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Posts Tagged ‘Lost in Austen’

Part One of this four-part series left me salivating to meet Darcy’s aunt, for up to now we have experienced her only through Mr. Collins’s observations, which, the astute reader has come to surmise, MUST be suspect. After Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s daughter Anne stops by to visit Hunsford in her carriage, Charlotte announces to the group that they are invited to dine at Rosings. Even if Mrs. Collins hadn’t opened her mouth, Lizzy would have realized that something was up, what with an ecstatic Mr. Collins performing cartwheels and Irish jigs in the background and his chest puffed up with so much consequence and triumph that he nearly topples over from imbalance.

He cannot stop gloating about Lady CdeBs graciousness and affability, and pops up here and there like a Regency era whack-a-mole as the ladies and Sir William Lucas prepare for their walk to Rosings, constantly admonishing them with  - “Lady CdeB wants this” – ” Lady CdeB expects that” – ” Lady CdeB says” — until he has Sir William and his daughter Maria quaking in their boots and practically passed out from fear.

Only Lizzy remains unperturbed. Mere stateliness of money or rank do not overly impress her, and this is one of the many reasons why this heroine, conceived in the late 18th century, retains her appeal over two hundred years after her conception. Her attitude is so modern that we readily understand the motives of this educated, independent-minded woman, who, despite having some serious socio-economic cards stacked against her (she has no legal rights under British law and her dowry is but a mere pittance), refuses to buckle under pressure or kowtow to Society’s dictates. Unlike many fictional heroines of her day, she will chance fate and wait for a man she can respect AND love. You go girl!

Much to our chagrin, Jane Austen continues to delay that first meeting between Lizzy and Mr. Collins’s benefactress. Jane first takes us over hill and dale to enjoy the beautiful vistas and prospects and forces us to listen to more of Mr. Collins’s blathering until we readers begin to skim-read with impatience. Then Rosings comes into view and Jane swiftly takes us inside the manse’s impressive entrance hall and to the room where Lady CdeB receives her visitors (the Hunsford party and us). Our hostess rises to greet us with great condescension and for a second we wonder if she might not be all that Mr. Collins promised. Much to our delight, the lady is MORE than was advertised. (Thank you, thank you, Ms. Austen.). Lizzy calmly  takes in the scene and inspects Lady CdeB.

Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as  to make her visitors forget their inferior rank.”

Lady CdeB much as I envision her in her younger years. Painting by Gainsborough.

Lady CdeB much as I envision her in her younger years: Haughty and Handsome. Painting by Gainsborough.

In fact, the lady’s demeanor brought everything Mr. Wickham had said about her to Lizzy’s mind. Undaunted, Lizzy turns her inquisitive gaze upon the daughter, in whose pale, sickly, Gollum-like features and timid presence she finds nothing remarkable. Her inner bad-girl is immensely satisfied that such a mousy specimen is destined to become Mr. Darcy’s bride.

While Lizzy scarcely bats an eye at the sight of Lady CdeB, Sir William  is unable to speak, his tongue cleaving  to the dry roof of his mouth, while Maria is seriously considering rolling over and playing dead. Lady CdeB is more than happy to show off her silver and fine plate and chef’s talents to this humble group, for “the dinner was exceedingly handsome. ” This is about as detailed a description of outer appearances as Jane Austen ever gives. We have no idea of what the guests wore, what dishes were served, and how many servants were in attendance. Such details are unimportant in the grand scheme of Jane’s masterful study of the human character.

Mr. Collins is completely in his element, scraping and bowing and prattling while carving the meat, an honor he finds so great that  it has eliminated any vestige of restraint. As he babbles nonstop, Sir William, having recovered his severe case of nerves, echoes the unfiltered stream of utterances. Lady CdeB laps up their compliments without a sense of irony.  No Mr. Bennet she!

Lizzy, meanwhile, sits unnoticed on the side and twiddles her thumbs, waiting for an opening in the conversation. This fails to come, for Lady CdeB is too busy relating the opinions of “Me, Myself, and I”, an overpowering and determined trio intent on delivering their viewpoint on every subject.

