June 11, 2010

Lost in Austen: Mixed Feelings

In honor of Book Rat's Jane in June, I thought I would chat today about Lost in Austen.  If you haven't seen it, there may be slight spoilers below so reader, please beware.

To start off, I love the concept of Lost in Austen.  Time travel has intrigued me since my first viewing of Somewhere in Time (and I have seen it many, many times since) and as most everyone here knows, I love all things Pride and Prejudice.  Win-win, right? 

Well, not so much.  At least not at first. 

Let's just get the gripes out of the way, shall we?  Upon first viewing, I didn't care for Amanda Price.  At all.  She struck me as an absolute whiner and I just couldn't identify with her.  I didn't understand how someone who realizes they have managed to travel back in time to the fictional Bennet household and who harbored a self-professed Pride and Prejudice obsession could make the many mistakes, both in conduct and P&P storyline, that she did.  And this is coming from someone (me, obviously) who can easily and quickly buy into the character, any character, not only traveling through time but into a fictional household.  Hmph. 

Moving on to the Bennet family.  My only complaint about them was their apparent lack of shock, surprise or puzzlement over Amanda.  Not just Amanda showing up, unannounced and unaccompanied, in their house, having never seen or heard of her before but also Amanda's attire and her general appearance.  Remember, this was a time when ladies had long hair that was put up, not a shaggy cut right above the shoulders and bangs.  And leather jackets and jeans had yet to make an appearance, and would not for quite some time. 

I also took issue with Mr. Darcy developing feelings for Amanda.  Part of this may be chalked up to the fact that I am a massive Darcy-Elizabeth 'shipper and it seemed flat out sacrilege to have Darcy with anyone else but even letting go of that for a moment, I just didn't see how Darcy, with his upbringing and social mores, could remotely consider Amanda for one moment.  

The liberties Lost in Austen took with some characters I found horrifying, as I imagine many Austen purists might.  Not just mere rewriting of Pride and Prejudice but total and complete personality changes and distortions.  

Now, on to the better part.  What I recognized on my second viewing.  Because it took a second viewing for me to appreciate what Lost in Austen offers.  

I still wasn't crazy about Amanda.  But perhaps I understood her better.  Thrown into the Bennet household, unprepared and certainly not dressed for it, and knowing the outcome of the story, as well as the futures of each character, you can almost feel sympathetic for her.  She is horrifically out of her element, where not even her usual method of dealing with stress (having a smoke) is tolerated or possible, and she feels the future of the literary world, not to mention the ire of the many Pride and Prejudice fans, rests squarely on her shoulders. 

I did like Amanda's relationship with Jane and Jane's relationship with Elizabeth, which Jane spoke about.  I also appreciated that this Jane was showcased very much as Austen's original Jane must have been intended - - without a mean spirited bone in her body.  She's just caring enough and devoted enough to her family duty to not come off as a pushover.  Her resignation in some scenes is palpable.  

I liked Elliot Cowan as Mr. Darcy, even if he wasn't Colin Firth (my personal dream Darcy).  He exemplified just the right mix of apparent haughtiness and pride to make it work.  I found his scenes with Amanda believable, even if I still didn't particuarly care for them together. 

The way the production was wrapped up was pleasing, although purists may feel faint with the very differing conclusions to this version's resolution versus Ms. Austen's.  

In short, I felt Lost in Austen was an interesting and, yes, even worthy addition to the library of Austen sequels - - but only after a second viewing.  Is it the best?  No.  But it's certainly worth a nice afternoon or evening of Austen-inspired time.


Meredith said...

Enjoyed your review, Lori! I can understand you issues with this movie. My first time watching it, I didn't care for Amanda either. I wanted her hair up and couldn't stand her voice! But it grew on me too and now I find it spectacularly funny and ridiculous!

Alexa Adams said...

Maybe I need to watch this one again. My husband thought it was hysterical, but it made me mad. I agree with your sentiments regrading Amanda Price, though the ease with which Elizabeth slid in to modern life was very amusing. Liberties with the characters! I assume you mean Miss Caroline Bingley. What would Jane say?

Mary Simonsen said...

I actually liked Amanda Price, and I found it hysterical when she sang "Downtown" and had Darcy go into the pond. However, I thought Darcy was too mean, and Mrs. Bennet was maniacal. However, the thing that made me gag was Mr. Collins. He was beyond disgusting. Lost In Austen had its pluses, but turning nearly ever Austen character on its head was too much for me. Thanks for the review.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review. I didn't quite love this one either. I enjoyed the concept but didn't love the heroine.

SO glad to see you doing Jane in June :)

Lori Johnston said...

Ladies, thank you for your posts! After reading your comments, I think "Lost in Austen" is best dealt with as campy fun. While I do think it would have worked wonderfully as a serious time travel film, we would certainly have missed out on Lydia Bennet learning about landing strips, etc. He he.

Alexa, I do think it would have been interesting to see how Elizabeth adapted to modern life (visions of Laurie Viera Rigler's books here).

And I think nearly every character had certain liberties taken with him or her - - from Caroline Bingley to Charles Bingley to Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins and even Wickham!

Juju, happy to see you doing Jane in June as well!

Heather J. Chin said...

A welcome and honest review; thanks, Lori!
I just watched the film for the first time, then rewatched certain scenes, and while it was enjoyable campy fun, with some lovely acting and refreshing portrayals (Mrs. Bennett, Jane, Mr. Wickham, Lady deBourgh), and I could make myself overlook the liberties taken, the main thing I couldn't handle was the sloppy ending.
Sloppy not just in the whole lack of wrapping up of the time-travel issue and story-changing issue, but the fact that plot-wise, Amanda reneging on her deal with Lady deBourgh would screw over Jane's annulment from Collins! After all that time fretting over Jane and Bingley staying together, it is totally out of character for her to do that - returning to Darcy, at least until the annulment is processed.
Other than that, delightful film. =)