Lost in Austen – the (US?) DVD

Bowing to much publicity – even Persuasions had a rave ‘review’ of the series (why does a peer-reviewed journal run what amounts to an advert?) – I Netflixed LOST IN AUSTEN. Spoilers may come up, so tread carefully as you wade ahead; but I cannot give the end away, as I’ve not seen it yet!

Behind the scenes: readers might appreciate this link to the ITV website for the series.

lostWatching the DVD last night – and under the *impression* that a multi-part TV show, it would be multi-episodes on DVD – I was of two minds about whether to post something today, or nothing. Dare I say, I am underwhelmed?? But that is why I decided indeed TO POST something about LiA.

A little backstory: My Netflix account had been on hold a couple of months, but was due to restart at the end of May. I almost put it on ‘vacation’ another couple of months, but decided to put Lost in Austen in my queue and let its hiatus expire. Why? Because I had YouTubed the show and its beginning charmed me. Poor Amanda Price (very Mansfield Park-ish name), with that dolt of a boyfriend! And then she finds Lizzy Bennet in her bathtub, assuming her named ‘Miss Spencer’ because Amanda’s undies were Marks & Sparks’ finest! I love anything British, anyway, and actress Jemima Rooper was calling to me to watch. So I rented it.

The surprises: According to IMDB (The Internet Movie Database – a must website for films!), LiA was a four-part UK series, comprised of 60-minute (with commercials, of course) episodes. The DVD lists the running time as 2 hours 57 minutes. Fair enough one might say, BUT: How is it Laurie Kaplan can write of Amanda’s rendition of the Pet Clark hit Downtown and all DVD’ers get is Bingley saying, ‘Brava, Miss Price! And whenever life is gettin’ me down, I shall be sure to go downtown.’ Amanda is asked to sing, has sung, but never actually SINGS! So that leads to the damning questions I cannot answer: WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN CUT? And: ARE THESE CUTS ONLY DONE TO THE U.S. DVD?


There is talk of the family pig — an in-joke for those who’ve seen the Joe Wright (2005) film; but you never SEE the pig: I have a feeling she, too, ended up on the ‘cutting room floor’. (She made the opening credits!)

lost2Therefore, I have to wonder: does this choppy version account for my lukewarm reception?? It’s amusing — highly; yet, somewhat one-note. How many times do we we need Amanda saying ‘No! the book doesn’t go this way,’ as she does her best Emma Woodhouse impression, and tries to get couples to line up ‘properly’?

Of course one half of the prime couple is missing: Elizabeth Bennet, who instigated this ‘exchange’ (Amanda in 19th Century Meryton; Lizzy in 21st Century Hammersmith), is obviously enjoying herself and not willing to come home! The only thing seen of her is a note slipping itself under the communicating door — addressed to her father. (Amanda had been beating on the door, oh on a good three different occasions, by the time this ‘small’ communication comes about…) How many times, also then, do we need Amanda trying to raise Lizzy from the ‘other side’?

Maybe with four episodes the ‘sameness’ wasn’t quite as noticeable?

Anyway, I kept waiting for episode one to end, when I finally stopped the disk and looked at the menu for accessing the film: all one ‘seamless’ episode here… Usually you can guess — by the crescendo of action or a cliff-hanger — where an episode ends. The lack of such a thing might account for the flatness I am experiencing here.

My favorite scene so far? When Amanda grabs Bingley (already enamored with her) and plants a kiss smack on the lips! The doe-eyes of actor Tom Mison play well in this ‘sweet’ role. He looks like someone who would carry a crush. But two things about that turn of events: (1) EVERY male falls for Amanda (Bingley, Darcy, Wickham, Collins); and (2) Amanda rails at the thought of the plot of P&P NOT following its destined route, yet does she ever say to herself ‘My very presence is what is upsetting the plotline…’?? The first is just a tired old ploy; and the second would make for more entertaining entertainment than the constant moaning about characters acting out of character!

That brings me to a point I thought of this afternoon, at lunch. Not having read the book upon which the series is based, I cannot comment as to what was or wasn’t changed for the screen, but how wonderful to have had Lizzy SHOWING Amanda around?! Amanda confesses, early on, that it isn’t Darcy she loves, it’s Elizabeth. So who wouldn’t love to hang out with your favorite character and learn all the ropes from her??

The series misses the mark when Amanda causes consternation when her arrival finds her dressed in ‘breaches’, yet no one is REALLY that bothered by her costume! And she never has anything but the perfect hair she arrived with, despite putting on some 19th century dresses. Surely, Amanda should have gone ‘whole hog’ in adapting to her new place. She could have been Eliza Doolittle, and slipped back into her old persona once in a while, had she adopted any new persona to begin with. And it would have been great fun to have Jane (who gets ‘flashed’ early on in their acquaintance) remark on Amanda’s queer underthings; or lack of them, perhaps, since Bingley clearly gets an eye-full when Amanda curtseys on meeting him. Yet the Bennets (sans Mamma) are ‘charmed’ by her unusual qualities and queer manners of speech, rather than puzzled by them (as surely anyone in ‘real’ life would be).

And that could have led to a natural sequel, with Amanda, in turn, hosting Lizzy in Hammersmith! (A bit of Time After Time, with H.G. Wells in 20th Century LA, though, huh?) I have a feeling that series could not have ended the way this show probably ends…

Nice to see Perdita Weeks; she looks so much like her sister! Poor Hugh Bonneville just moans about wanting to read – an action I can well understand, but the part must have (so far!) somewhat bored him as an actor. I like that Mrs Bennet (Alex Kingston) doesn’t grate on the nerves as some shrill Mrs Bennets do, but I’m on the fence about her seeming ‘of the period’. Loved it when she tells Amanda to ‘back off’ — for Mamma Bennet realizes before anyone else that Amanda is stealing the thunder from the Bennet girls! Mr Collins (Guy Henry) is so odious and Charlotte Lucas (Michelle Duncan) so non-existant, that even I cringe at the thought of them marrying (should Amanda manage to get the storyline straightened out…).

