Losing the thread


This article is probably not unexpected, with the impending broadcast of Miss Austen Regrets on UK television, but we found it a trifle strange nonetheless.

She flirts remorselessly. She wakes up with a hangover. She wisecracks with her women friends about the myriad failings of the pitiful male specimens she surveys. Sex and the City’s Samantha? Carrie? Miranda? No, Jane Austen, of course.

OHDEARJANENOTWITHTHESEXANDTHECITYCOMPARISONSAGAIN!!!!! Elvis wept, people! Something original, please!

“Your only way to get a man like Mr Darcy is to make him up,” says Olivia Williams’ Jane Austen to her niece Fanny (a sentiment echoed by my mother, who once sent me a card bearing the cheery greeting “Searching for Mr Right?” and then inside the helpful solution: “Look in fiction!”). This vehement assertion of no-nonsense realism is underlined by an obsession with money that has this Jane swinging slightly wildly between acerbic social commentator and Regency Heather Mills.

Oh, she has GOT to be kidding us. The “obsession” with money in the film was related to the fact that the Austens, as a family, had suffered several financial setbacks–setbacks, incidentally, that may have contributed to Jane Austen’s death (severe emotional distress exacerbates the symptoms of Addison’s disease). They didn’t even put them all in the film–we can’t remember the expected legacy from Uncle Leigh Perrot not coming through, but that happened around the same time that Henry’s bank failed, if memory serves. Jane was at the time in her career when she was just starting to make some decent money, and get attention in the right places–reviews by Walter Scott, the patronage of the Prince Regent–and then she fell ill, and couldn’t take advantage of it. Are we the only ones who can follow a very logical plot? Sheesh!

Besides, Heather Mills, unlike Jane Austen, can actually go out and get a job. Not that she will, but just saying.

It is, however, somewhat undercut by the drama’s central thesis: that Jane Austen was a passionate romantic, one who withdrew her acceptance of a rich young Londoner’s proposal because she wasn’t in love with him, and who regretted, till her dying day, her decision not to marry the man she loved because he was too poor.

We think she has Miss Austen Regrets confused with Becoming Jane. Surely she didn’t think that Jane regretted Brook Bridges? (In the movie, meaning–it’s doubtful she spared the guy a thought in real life).

Frankly, this whole thing sounds like it was written by Bridget Jones after a bottle of Chardonnay, except that we know Bridget suffers from writers’ block. By the end we were wondering WTFerrars it had to do with Jane Austen.