In the drawing room Lady CdeB continues her one-sided discussions, giving Charlotte advice on all matters pertaining to  household management, including the care of her poultry and cows, of all things. Then, just before poor Lizzy falls asleep from boredom, the Lady zeroes in on our heroine, firing off a series of questions.

  • How many sisters do you have?
  • Are they younger or older?
  • Are they handsome?
  • Any chance of them marrying soon?
  • Are they educated as a young lady ought to be?
  • What is your mother’s maiden name?
  • What year and make is your father’s carriage?

Lizzy hides her outrage but feels all the impertinence of this inquiry. Lady CdeB attempts to rattle her again. “Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins,” she drops, before abruptly switching the topic. Seasoned interrogators use this technique to catch their subjects off guard, but our Lizzy remains unflappable:

“Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?”

“A little.”

“Do your sisters play and sing?”

“One of them does.” (Mary. Hah!)

Undeterred, Lady CdeB keeps  the chandeliers spotlighted over Lizzy’s head and continues her inquisition:

You ought all to have learned, the Miss Webbs all play.”

Still trying to rattle Lizzy’s chain, she resorts to insulting Mrs. Bennet’s mothering skills. The reader guffaws from the irony of it all.

“What, you don’t draw? Strange, but your mother should have taken you to town for the benefit of masters.”

“No Governess! How is that possible. You must have been neglected.”

And on and on she goes. Elizabeth plasters a polite smile on her face and refuses to cower. I recall reading this passage with the speed of a Ferrari on an open road  racing to the finish. I so enjoyed the heady ride Jane Austen was taking us on that I had to read how it ended as swiftly as possible! (In fact, I finished my first reading of P&P in one sitting, then reread it a short time later, slowly savoring each word.)

Lady CdeB asks one more question –

Are any of your younger sisters OUT, Miss Bennet?”

“Yes, ma’am, ALL.”

“ALL?!!” You could have thrown the feathers on top of Lady CdeB’s aristocratic head for a loop when Lizzy calmly explains the fairness of her mother’s decision.  “You give your opinion decidedly for so young a person, ” she sniffs, but the reader already knows the score:

Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, One

Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings, Zilch

GO TEAM LIZZY!”

After this scene one can only conclude that Lost in Austen got it right when the series transported Elizabeth Bennet to the future and had her land on her feet,  embracing smart phones, automated teller machines, and iPads as if to the Internet born. In this time travel fantasy series the viewer can readily imagine Jane’s prototype of a modern heroine wanting to free herself from the restraints of her era. In my estimation, Lost in Austen lost its way when it followed the story line of boring Amanda Price discovering life in the past in favor of Lizzy’s more interesting journey into the future.

As for Lady CdeB, I will next examine her as a Proficient. Read Part One of the Lady CdeB series here.

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Jemima Rooper as Norma Restarick in Third Girl

Third Girl is the second installment of Season X of Hercule Poirot on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! Unlike his dark and edgy stint on Murder on the Orient Express, David Suchet relaxes a bit in this production, once again showing the fastidious side of Poirot and reintroducing some of the dark humor for which Dame Agatha was well known. Case in point, Ariadne Oliver, the author/sleuth who was wont to “help” Poirot. As played by Zoë Wanamaker, the character is delightful.

Zoë Wannamaker and David Suchet

Jemima Rooper plays heiress Norma Restarick, the third girl who shares an apartment with Claudia, the first girl, and Frances, the second girl. These two beautiful women share a confidence about their beauty and themselves that Norma does not possess. Haunted by her mother’s death, Norma fears for her sanity when she thinks she has murdered her former nanny.

