The Complete Jane Austen News Roundup: Don't Mess With Jane Edition

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Miss Austen Regrets Well, after we complained about the slowdown in news the other day, naturally there was a veritable tidal wave of opinions and reviews about Miss Austen Regrets. It’s being positioned as An Alternative To That Athletic Contest Taking Place Today as well. Why would it be assumed that Janeites wouldn’t like football, and vice versa? We’re actually not that exercised about it this year ourself, but we’ll watch for the commercials if nothing else. 🙂 Incidentally, TCM will be showing S&S95 opposite the SuperBowl.

The reviews are mixed, as we suspect our own readers’ opinions will be–and perhaps our own. The Los Angeles Times found it interesting, at least.

This is the second recent movie about Austen, after last year’s theatrical release “Becoming Jane,” a thing of wild invention that packed her off on an aborted elopement to Scotland. Like that film, “Miss Austen Regrets” ruminates on the author’s love life, or lack thereof — tries to rectify it, in a way, by painting her as a creature of inner passion. But while screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes (the excellent kidnapping miniseries “Five Days”) has drawn some serious curlicues around the few available facts — and she has definitely done her homework — she has also managed to create plausible characters and crises.

Well, that sounds good. USAToday liked it a bunch:

As the title indicates, the tone of this late-life elegy is one of melancholy and regret, of time winding down and opportunities lost. Guiding her niece (Imogen Poots) through a sea of admirers, Aunt Jane reflects on her decision not to marry — and what that meant for the financial well-being of her mother and her beloved sister (Greta Scacchi in a lovely, understated performance).

What emerges is a touching, often funny picture of a woman who made her choices and was determined to be happy with them. The film asks us to sympathize at times, but it never makes the mistake of asking us to pity her. She had her freedom, her work and her gifts, and while we may wish she had lived to write more, we at least have the joy of reading the books she was able to complete.

Slate is dismissive (scroll alllllll the way down):

As usual, Masterpiece serves up high-toned pap featuring very nice costumes. No petticoat can conceal its frivolousness. This is matrimonial entertainment not too far distant from Millionaire Matchmaker and Matched in Manhattan, though with less cleavage and more circle dancing, with less sense and more sensibility.

Ouch! The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel begs to differ:

In Gwyneth Hughes’ smart, subtle script, based on the writer’s letters, an elegant, middle-aged Austen (Olivia Williams) jousts wittily with men but finds that, when it comes to marriage, her timing is not the best. Williams’ Jane is a marvel of intellect bridled by convention and passion subdued by pragmatism; Greta Scacchi gives another fine performance as her older sister, Cassandra.

And the San Francisco Chronicle has a thoughtful review that gives us much hope:

There is so much to recommend the PBS biographical film about Austen airing Sunday night. “Miss Austen Regrets” ripples with superb performances, glorious cinematography, thrilling direction and careful attention to authenticity in set and costumes.

But what has inspired all of the above is the superb script by Gwyneth Hughes. Yes, she’s able to take scraps from Austen’s surviving correspondence with her sister, Cassandra, and niece, Fanny, and assemble a credible supposition of Austen’s life. But the real glory of the writing is how Hughes delicately snips cuttings from Austen’s fiction and grafts them carefully to the character of the author herself.

Best of all, when she is done, Hughes is smart enough to avoid saying, “This is how it must have been.” Instead, she suggests a complicated woman whose seeming self-reliance and acerbic wit may have concealed not just the obvious, a broken heart, but also a growing regret for choosing the safety of solitude. Yet it is equally believable when, near the end of her life, Jane (Olivia Williams) looks back on her life and tells her sister that what she gained by eschewing marriage and a family was something perhaps even more precious: freedom.

We’re off to watch very expensive advertising till 9 p.m. The official postmortem discussion will be posted around 10:15 p.m. Many thanks to Alert Janeites Lisa, Anna, and Kimberly for sending links!