04 January, 2010

"You hear that George? Uhhhhhhhh? That's Jane Austen spinning in her grave like a cat in a tumble dryer."

Tonight a friend and I watched Lost in Austen - a British mini series and fantasy re-working of Pride and Prejudice.  I am a pretty hardcore Austen fan; I love her books because they're so dazzlingly funny and clear-sighted, if you know what I mean (which I doubt.)

That said, I am not a Darcy freak.  I don't sigh my life away over him.  Or as Amanda Price, main character of Lost in Austen puts it, "I do not sit at home with the pause button on Colin Firth in clingy pants, okay?" (Mr. Knightley on the other hand... just kidding. Sort of.)  I am not one of these much-novelized girls - Austenland, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - who read Austen every night and wish they could be magically transported back into Regency England. I hold no allusions. (Though, I do think - if I were magically transported - I would do a lot better job of fitting in than old Amanda or the novel girls do.  Really, for alleged Austen fans they do the most painfully ridiculous things sometimes.  Amanda especially.)

In spite of all this - and all the way I, as an Austen purist think they could have gone wrong - I adored Lost in Austen.  Yes, Amanda's horrible social mistakes make me screech and cover my eyes, but the production was very well done.
Great lines popped up all over the place and there were a couple of truly hilarious Austen fan jokes.  ("I'm having a rather strange post-modern moment here." "But even Colin Firth isn't Colin Firth.  They had to change the shape of his head with make-up.")

It seemed like the writers had really read the book and understood the characters.  For instance, when Amanda returns to modern London (she and Lizzie swap places), Lizzie has cut her hair, gone macrobiotic and is excited by the free new world opened to her.  I mean, that is what Lizzie would do! Clever, clever. They writers were respectful, even as they turned the whole story upside down.

lizzie with her chopped-off hair, in modern London.

Relationships are expanded.  Characters are put into situations we have never seen them in before, and we get to see how they react. And, for the most part, they react the way my friend and I agreed that the real characters would.
I don't want to give the whole plot away, but I must say - in the end, my friend and I kept shouting to Amanda, "No! Marry Wickham!" How could two devout Austen lovers shout such a thing? You'll just have find out yourself.  I'm trying to give up emoticons (what a word), but if I hadn't banned them, I would put one at the end of that last sentence.
SPOILER - Although, really, how surprising is this - Amanda, the modern girl, ends up with Darcy.  My friend and I both agreed that this was done to delight the hearts of the Austen mad - the sort who do pause the screen on Colin Firth.  A completely unsubtle ploy, in my opinion. Like - See, if you were sent into Pride and Prejudice Darcy would fall in love with YOU!  Sigh sigh!
I though, frankly, that it was a cheap ending.  Wickham is so fantastic - why can't Amanda marry him? Ugh.

Perhaps the hat turned her off.

Oh well.  (wishing for emoticons again. Oh well.)

It's a good movie.  Or mini-series I guess. Worth a watch if you're an Austen fan who won't be scandalized or slowly stiffen into open-mouthed shock watching one of the most popular works of fiction unravel agonizingly and tangle itself into a giant knot ball.

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