Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lost in Austen

Just by chance I happened to notice in Entertainment Weekly that the Ovation Channel was going to be showing the four part series called 'Lost in Austen' on Sunday and Monday. I had heard about this series which is about what happens when a modern London woman stumbles into the world of Pride and Prejudice by mistake.

I have a confession to make. While I loved the book P&P and all four movie/TV versions of the story, I am not one of those people who read Austen paraliterature. Meaning the many sequels that have been written to P&P about everyone from Elizabeth's sisters, to Bingley and Darcy's sisters to various cousins. There is even a mystery series starring Elizabeth and Darcy. As well as a host of other books that are continuations of Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense and Sensibility (no one seems to write sequels to Northanger Abbey!).

So I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this story, but funnily enough I loved it. It was clear that the screenwriter had great affection, not only for the book, but also for the wave of Darcymania that was created when Colin Firth played Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries. The story is pretty simple. Amanda Price has a boring job, and a lout of a boyfriend, who proposes by popping the top on his lager can and presenting her with the ring. She adores P&P which she has read many times, primarily for the reasons that most of us do, the language, the costumes, and the manners. One day she opens her bathroom door and finds Elizabeth Bennett standing in the bathtub. Apparently there is a door that goes from her world to the modern world. Amanda is intrigued and walks through only to find the door shut behind her and no way to get out. While she is trapped in the Regency world, Elizabeth is in the modern one.

Amanda can't believe that she has stumbled into the world of P&P. When she is discovered by Mr. Bennett, she tells him that Elizabeth has gone to Hammersmith to write. Soon everything that can go wrong can wrong. Mrs. Bennett immediately hates her, Wickham isn't as bad as he's made out to be, Bingley is still a wimp, and Jane finds herself married to Mr. Collins! And to top it all off, Darcy falls in love with Amanda!

I won't give away the ending but this was an amusing way to spend my weekend. The series should be out soon on DVD in the states and I would recommend renting it. Jemima Rooper was great as the perplexed Amanda who finds Darcy a little bit more than she can handle at times, and Gemma Atherton, who also appeared in Quantum Solace and Tess of the D'urbervilles, is a worthy addition to the list of actresses who have played Elizabeth Bennett. I thought that Elliot Cowan who played Darcy had the hardest act to follow, that of Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen in the recent movie and I thought he was fine, just haughty enough but he showed a nice vulnerability. It was nice to see Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Bennett, and Alex Kingston as a more human Mrs. Bennett.

It is no Masterpiece but a pleasant way to spend a few hours in Austenland.

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