Lost in Austen

Long miniseries short, a major Austen fan, Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) finds Elizabeth Bennet in her shower. Because there’s a door in it that leads to Georgian England. Pride and Prejudice, in particular. Naturally, they switch places. Chaos ensues. It is fun enough to see characters you feel like you’ve known all your life in unguarded moments, but to then get to see what it’d probably be like if you yourself found yourself amidst them and couldn’t stop swearing… Even nicer. I’ve just finished it and I’m sitting here sniffling like someone actually wrote me a love letter.

The best part about this series for me was that director Dan Zeff (I can’t find a writer credit anywhere!) manages to mix up the plot points (i.e. who marries who) so thoroughly, it really is impossible to tell who’s going to end up where. Seriously (spoiler alert) – since Lizzie’s out of commission (nannying in 21st century London), Jane marries Mr. Collins, Charlotte goes off to Africa to be a missionary (maybe she could run into St. John Rivers on his crossing to India?), Bingley runs off with Lydia and Wickham turns out to be kind of a sport. And Darcy, well….he glowers and is snide and why oh why do we love him so? It has to work out in the end, obviously, but Lost in Austen is so good at creating a plausible alternative universe that "work out" could mean any number of things. I wouldn’t have blinked, for example, if Mr. Collins had gotten run over by a carriage to get Jane out of her unfortunate marriage (that didn’t happen).

I watched the 4 hour series in two big gulps, and as a result it zipped by a little too quickly for me to totally buy into the developments. And as I may have mentioned here before, Pride and Prejdudice actually isn’t my favorite Austen (Persuasion is) – I don’t agree with Amanda when she meets Darcy expecting half of the greatest love story of all time (Team Jane Eyre!!!!). I do agree that for the period, Darcy and Elizabeth were revolutionary because they worked (mostly) within the framework of their time, had verbal skirmishes and a female partner who declared herself the equal of her future spouse (You know who else did that in a dramatic stormy garden scene? Jane Eyre. Just saying)

Plus I think I saw the big, beautiful BBC miniseries before I read the book, and compared to the lushness of that adaptation, the book is so clipped and brief and precise it doesn’t pack the same emotional wollop as, you know, a significant glance from Colin Firth. Very few things do, really.

Bonus points for recognizing graduates from other Austenalia – Mr. Rushworth and Lady Bertram from the oh-so-controversial Mansfield Park appear as Mr. Bennet and Lady Catherine Du Bourgh, respectively. Also, Elizabeth from ER is Mrs. Bennet. Which is weird. Oh, and ZOMG, the Ophelia from Jude Law’s Hamlet plays Amanda Price’s sidekick in contemporary London. And the final celebrity spotting was the bitchy sister from What a Girl Wants as Caroline Bingley (who is gay, btw)

Go. Netflix. Watch. Giggle. Swoon. Try really hard to find a secret time traveling door in your shower. Enjoy.

You’re welcome.

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10 Responses to Lost in Austen

  1. Caroline Bingley is gay in the adaptation, or the actress is?

    • Whoops – that was a clumsily constructed sentence. The character is, in this retelling.

      • Please tell me she doesn’t end up with a woman. If she does, I know I don’t want to see it. I can’t stand historical stuff that has a result that is totally incongruous with the time, and at the time if she was more inclined towards women she might have married a man anyway or stayed unmarried or even possibly set up housekeeping with another woman if there was some way to rationalize it, but they certainly wouldn’t be socially acknowledged as lovers and they certainly wouldn’t talk about it.

      • No no, it’s nothing like that – at one point Bingley is about to fall for Amanda, so she tells him she prefers the company of woman to shoo him off. Later in the story Amanda mentions she’s never understood Caroline as a character… her actions are a little more machination-heavy than the average socialite. At the end when Amanda has come clean with Darcy about her past, Caroline comes to gloat that now she will marry Darcy because it is expected and polite, or something, but hints that she’s interested in Amanda too. It’s only one scene, no social discussion of homosexuality in Georgian England at all. I bet you’d like it – it’s really more of an Austen-era fantasy that is enriched by prior knowledge of all the characters, not a P&P retelling or historical examination.

      • No no, it’s nothing like that – at one point Bingley is about to fall for Amanda, so she tells him she prefers the company of woman to shoo him off. Later in the story Amanda mentions she’s never understood Caroline as a character… her actions are a little more machination-heavy than the average socialite. At the end when Amanda has come clean with Darcy about her past, Caroline comes to gloat that now she will marry Darcy because it is expected and polite, or something, but hints that she’s interested in Amanda too. It’s only one scene, no social discussion of homosexuality in Georgian England at all. I bet you’d like it – it’s really more of an Austen-era fantasy that is enriched by prior knowledge of all the characters, not a P&P retelling or historical examination.

      • Oh, also, the only reason it’s introduced at all is because of Amanda’s contemporary viewpoint (I randomly thought of this as I was mailing off the DVD)

      • Oh, also, the only reason it’s introduced at all is because of Amanda’s contemporary viewpoint (I randomly thought of this as I was mailing off the DVD)

      • Please tell me she doesn’t end up with a woman. If she does, I know I don’t want to see it. I can’t stand historical stuff that has a result that is totally incongruous with the time, and at the time if she was more inclined towards women she might have married a man anyway or stayed unmarried or even possibly set up housekeeping with another woman if there was some way to rationalize it, but they certainly wouldn’t be socially acknowledged as lovers and they certainly wouldn’t talk about it.

    • Whoops – that was a clumsily constructed sentence. The character is, in this retelling.

  2. Caroline Bingley is gay in the adaptation, or the actress is?

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