We’ve already established that I love Jane Austen adaptations, and I think we can agree that most of us (myself included) prefer those that are more faithful. So please sit down, because I have a possibly shameful confession: I love Lost in Austen, the 2008 Pride and Prejudice rewrite.
Lost in Austen is about a modern-day Londoner, Amanda, who is a huge Jane Austen/P&P fan and who is dissatisfied with her life, job, and boyfriend. Through mysterious means, she switches places with Elizabeth Bennet — Amanda ends up in the story of Pride and Prejudice, while Elizabeth is in 21st century London. The story focuses on Amanda as she moves through the Pride and Prejudice story — but of course, she’s there and there’s no Lizzie, so things change consequently.
The problem with talking about why I actually love this miniseries is that one of the best things is that the plot moves in unexpected directions, and that element of surprise is (at least on the first viewing) part of its charm. Because, minus a few elements, most of the tweaks work within the P&P storyline. Sure, they’re not what you were expecting, but that’s what makes them fun.
So, I’m going to try to avoid too many specifics about these changes … but you might want to just go and watch the miniseries and then come back and read this! You’ve been warned.
Reasons I Love Lost in Austen:
1) They Stick With AND Mess With the Pride and Prejudice Outline
On the one hand, Jane Austen wrote a damn good story and her key elements are mostly all here, with Amanda (bumblingly) taking the place of Elizabeth: Mr. Bingley rents Netherfield, he and Mr. Darcy meet everyone at the assembly, Jane and Bingley hit it off, Amanda and Darcy can’t stand each other, Mr. Collins turns up, etc. etc. etc. The story is a classic for a reason, people!
On the other hand, Amanda’s awkward presence and the lack of Elizabeth means that plot points change. Probably in the end, most everyone ends up where they should be (okay, except for Charlotte Lucas), but it’s actually quite entertaining to see important plot developments go awry. And if you’re like me, and have read/watched P&P obsessively, it’s fun to be thrown for the occasional loop.
…like, Jane marrying a certain someone. When that happened, I was like, “Holy crap, how are they going to resolve this?” Okay, so they maybe stretched at the end to really resolve things, but it was fun to watch that play out. Lydia’s-running-off plot was at first surprising, and then just plain hilarious.
2) The Characters Have Hilarious, Yet (Mostly) Believable, Hidden Sides
Mr. Bennet’s first name is Claude? Okay, that seems a little odd, but Amanda’s reaction makes up for it. Even better is watching Mrs. Bennet show her hidden smart and bitchy side when it comes to protecting her daughters’ marriage prospects, the hidden depths of Caroline Bingley and Mr. Wickham, and the true horrors of Mr. Collins. Although none of it is what Jane Austen wrote, it all somehow worked for me as hidden secrets within the world of P&P.
3) Amanda Calls Things as They Are
Amanda: If you could somehow engineer it, that Darcy and I get married, then what happens to Frosty Knickers?
Wickham: I presume by that disparaging epithet you refer to the sublime Miss Bingley?
Sometimes Amanda’s modernisms are annoying, but at the same time, they’re kind of true. Most of us who love historical eras have to admit that if we ended up in one of them, we too would get inappropriately drunk at a party, knee Mr. Collins in the balls, and be cast out of society immediately. It’s also just plain amusing to watch Amanda call things like she sees them. I mean, don’t we all think Caroline Bingley is a bitch? Wouldn’t it kill you to not just call her that?
4) Wickham. HOT.
SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. This production and Death Comes to Pemberley win for hottest Mr. Wickham. NOW I can see why everyone wants to run off with him! (I admit, I never found Adrian Lukis very appealing.)
5) Emo Mr. Bingley.
I’ve raved about this in my Tom Mison post, but let me say it again. Things don’t all go Mr. Bingley’s way, and he gets depressed, and then he gets EMO. Like, “Goodbye cruel world” and “Nobody in this family understands me” and any other emo teen stereotype you can imagine. If he could cut himself and listen to Morissey, he would. AND IT IS HILARIOUS.
Great Casting in Lost in Austen
Mostly Good Costumes in Lost in Austen
I’m not a Regency expert, so the most I can say is that most things passed muster with me. (I’m sure someone can point out if they put an 1809 sleeve with a 1797 hem).
But Yes, There Are a Few Issues
1) Amanda’s HAIR
Okay, so in the plot, Amanda has spent most of her 21st-century life obsessed with P&P. She ends up in Jane Austen’s England, and after some cognitive dissonance, attempts to make her way in that world. AND SHE REFUSES TO EVER PUT HER HAIR UP. In fact, she announces, “I may be losing grip on reality, but I’m still in control of my hair.”
Okay, so while that may work from a 21st-century perspective, from a fictional Jane Austen or real Regency England perspective, Amanda’s hair would immediately render her completely insane. No one would treat her as anything other than idiotic, insane, and any other “I” word you can think of. THERE IS JUST NO WAY. So for Amanda to declare that she’s never changing her hair is one thing, but for other characters to ignore and/or accept it is another.
And the reality is SHE LOOKS SO INCREDIBLY STUPID IN BONNETS I CAN’T EVEN.
2) Mr. Darcy’s Wig
Elliot Cowan as Mr. Darcy never quite does it for me, wet shirt or not. And I’ve realized that it’s because of his wig.
It’s supposed to be his own hair, but it’s just SO wiggy and weird and awkward and it makes him look like he’s secretly bald and wearing a toupee. No.
3) This Dress Offends Me
Is it terrible? No, other than a low neck and short sleeves for daytime is completely inappropriate — but many other Regency era films do the same thing. What bugs me is the combination of those short sleeves (5%), low neckline (5%), dumpy fabric (50%), paired with that horrible hair (40%).
Why am I so bugged by one dress? Well, Amanda wears it in a key “finding love with Mr. Darcy” scene. Just as I’m supposed to get all Team Amanda, she’s wearing this. Combine this dress with Mr. Darcy’s bad wig, and I just can’t get enthused about the two of them at all in this scene.
Have you seen Lost in Austen? Did the plot tweaks (and hair) bug you or work for you?