“Insufferable”. An “abomination” some of Jane Austen’s favourite adjectives could well describe this horrid drama shown last night on the ABC.
Being a Jane Austen tragic myself I could relate to the main character ‘Amanda Price with her obsession with Pride and Prejudice. The book was the first ever real ‘classic literature’ that I read at 12 and every year since then I pick up the book several times and watch the BBC adaption regularly with my Mum. I own the Behind Scenes Companion to the series. I’ve been to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and religiously watch any documentary I can find on her. My Mum bought me a dress we call my “Pride and Prejudice dress”. My best friend and I are constantly quoting it in real life (and nickname any particularly unattractive guy ‘Mr. Collins’). I had a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ party with my girlfriends for my thirteenth birthday. I even own ‘Being Elizabeth Bennet’ a Jane Austen choose your own adventure story that’s an amusing read (lots of ‘in’ jokes for any other Austen fanatic). But I had a sinking feeling when watching the promos for this drama ‘Lost in Austen’ and I watched it and shook my head in despair. This miniseries simply takes it too far!
The biggest problem with it is quite simply the lack of Lizzie. Replacing her we have this chav wannabe who lacks the sparkling wit of my favourite heroine. Instead we are supposed to laugh at her flashing Lydia and getting drunk at the ball and snogging Bingley….excuse me? The original plot has gone out the window and instead there’s this weird patch job that simply makes me cringe. And amazingly enough the executive producer Damien Timmer is quoted in the Age as saying, “We worked very hard to make it not feel like a lighthearted romp or parody, or stamping all over Jane Austen’s original.” If this show is not a ‘lighthearted romp or parody of Jane Austen’s original” I don’t know what is!
A lot of the shows flaws also come down to the actors. I don’t want to sound like a snob but I really think you need either period or extremely versatile actors that can pull off quality period drama. That’s one of the strengths of the BBC adaption with the solid acting. We can see the strength of the actors in other classic adaptions such as Sense and Sensibility and even the recent series ‘Cranford’ which was a pleasant surprise because of some great casting. No offense but the actors in ‘Lost in Austen’ are simply not getting it. Mrs. Bennet is a complete annoyance with this performance which seems like a bad copy of the BBC series, Mr. Bennet is passable, Jane looks like some sort of blonde Regency emo not the angelic face she’s meant to have. Is Mr. Darcy trying to be a cross over between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth? I actually don’t mind him as he brings across the complete unpleasantness of Darcy which tend to get lost a bit when women viewers get too caught up with his sexiness. Mr. Collins is dreadful. I appreciate that it must be hard to reimagine the character that has been played so hilariously in the BBC version and brilliantly awkwardly in the movie, but this one is just plain creepy! He’s also missing a lot of the bumbling arrogance you find in the book. Instead there’s this vampire crossed with a pedophile who is truly awkward to watch. Apparently this show has become a major success with bestselling DVDs in Britain and this puzzles me.
The audience for this show can’t be for the general public who haven’t seen Pride and Prejudice for this would just confuse them and be a very poor representation of the original. And it can’t be for those who truly love Jane Austen, as surely they would revile from this for the reasons I have pointed out, (even though the crew have put it an effort to place a lot of the original’s costumes in there as a visual in joke for the diehard fans). So perhaps it is for those who have seen the series or the movie once, to whom I say pick up the book and enjoy the best of what Jane Austen brings with her dazzling wit, brilliant characters that come to life in your head and snappy satire – and give this poor shadow a wide berth.