It was nice to see Ms. Rooper team up again with Tom Mison, who in this production played David Baker, the young artist who was commissioned to paint a portrait and whose eyes light up every time he sees Norma. Both Jemima and Tom portrayed roles in Lost in Austen, Tom a very likable Mr. Bingley and Jemima a befuddled Amanda Price, who steps back in time to exchange places with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

David Suchet as the incomparable Hercule Poirot

Watching Third Girl I was happy that no commercials would interrupt the flow of the story. Still, it had so many plot twists and elements going in various directions, that I felt the production would have benefited from an additional half hour to flesh out the story line and characters. Nevertheless, it is good to see Suchet back in old familiar form. If you missed this episode, you can watch it online for a week at this link through August 1.

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What’s not to like about amanda-looks-onLost in Austen? This rollicking fun time travel satire premiered last night in Canada on Viva, a new entertainment channel for women. Links to my Lost in Austen reviews sit below:

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To quote a comment I read online, Lost in Austen, Episode Four was both brilliant and bonkers. And its 46 minutes sped by at turbo speed. In fact the episode felt so rushed that I knew after Amanda and Mr. Darcy stepped into modern London that there would not be enough time left for more than a summary wrap up, which is precisely what happened.

Jane and Bingley reunite, Mrs. Bennet acquires a backbone (and Mr. Bennet’s admiration), Lizzy gets her wish (with her father’s blessing), Amanda finds her true love, and … Charlotte remains lost in African limbo, we see Caroline Bingley flirting with George Wickham before riding off in a carriage, and Lydia seems completely unaffected by events, such as spending an unchaperoned night with Mr. Bingley. Click here to read Pop Sugar’s very detailed recap of the final episode.

Inside, crying. Outside, a happy face.

Inside, crying. Outside, a happy face.

There seems to be two minds about this show out in the blogosphere: people either loved it or hated it. I, for one, wonder why ITV gave so much airtime to this series and so little to the three Jane Austen adaptations in 2007. Never mind. Here’s what The Culture Show had to say about the series:

And this series is science fiction – although with a more female bent than often is the case.
I’m not claiming that Lost in Austen is great art, but it is a well-acted and enjoyable series which imagines what the result might be if a reader were to enter the book and tried to influence events.

One must completely suspend disbelief when watching this show, otherwise one might be overly bothered by the contrived coincidences that push the plot forward.  Mr. Wickham seems to pop up at just the right places at precisely the right time to help Amanda out of a pickle, and Amanda spots Mr. Darcy in that great and bustling metropolitis, London, with very little effort. While Mr. Darcy walks about a bit dazed in the 21st century, he does not seem overly inquisitive about his new surroundings.

Mr.Bennet duels Bingley

Mr.Bennet duels Bingley

Lizzy (Gemma Arterton) relishes her life working as a nanny in London, turning appliances on and off, using her cell phone, and reducing her employers’ carbon footprints. One gets the sense from these scenes that quite a bit of time must have passed for Lizzy to become so comfortable and settled in the future. The dialogue remains sparkling and witty, and the roles are well acted, even though poor Elliot Cowan is made to move about like an automaton once he makes it to London. Mr. Bennet finally arrives on center stage, and Hugh Bonneville takes full advantage of his moments in the spotlight, stealing every scene he’s in.

Lizzy in the future

Lizzy in the future

For those who were unable to watch the series, you can download ITV’s press pack and read detailed descriptions of each episode. Amazon.uk offers the DVD for sale for £11.98 at this link. During my travels I’ve discovered that my laptop will play just about any DVD from around the world, and so does my portable DVD player. And a comment left by Charley Brown on my Episode Three review will direct viewers to a link that leads to past episodes.

Kissing Mr. Darcy

Kissing Mr. Darcy

I’m rather sad that this show has ended. I found it as addictive as a bucket of buttered popcorn. Once you get started, you can’t stop eating until every morsel is gone. And then you still look for more.

The End

The End

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Click here for the review of Lost in Austen, Episode 3. Meanwhile, enjoy one of the many visual jokes this film makes of other JA movie adaptations.

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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.

Amanda and Mr. Collins

Amanda and Mr. Collins

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.

Guy Henry reminds me of Brock's Mr. Collins

Guy Henry resembles Brock's image of Mr. Collins

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.

