Imagine how excited I was, Jane Austen freak and time-travel writer that I am, to find a film called Lost in Austen. This miniseries is based on an interactive novel by Emma Campbell Webster, which apparently is not at all like the series. The book sounds interesting, and I was equally intrigued by the premise of the series: a modern girl, Amanda Price, who is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, trades places with Elizabeth Bennet by going through some kind of portal in her shower. She finds herself in Longbourn, home of the Bennet family, trying to explain her inappropriate clothing and what happened to Elizabeth. She manages to make up some believable tale about Elizabeth, and obtain some period-correct clothing, but retains the same modern hairstyle and make-up through-out.

I thought it was stupid that Amanda reads P&P over and over and over, and not any other of Austen's novels. Strike one: why wouldn't Elizabeth's older sister Jane, or Mrs. Bennet, or someone, fix the girl's hair? She wears it in this blow-dried, modern hairstyle throughout, and no one seems to notice. Strike two: I didn't like the actress, Jemima Rooper, who plays Amanda. She's clunky and mannish and not the kind of woman any of us would think could appeal to the man who falls for Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy (played in this case by Elliot Cowan). And yet she manages to win him over with her independent ways, while the real Elizabeth Bennet gets a job as a nanny in modern London. Amanda and her machinations manage to mess up Austen's beautifully crafted story line so much that Jane Bennet and her love interest, Bingley, don't end up together. Bingley, as a matter of fact, becomes an alcoholic, and Elizabeth's best friend, Charlotte, doesn't end up with the Bennets' cousin Mr Collins, but rather becomes the bitter old maid that in P&P she was trying to avoid being. And the antagonist of P&P, Mr Wickham, is redeemed - he's not such a bad chap after all! What?! Hey, I'm fine with all the updated versions of Jane Austen novels like Bridget Jones's Diary and Clueless, and I'll watch just about any film version of any of her novels, but when you start to mess with the actual plot of Pride and Prejudice, I say, hold on there, hands off! It irritated me immensely to think that the screenwriter, Guy Andrews, felt he had licence to screw up such a beautiful story. Apparently, in the book Lost in Austen, you can create your own plots, which is fun, but I'm not happy to be subject to Andrews' unpleasant imagination. Did I get to strike three yet? Well, I have one more to add: I thought it was stupid that Amanda reads P&P over and over and over, and not any other of Austen's novels.
If you love Austen that much, you would read her other works, not just P&P to the exclusion of all other novels. It was as if Andrews was making all lovers of P&P out to be nitwits; like the only reason we even like P&P is because we all want to marry Mr Darcy. Though that may be true to some degree, perhaps many of us also love Austen's delicious satire, her beautiful descriptions, her vivid characters and all of her engaging works. All in all, Lost in Austen is one-level stab at a multi-faceted story, not at all appreciated by this time-traveler/Jane Austen fan.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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