In Episode Two of Lost in Austen we continue Amanda Price’s topsy turvy journey inside a beloved classic novel. One critic noted that it would help viewers immensely if they knew the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but I beg to differ. I think this satiric film, which makes fun not only of Amanda’s time travel romp through Pride and Prejudice, but regency novels and movies in general, is meant to poke fun at regency conventions (such as a lady’s accomplishments at the pianoforte) and at the current craze for all things Jane Austen. One does not need to know Pride and Prejudice intimately to laugh at some of the absurd situations, like a modern Amanda kneeing an oily Mr. Collins in the groin after he rescinds their engagement. This comment left on my review of Episode One summarizes my feelings about this mini-series:
If you know your Austen pretty well, this production is a comedy hoot with the daft modern Amanda trying to fix up the P&P plot gone horribly wrong. Nice in jokes like Amanda works for ‘ Sandition Life ‘ Great cast, fast pace, punchy lines made for TV. This is where it scores much better than a studious adaptation of the standard Austen novel. Finicky viewers can study the Hogarth prints on the Bennet’s wall – the rest can only have fits at Amanda’s antics.
The script, written by Guy Andrews, is a bit choppy (one gets a sense that this was a rushed production), and its satire in no way compares to the robust, biting sarcasm of a major feature film like Charlie Wilson’s War, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Mike Nichols, both masters of their craft.
Perhaps it is unfair to compare an A-list movie to a rushed television production, but considering the constraints of budget and time, Lost in Austen manages to string quite a few witty moments together. There are major glaring errors, which even the most forgiving Janeite cannot overlook. Bingley and Darcy enter Jane’s sickroom with no chaperone or doctor in sight. In fact, Bingley leans over and checks Jane’s fever, a major faux pas. At the Netherfield Ball, Jane approaches Bingley for the next dance. No regency lady would ever have been so forward. The gentleman always collected the lady, whose role was to remain passive and, well, er, ladylike.
Setting aside these inaccuracies, there were quite a few satiric plums ripe for picking:
Amanda talks to Mr. Darcy through a floral centerpiece.
Lydia borrows Amanda’s cylinder and smears her mouth with lipstick
Mrs. Bennet, a tigress defending her daughters’ rights to Bingley and Mr. Collins, tells Amanda: “The time has come Miss Price when we can no longer detain you with our hospitality.”
A wicked Wickham, who knows there’s something fishy about Amanda, tells her: “We have the same scent: I can smell myself on you.” A not very gentlemanly statement but it certainly hits the mark.
Amanda’s modern utterances – “C’mon Bingers!”, “Whoo, smolder alert!”, and “I hope he shall choke. Hateful man!” – add to the absurdity of the plot. In fact, every detail about this productions states that it is not to be taken seriously, from the music, which adds to the comedic overtones, to the reaction shots, which are sometimes priceless, to the absurd entanglements into which the characters are thrown.
The improbable situation of Jane marrying Mr. Collins leaves us dangling. How is Amanda ever to rectifiy this horrible state of events? Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series. I’m sure that Lost in Austen still has a few surprises in store for us. One thing is assured: Amanda will always be slightly out of step.
- Lost in Austen, A Review of the Movie, Episode One: On this blog
- Lost in Austen, Episode 2 Review on Austenprose
- Find a synopsis of Episode Two at PopSugar
- Another review at TV Scoop
- Find screen shots on ScreenRush
- Interview with Jemima Rooper
Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price
Elliot Cowan as Mr Darcy
Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Bennet
Alex Kingston as Mrs. Bennet
Gemma Arterton as Elizabeth Bennet
Morven Christie as Jane Bennet
Ruby Bentall as Mary Bennet
Florence Hoath as Kitty Bennet
Perdita Weeks as Lydia Bennet
Lindsay Duncan as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Guy Henry as Mr Collins
Tom Mison as Mr Bingley
Christina Cole as Caroline Bingley
Tom Riley as Captain Wickham
Michelle Duncan as Charlotte Lucas
Update: Lost in Austen’s ratings are in, and it’s not quite a success with the viewers.