Jane approaches Mr. Bingley for a dance

Jane approaches Mr. Bingley for a dance

Setting aside these inaccuracies, there were quite a few satiric plums ripe for picking:

Talking to Mr. Darcy across the dining table

Talking to Mr. Darcy across the dining table

Amanda talks to Mr. Darcy through a floral centerpiece.

Lydia applies lipstick

Lydia applies lipstick

Lydia borrows Amanda’s cylinder and smears her mouth with lipstick

Mrs. Bennet disinvites Amanda

Mrs. Bennet disinvites Amanda through gritted teeth

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.”

Tom Riley as Wickham the Cad

Tom Riley as Wickham the Cad

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.

Oh, dear, who could have guessed this plot development?

Oh, dear, who could have guessed this plot development?

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.

Out of step

Amanda (Jemima Rooper) is always a bit out of step

More Links:

Cast:

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.

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Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) dreamily reads P&P

Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) reads Pride & Prejudice every night

Update: Well, I liked the series. It ended rather quickly, but I found the first episode charming. At the bottom of this review, find links to my reviews of Epis 2, 3, and 4.

It’s unfortunate that ITV’s 2008 ‘Lost in Austen’, directed by Dan Zeff, shares the same title with the 2007 novel by Emma Campbell. The confusion is reflected in my sitemeter statistics, where people are (presumably) clicking on my review of the novel hoping to find my thoughts about the film.

Having watched the first episode of ‘Lost in Austen’, I can attest that the script, written by Guy Andrews, is nothing like Ms. Campbell’s novel. While I had problems with the plot of the book (or nonplot), I found the film refreshingly entertaining and Jemima Hooper a delight to watch. I even chuckled on occasion. The movie is what it is: entertainment for audiences who are interested in time travel and Austenesque period pieces.

Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) enters through the shower stall door

Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) enters through the shower stall door

One must suspend all disbelief and accept the film’s fun and frolicky intent in order to enjoy it. I would not try to make historical sense of the story, for some of the details are outlandishly wrong, and I would not try to make the time travel details logical. After all, how scientific could the premise of this story be? – A fictional character from a novel steps out of a doorway into a shower stall in a 21st Century London flat and communicates with a real person. Right there, any attempt to apply the laws of physics would make absolutely no sense.

Amanda's crass 21st-century boyfriend

Amanda's Sleezy Boyfriend

I’m a fan of time travel novels, especially Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Jude Devereaux’s Night in Shining Armor. (Most recently, Laurie Viera Rigler tackled time travel in the Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.) One of my all time favorite movies is that most romantic of 80’s classics, ‘Somewhere in Time’ with Christopher Reeve (at his handsomest) and Jane Seymour (at her primrosiest best.) So, I am disposed to like any story that transports a modern day character to a previous age. In my experience, no writer has made time travel seem realistically possible, not even Robert Heinlein, that master of science fiction, who tried his best. In Outlander, Claire steps from the 1940’s through a crack in the standing rocks on the fairy hill to 18th Century Scotland.

Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan) saves Mr. Bingley from embarrassment

Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan) saves Mr. Bingley from embarrassment

In ‘Somewhere in Time,’ Christopher Reeve wears authentic period clothes and repeats a mantra over and over to reach Elise Mackenna (Jane) at the turn of the 20th Century. A Delorian transports the heroes across the time-space continuum in ‘Back to the Future’. Would any of these methods realistically transport us to another century? Of course not, and I no longer attempt to apply logic to this genre. (See links below.)

‘Lost in Austen’ is the story of a modern woman entering a time and place she dreams about, encountering customs and social mores that are familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. We assume that with our advanced technology and knowledge of history, people from our age who travel back in time would be in a superior position. As Jemima Rooper (Amanda Price) so charmingly demonstrates, that is not necessarily the case. She is a stranger in a strange land. Although Amanda can predict the future, she is bewildered by her situation, contrasting what “should” happen (Mr. Bingley’s attraction to Jane) with his unexplained preference for her (he caught a glimpse of her cleavage).