[BTW, I am QUITE convinced that people misjudge Mr Collins — and base their thoughts of him on the 1995 P&P; and am always on the lookout for contemporary to Austen thoughts on this character — post to the blog, or email me, should you come across any such things!]

I had to laugh — but for a totally different reason than intended — when Amanda pulls from her bosom area a packet of paracetamol tablets. Now why on earth would she just happen to keep aspirin — and in her bra??? She also evidently has been known to secret her ‘lippie’ there too. Is her bra ‘bottomless,’ like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag!??

LiA reminds me, in retrospect, of The Devil Wore Prada; a pleasant film – but would have been much better (in my humble opinion) if it had been EXCEPTIONALLY hilarious, or QUITE serious in its treatment. The region of ‘cutesy’ just doesn’t cut it. Therefore: I expected more…, wanted more, and was left wanting more.

So, while I’m wondering about the trimming question [see PSs below], and waiting a day or two to finish the show, I’d appreciate thoughts on the series from anyone who’s seen it, wants to see, or wants never to see it. Ditto for those who’ve read the book. In the meantime, you can also read Kate from Norfolk’s reactions to the series when it ran on TV in the UK.

A couple PSs: while the US Amazon.com has it running 180 minutes, the UK Amazon says their DVD is 178 minutes. Hmmm…
And, according to the TRIVIA at IMDB, the pig was scheduled to appear – but hoof and mouth caused her film debut to be cancelled.
Here’s the ‘missing’ Downtown on YouTube. Surely an ‘Austen fan’ would have put a Marianne Dashwood spin on her rendition of this 1960s song, rather than singing its melody straight and in tempo?? And WHY would the producers (or whomever) THINK that 20-somethings would even know the song? so why bother leave in Bingley’s line??

4 thoughts on “Lost in Austen – the (US?) DVD

  1. Hi Kelly – I was going to post on this as well! – I just watched it last week – so thanks for your all comments [you were obviously taking voluminous notes while watching!] – [I will post a counterpoint next week hopefully!]

    First things first – the main missing scene is Amanda singing “Downtown” – it was cut for copyright reasons – was in the show but not the DVD – but as all good things do, it IS on YouTube here:

    it is a fabulous scene – when we first see Darcy actually sort of smiling and shows the beginning of his attachment, and Ms. Bingley is suitably bitchy, as expected. It is obvious they cut something there. Not sure of others – though the last episode is so rushed I felt they must have run out of money and had to finish it all up in a breathless, hurried mess.

    There has been ALOT of chat about this movie – much on the Austen blogs [Austenprose, Jane Austen Today, Austenblog, etc.]; the Kaplan article in Persuasions is a delight really, as she just lets go her purist views of Austen and really just enjoys the show, which is what one should do and not get caught up in “what would Austen think?!” It is after all a time travel fantasy. It is not a book by the way, just a screenplay, written for ITV; there were 4 episodes of 45 minutes or so each, so the 3hr version on the US DVD is only missing a few minutes. The whole thing is reminiscent of the Jasper Fjord books starting with The Eyre Affair where one is transported into a classic book and all hell breaks loose with the main detective [Tuesday Next] striving desperately to keep the book on track. None of this should be taken too seriously, but enjoy the ride – and by the way, Mr. Bennet gets better as it all progresses, and Hugh Bonneville does him proud… now Mr. Collins is another matter, but that is surely another post!



  2. I searched this out online after it aired on ITV and found it most entertaining! The viewer MUST go into it realizing that it is not a BBC drama or that it follows the novel.

    I viewed it several times online and was so excited for the US dvd release and appreciate watching it on a bigger screen.

    If you view it, watch it the first time for fun and I think you’ll be amused. Then, if you must critique it, watch it again in that frame of mind.

    And by the way….my favorite scene is when Amanda has one last request request of Darcy :)


  3. Hello Mkay – thanks for visiting! … my thoughts exactly – watch it for the fun – there really is alot in there that an Austen fan can pick up – allusions to the novels [Ms. Price for one, and the great line from Emma -” Badly done”] and all the various movies all rolled into one – all very amusing if a tad off the wall; and yes, the Darcy request is the icing on the cake in this amalgamation of adaptations and fantasies..


  4. Dear MKay – let me just say one of my favorite ‘lines’ (watching the trailer that’s included on the DVD) was Amanda making a whirring noise and claiming that was Austen, spinning her grave! Hilarious!!

    Guess I wanted MORE of that irreverant quality. Expected something REALLY clever; but got something moderately cute.

    I’ve not seen the rest yet; and expect I might watch it (therefore, a second viewing) with my mother before sending the disc back. I was rather underwhelmed by The Duchess; but liked that better on a second viewing (with my mother!) – though, again, they could have done so much more with the material they had.

    BTW, I can GUESS (seen the photographs…) what the ‘one request’ is!

    BUT: who was it that mentioned a film geared towards an AMERICAN audience? Really burns me that EVERYone seems to think the Americans need to be catered (pandered?) to?? Just sickening; for they take something *cute* and make it *cutesy*. When did we get this image needing EVERYthing ‘Americanized’??? Or worse: ‘dumbed-down’?


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