Confession Time: Why I Love Lost in Austen

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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 a 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.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Mr. Bennet and Jane

…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.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Lydia Bennet

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?

Lost in Austen (2008)

Caroline Bingley

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.)

Lost in Austen (2008)

Wickham — the right bastard at the right time.

Lost in Austen (2008)

HELLOOOOO MILITIA!

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.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Mr. Bingley is sensitive.

Lost in Austen (2008)

And nobody gets him.

Great Casting in Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen (2008)

Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Bennet — long-suffering and hilarious!

Lost in Austen (2008)

Morven Christie (left) is sweet and lovely as Jane, and Ruby Bentall (from Poldark, second from left) is a super cute Mary!

Lost in Austen (2008)

Alex Kingston channels Mrs. Bennet’s ridiculous flightiness, but when she whips out her hidden steel, it works.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Guy Henry as Mr. Collins. Amanda says it best: “On the page, OK, he’s pretty bad. In the flesh, he’s all-time king of the mingers!”

Lost in Austen (2008)

Lindsay Duncan brings all of Lady Catherine’s snobbery, plus adds a bit of glam to the role.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Gemma Arterton is a sweet Lizzie, and her look is perfect for the role.

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 why they put an 1809 sleeve with a 1797 hem).

Lost in Austen (2008)

Nice prints and sheer cottons.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Pretty dress (we’ll get back to that hair in a moment).

Lost in Austen (2008)

Lady Catherine’s look is super elegant.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Mrs. Bennet is all ruffles.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Lydia (Perdita Weeks) in another great print.

But Yes, There Are a Few Issues

1) Amanda’s HAIR

Okay, so in the plot, Amanda has spent most of her 21st -entury 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.

Lost in Austen (2008) Lost in Austen (2008)

And the reality is SHE LOOKS SO INCREDIBLY STUPID IN BONNETS I CAN’T EVEN.

Lost in Austen (2008) whyyyyy

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.

Lost in Austen (2008)

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.
Lost in Austen (2008)

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.

Lost in Austen (2008) Lost in Austen (2008)

 

Have you seen Lost in Austen? Did the plot tweaks (and hair) bug you or work for you?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

27 Responses

  1. AshleyOlivia

    Oh man, I loved Lost in Austen! Sure, it is silly and goofy in many instances, but a new Austen adaptation or mini-series comes out every year, and it was fun to watch something that really tackled the text in an original and at times irreverent way. Like you point out, it kept me guessing (and laughing. Laughing SO HARD).

    I actually didn’t mind Amanda’s hair. Yes, it looks stupid. Yes, it would mark her as insane in the 19th century (but if her hair didn’t do it, her constant application of lipgloss and otherworldly vocabulary would anyway…). However, it marks her visually as from another time in a very visceral way, which is what I think they were going for. She stands out from the Bennett sisters in a way she wouldn’t have if they had put her hair up. I think they were doing something similar with the dress you hate. I’m neither a costumer or a dress historian, but the top of that dress *feels* very modern to me while still being believably Regency. If that was a shirt instead of a dress (or a knee-length dress) you could get away with wearing that now. (I swear I ordered something very similar from a Delia’s catalogue once in my youth…). But, you are totally spot on about Mr. Darcy’s terrible wig. I couldn’t figure out why I hated this casting, but I think you’ve solved the mystery.

    Also, I love the fact that Elizabeth gets a pixie. Elizabeth would have a pixie if she lived now.

    Speaking of other not-faithful Austen flicks, I loved The Jane Austen Book Club, though the book was better. It isn’t a period piece, however, so not as rewarding as Lost in Austen.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      It makes perfect sense why they wanted to leave Amanda’s hair down to remind us of her modern origins… but I can’t get over how stupid she looks!! And yes, Elizabeth would TOTALLY get a pixie cut. I thought the JA Book Club was very meh…

      Reply
      • AshleyOlivia

        Oh, she for sure looks stupid. I think this was the “in” style when the movie was made though? I remember having these thick, chunky bangs when I first watched Lost in Austen. Sooo not a good look for me, or anyone other than Zooey Deschanel, but so many of us bought into that style.