Mrs. Bennet (Alex Kingston) warns Amanda

Mrs. Bennet (Alex Kingston) warns Amanda

In this tale Mrs. Bennet is still a flibbertygibbet, but as played by Alex Kingston, her spine is made of steel. She corners Amanda at the Assembly Ball and “favors her with a warning”, cautioning her not to obstruct any of her daughters in seeking a husband.

Amanda caught out by Charlotte

Amanda caught out by Charlotte

Tom Mison as Mr. Bingley

Tom Mison as Mr. Bingley

Amanda manages to dance with Mr. Darcy in a witty and awkward scene. His gallantry in rescuing his friend Bingley from embarrassment and his subsequent coldness to Amanda provides a delightful parallel-universe-counterpoint to Elizabeth Bennet’s first impression of him. Amanda, acutely aware that things are going awry, also knows how the plot of Pride and Prejudice develops, and her desire to push Jane towards Bingley so that he can become enamored of her places Jane in danger.

Mary, Kitty, and Amanda

Mary, Kitty, and Amanda

I enjoyed the depiction of the Bennet sisters. Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Jane act as a Greek chorus, proverbially reacting to Amanda’s modern witticisms with a collective: “Ooooh! What did you mean when you said that?”  Charlotte Lucas is smart as a whip, not believing Amanda’s excuse for swapping places with Lizzy.

Lydia exposed to a modern 'cut'

Lydia exposed to a modern cut

My major disappointment is with Mr. Bennet. I adore Hugh Bonneville, but in this first episode his Mr. Bennet comes across as the cartoonish one-dimensional character I expected to encounter when I read the advance notices of this film.  I hope his role fleshes out in future episodes and that he will seem less dense. Also, once Elizabeth Bennet steps into the 21st century, she disappears. I am curious to know what her life is like in the present.

Hugh Bonneville as mr. Bennet

Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Bennet

I understand that critics are disposed to dislike this production. I was one of them when I saw the advance publicity. But frankly, given the pap we’ve been fed on t.v. (Has anyone seen the horror that is ‘Date My Ex’ on Bravo? In comparison Lost in Austen is sheer genius.  Yeah, for anyone in the know, that’s meant to be a punny reference to another Bravo show.)

Walking to church

The Bennet family walks to church. Morven Christie as Jane Bennet is on the left.

As a viewer starved for all things British, I’ll take a romp through the English countryside anytime, and watch ballroom scenes, handsome gents in tight breeches, lovely ladies in Regency gowns, and a time travel plot – even a tepid one – for a couple of hours of entertainment.

For our U.K. friends, the trailer for the second episode of this mini-series can be seen at this link. Frankly, I can’t wait to see the rest of this show (surreptitiously, of course.) It reminds me of a Chinese meal. Delicious, but one is hungry for more just a few hours later.

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Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, by Emma Campbell Webster
Please Note: My review of the ITV movie of the same name sits here.

This new novel, written by Emma Campbell Webster, is not designed for the impatient person or for someone who is barely acquainted with the plots of Jane Austen’s six novels. It IS written for the Janeite who cannot get enough of Jane Austen’s most famous heroine, Lizzie Bennett. In fact, the reader is asked to become actively involved in making choices that might lead her to marry the man of her dreams, or to a band of gypsies and a premature end to her adventures. Along the journey to romance and true love, which requires the physical exertion of flipping pages back and forth, the reader can add or deduct points for fortune, accomplishments, connections, and the like.

This book was written for Jane fans who love an experiential approach to reading, such as choosing their own adventure, and who simply cannot get their fill of Jane Austen’s delightful characters. In fact, every time they read this book, the can create another plot. They can also keep score, or simply make a choice between A or B as they read along. All in all, I would say that this book has the most unique approach to visiting Jane Austen and getting to know her heroes and heroines that I’ve read in a long while.
Image from flickr

My rating for this book is two out of three Regency fans. The format was just a tad too complicated for me, but many who have reviewed this book loved it.

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