Welcome to the very late Adventures in Netflix! Today I’ll be reviewing Lost in Austen, a 2008 British TV mini-series about a young woman who is magically transported into the world of Pride and Prejudice. It’s a relatively played out story idea at this point, but one that Lost in Austen makes excellent use of by mixing up the events of the book and even adding extra back story for a few of the characters and casting them in a slightly different light.
I ought to mention before going any further that I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice. I have seen several movie/TV adaptations, but my memories of them are somewhat vague.
The story begins when Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), a die hard Jane Austen fan since age twelve, comes face to face one night with Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton), the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice, in the bathroom of her apartment. The bathroom, it seems, contains a little door in the wall which, on rare occasion, becomes connected with another door in the attic of Elizabeth’s house. After a few brief encounters with Elizabeth, Amanda is pushed through said doorway and finds herself trapped in the world she has fantasized about for years. Amanda tries to keep the story on track, but her mere presence (and Elizabeth’s absence) is often enough to send things spiraling out of control.
As I’ve said, my knowledge of Pride and Prejudice is somewhat lacking, and so I couldn’t always tell what events happened differently from the book and what, if anything, remained unchanged. I also occasionally had a difficult time keeping track of the many, many characters, though that’s partly due to the fact that I’m one of those people who simply can’t remember names. That said, I still enjoyed Lost in Austen quite a bit, as it has at its core an excellent story of individual but interweaving plot threads that all tie together quite nicely.
The actors cast to portray the large group of characters do a good job for the most part. Jemima Rooper gives a solid, believable performance as a girl stuck in her favorite novel, Elliot Cowan makes a fine, if somewhat unremarkable Mr. Darcy, and Hugh Bonneville is, as one might expect, excellent as Elizabeth’s father, Mr. Bennet.
Opposite Hugh Bonneville is Alex Kingston, playing the excitable Mrs. Bennet, whom I thought actually gave one of the weaker performances of the bunch. Now as I’ve said, I can claim no real familiarity with other versions of Mrs. Bennet, but Kingston’s portrayal of the character felt more like a caricature than an actual human being. Whereas Bonneville is a joy to watch in every scene, Kingston is just annoying. I realize a good portion of that is simply the nature of the character, but it is possible to play shallow and obnoxious while still making the character feel human, instead of a walking, talking, and rather meager collection of personality traits.
In the end I quite liked Lost in Austen, and while I could tell there were a few minor nods and winks I missed, I never felt like I was missing out on anything important. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, or just like period pieces with proper British folk about, Lost in Austen is worth a watch.