        Reply
    • Eryn

      I also love that Elizabeth’s hair is largely unremarked-upon by her family, because it actually does look period (if very modish). Well, mostly; I know Regency short hair was usually curly. But she doesn’t seem nearly as out of place as Amanda “Clunky Bangs” Price.

      Reply
  2. eadon216

    Now I really want to do a Lost In Austen rewatch! I also thought it was good silly fun. (Amanda’s hair bothered me too. I mean, if you’re going to insist on keeping your modern hair at least make sure it’s a good style!).

    Reply
  3. avrilejean

    I was prepared to hate it but I loved it instead. Top marks. And yeah, her hair, but my reason for hating it so much is that was the haircut my mum gave me in the 70s and I’ve been running away from it ever since that!

    Reply
  4. Cassidy

    Yaaaaaaaas! I’m always so worried FF is going to hate things I love. This adaptation plays so fast and loose, but it’s a good AU fanfiction that clearly has a lot of love for the source material.

    Reply
  5. Julia

    I loved this adaptation. It was so fun and cheeky but still smart and the casting was great. I thought that this was one of the best Janes of any of them.

    Reply
  6. drush76

    I love “LOST IN AUSTEN”. Personally, I love all of the twists in Austen’s story. Although I found Lady Catherine’s solution to Jane and Mr. Collins’ marriage a bit hard to swallow. As for Elliot Cowan . . . oh my God, he was fabulous! Mind you, I didn’t care for the wig either. But his performance made up for it. And frankly, I found his take on Fitzwilliam Darcy to be absolutely fascinating. I found it easier for his Mr. Darcy to fall for someone like Amanda, instead of Elizabeth.

    But the series had one mistake. It allowed Charles and Caroline Bingley to visit Rosings Park. Never would a die-hard snob like Lady Catherine de Bourgh entertain someone who came from trade, which the Bingleys do. She would rather cut off an arm. The Bennets, despite their income, came from the gentry class. The Bingleys, despite their money, were still part of the middle-class in this story.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Hmmm, but the Bingleys are great friends of Darcy, so I don’t see Lady C not thinking they’re up to snuff. They wouldnt be titled like her and she’d privately sneer at them… But then she invites Mr Collins to her house, and who the hell is he, socially?

      Reply
  7. tiffers1912

    I friggin love this series! Amanda got a little too OTT with her modern day idiosyncrasies, but I suppose that just added to the overall humor. And emo Bingley is everything! I so wish they would make another one of these with someone going into another Austen novel. My vote’s on Emma :)

    Reply
  8. Nora

    What about the singing scene? When Lady Catherine insists that Amanda should perform and she sings Downtown? I personally thought that was the highlight of the series. Like others I hated her hair (and on a side note the actor has annoying underbity, pouty mouth I just don’t like in general) and the sad costuming choices on her. In my opinion Lost in Austen is a nice fanfic/retelling of a classic but in parts they could have got so much more out of it too.

    Reply
  9. Saraquill

    Please don’t be so flippant about self-harm. It’s hard enough to get taken seriously and the needed support without others treating it as an attempt at being fashionable.

    Reply
  10. drush76

    Hmmm, but the Bingleys are great friends of Darcy, so I don’t see Lady C not thinking they’re up to snuff. They wouldnt be titled like her and she’d privately sneer at them… But then she invites Mr Collins to her house, and who the hell is he, socially?

    Mr. Collins is still a member of the gentry class by blood. After all, he is related to the Bennet family and will inherit Longbourn upon Mr. Bennet’s death. The Bingleys’ money, on the other hand, came from trade. This was made perfectly clear in Austen’s novel. And not once did she allow Lady Catherine and the Bingleys to meet. Darcy had more problems with the Bennets’ behavior than he did with Mrs. Bennet’s middle-class origins. And if he did had a problem with Mrs. Bennet’s origins, then he was a hypocrite, considering his friendship with Charles Bingley. But no way in the world would a snob like Lady Catherine hobnob with the likes of the Bingleys, whom she would have considered middle-class.

