thu 30/05/2024

Listed: Jane Austen provides | reviews, news & interviews

Listed: Jane Austen provides

Listed: Jane Austen provides

She wrote only six novels. That hasn't deterred filmmakers

Lost in 'Austenland'

Right at the start of the boom around 20 years ago, a Hollywood mogul is said to have told one of his people to get some more work out of that Jane Austen. She seemed like a good source of romantic comedies. Regrettably for all, there were only ever six titles from this promising scriptwriter, and those have been done and done again by film and particularly television.

Only Northanger Abbey has not provoked producers into serial adaptation, and that’s presumably because the story of poor Catherine Morland’s hyperactive imagination turns out to be not as Gothic as a horror filmmaker would wish.

So people have had to be resourceful. For this edition of Listed, we take a tour through the films and television series which have attempted to plug the gap left by that meagre return of half a dozen novels. This week brings the release of Austenland in the cinema, while later in the year Death Comes to Pemberley, PD James's sequel to Pride and Prejudice, arrives courtesy of the BBC. And it has been announced that the daytime BBC series Doctors is to mark the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by screening a week of episodes on the theme of Austen's novels. It turns out Jane Austen was a source of more stories than even Miss Morland might have guessed.

Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980)

As a child Jane Austen essayed a stage version of Richardson’s novel Sir Charles Grandison, itself a corrective response to Fielding’s rambunctious Tom Jones. In this Merchant Ivory confection by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, two teachers played by Anne Baxter and Robert Powell compete for the right to put the play on. Not one of this film factory's classics.

Clueless (1995)

In which plain Jane really did come to Tinseltown. The following year there would be a small-screen Emma with Kate Beckinsale and another on the big screen with Gwyneth Paltrow. Alicia Silverstone snuck in first in Amy Heckerling’s updating to contemporary Beverly Hills, in which fashion-obsessed teen Cher Horowitz must learn to be less superficial and quit meddling in others’ affairs. A career highlight for star and writer/director.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

The Bennets went to Bollywood as Gurinder Chadha followed up Bend It Like Beckham with another social comedy set this time in Amritsar. Elizabeth becomes a Punjabi girl called Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) and “Will” Darcy (Martin Henderson) is an American lawyer. The relocation works surprisingly well. (Below, Bollywood does the quadrille.)

Becoming Jane (2007)

"Long ago, few women could escape tradition," intones the trailer guy (see below). In the absence of any more romantic novels to film, cinema turned to the life of Austen herself. In Julian Jarrold’s film the young Jane is prettified in the shape of Anne Hathaway, who is courted by James McAvoy’s young Irish suitor Tom Lefroy. Based partly on the book Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Hunter Spence. Ireland stood in for Hampshire.

Miss Austen Regrets (2008)

Olivia Williams played Jane Austen as an old maid on the shelf looking back at her thwarted romantic past while helping to secure a husband for her niece Fanny (Imogen Poots). The script was by the busy TV scriptwriter Gwyneth Hughes (Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Girl). Imdb offers some painstaking scholarly trivia on where else the costumes have cropped up on screen.

Lost in Austen (2008)

A hoot. Pride and Prejudice having already been done every which way – on television with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, then on film with Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley – this resourceful ITV drama by Guy Andrews came at the Bennets via time travel. Pride and Prej obsessive Jemima Rooper finds herself transplanted to Regency Hampsire via a portal in her closet, where Elliot Cowan’s Darcy is waiting to reenact Firth's skinny-dip, while Gemma Arterton’s thoroughly modern Lizzie travels in the other direction. Riffed amusingly on the lack of appurtenances such as toothbrushes. (Watch the opening of the first episode overleaf)

From Prada to Nada (2011)

Or The Devil Wears Empire-line. The husband-hunting Dashwoods of Sense and Sensibility decamp to Latino East LA where two pampered sisters (Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega as the Dominguez girls) are forced to live with their estranged aunt after being left penniless. Basically, larceny.

Austenland (2013)

Adapted from Shannon Hale’s novel of the same name. Keri Russell plays another sad-sack Austen fan whose hunt in suburban America for a Mr Right to measure up to her cardboard cutout of Firth’s Darcy is doomed. So she spends her last dime to visit an Austen theme park in the good old UK of England, where actors in costume offer a fully immersive Regency experience. Can this possibly work?

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

In an unlikely match, PD James’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice marries Regency gentility to the murder mystery. The novel was published only last year but it is swiftly making its way to the small screen with Anna Maxwell Martin as Lizzie Bennet and Matthew Rhys (pictured above) as Darcy, plus Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

PD James’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice marries Regency gentility to the murder mystery

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