obviousness of Amanda becomes a layered character. And a tortured Mr. Bingley who is willing to punch Darcy is kinda cool, and the twist on the usual story is great. Morven Christie and Tom Mison are super awesome in their roles.
What I cannot forgive is something so terrible, so near sacrilegious I shudder to type it. Darcy does not live up to Darcy. I’ve never seen Elliot Cowan in anything else, so I don’t know how much of it is his fault, but Darcy is such a hateful person in this. Proper Darcy’s failing is in the social sense, he has so many people he feels responsible for and been stabbed in the back that he’s shut off the emotional part of himself, making him rude. In Lost in Austen he’s a cruel, ungallant, nasty bit of work. While everyone becomes more rounded Darcy stays two dimensional and hollow. There’s no epiphany where he realizes he’s wrong, and -unlike in the book- there’s not much he’s actually right about. Not to mention he comes off like a robot. Where other Darcys emote through their eyes and small details, this one looks the same at all times. He could be hungry and thinking about how lovely it would be to have a snack for all I know. (The whole ‘rising out of the water’ scene is maybe my favorite, so I’ll give credit for that.)
What I can tell you is that I should never come away from something related to Pride and Prejudice thinking “I would totally take Wickham over Darcy any day of the week and any second of the day.” I mean what kind of a world do we live in where Wickham is the hero? I ask you! Tom Riley’s Wickham is wow. And I love, Love, LOVE this take on his storyline, but I won’t spoil it here…
-Will however insert minor spoiler here-
…The way the scenes between Amanda and Wickham are written I thought they were going to end up together. When we get to the end I find myself wondering just what it is Darcy and Amanda see in each other, and feeling like I did at the end of Pretty in Pink when Molly Ringwald goes off with Blaine instead of Duckie.
It’s a mix of silly fun and drama and frustration. Makes me want to rant about the main characters and sing the praises of the side characters. It’s fanfic creative and fluffy, but it still made me think of one of my favorite books in a different light. With the exception of Mr. Darcy, I actually like Lost in Austen, have rewatched it many times, and would recommend it to anyone to try. Austen fan or otherwise.
- The Miss Spencer bit. Back to the Future Calvin Klein reference?
- Wickham is just so darn sexy
- There was a scene that had to be cut due to copyright of Amanda actually singing Downtown. It’s a shame it’s cut because it shows a softer emotion from Darcy towards her. Totally worth seeing.
- It seems there might be an American remake in the works?
Amanda: It is a truth, generally acknowledged, that we are all longing to escape.
Amanda: Is this like the Jim Carrey thing only Period?!
Bingley: Brava, Miss Price! And whenever life is gettin’ me down, I shall be sure to go ‘Downtown.’ Eh, Darcy?
Darcy: With alacrity.
Darcy: If you wound Bingley you will find my displeasure baleful and entirely unrelenting, for my-
Amanda: “Good opinion once lost is lost forever.” Yes, I know.
Wickham: How very alike we are, Miss Price. We see the world the same way, we have the same scent. I can smell myself on you.
Wickham: A war with France is traditional. A war with Paris? Unthinkable.
Amanda: Hear that sound, George? Duh-uh-uh! That’s Jane Austen spinning in her grave like a cat in a tumble dryer.
Amanda: Wickham, you are a bastard, but you are the right bastard at the right time.
Wickham: Everyone you know, Miss Price, will one day prise your fingers from the raft and watch you drown. It is the way of the world. Everyone. Except me.
If You Liked This Movie Try These:
- Pride and Prejudice (1995)
- Bride and Prejudice
- Pride & Prejudice (2004)