    I’m sorry, but this is how the class system in early 19th century Europe worked. There were some members of the upper class willing to hobnob with the trade class, due to desire for money, etc. But those wealthy tradesmen who wanted to be considered part of the upper classes, had to break off their connections to the means upon which they got rich – namely trade – and purchase an estate. This is how Sir William Lucas and his family became members of the upper class. And this is what Caroline Bingley had hoped her brother would eventually do.

    Reply
      • Kendra

        Think about all her comments after Elizabeth says “I am a gentleman’s daughter” — who are your connections? You’re a woman without fortune or family etc.!

        Reply
    • brocadegoddess

      The Bingley’s wealth *derived* from trade, but the family had accrued enough to become gentry. The family was no longer involved in trade and it sounded like the children (Charles, Caroline, whats-her-face) had been brought up outside of it. They had yet to establish a family seat, but I always got the impression they were at least one generation removed fro actual trade. And you really can’t say with certainty that no one noble would have associated with wealthy tradespeople, you cannot make absolute assertions like that. There was significant social mobility going on at that time (really throughout the 18th century) and people had all kinds of compelling reasons to interact and socialize with others of a techincally different, inferior/superior social position. As the Bingley children appear to have been raised in gentility Lady Catherinevwould have had no problem socializing with them, just so long as the “distinctions of rank were preserved”

      Reply
      • AshleyOlivia

        Truth. Also, think about Emma’s evolution on the topic of attending the Coles’ ball in Emma. She starts off believing that her status would prevent her from attending, but then her desire to be part of the party wins out after all.

        Reply
  11. Anneke Oosterink

    The thing that bothered me most was that for a purported Austen lover Amanda knew very little of actual regency life outside of the plot of P&P. I can live with the hair even if she had showed a little more knowledge.

    Reply
    • Jane Austen's Secretary

      I know! I felt the same way. Her carriage, her way of talking so much, her trying to control everyone’s life…Although the hair just bothered me the whole time.

      Reply
  12. Chris

    Just finished Lost in Austen and had to do a search on ‘why is Amanda’s hair so awful …’ I’m so glad you went off about this! HER HAIR drives me nuts – those juvenile bangs and layers of flat-straight-stiff overprocessed strands. Ugh. It makes no sense that someone in love with P&P who has found herself in that world wouldn’t at least do her hair in an up-do, even if it was a modern version. When they go to the ball and her hair is STILL down flat it just looks ridiculous!

    I thought Eliot C was gorgeous as Darcy. Love that huge jawline and scowl and his broad shoulders. His face lights up when he smiles. His voice is dreamy too. But I was also bugged by HIS HAIR- too fluffy and cottony looking a wig and too many strands down the forehead.

    With all the other beautiful hair in this I just can’t figure out how the two main characters ended up with the worst, most distracting hair!

    Reply
  13. Laura Craig Wilcoxen

    Watching this for the first time now and really enjoying it. I like all the casting apart from Mr. Collins. As with most adaptations, apart from possibly the Keira Knightly version, they couldn’t resist the temptation of making Mr. Collins too old. I guess it happens because the character in the book SEEMS old. But he’s only supposed to be in his mid 20s. The extra layer of icky is fun, though.

    Reply
  14. Jane Austen's Secretary

    I thought the casting was great (apart from Mr Collins, Mary, Mr. Bennet, and Charlotte) but the plot was just way too crazy. I didn’t even understand it. And the whole Wickham thing??And I just didn’t buy the Amanda/Darcy romance….And I think it would take more for Bingley to become emo….idk. I’m a sucker for JA adaptations, but I kept on cringing/laughing the whole time.

    Reply

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