Austen your day

If you’re an Austen fan and you missed Lost in Austen the delightful modern take on Pride and Prejudice recently screened on ABC, I strongly recommend checking it out. Amanda Price, a modern woman from London finds her life swapped with Elizabeth Bennet’s just as the P&P story is beginning. Equipped with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the story, she inevitably influences the characters and event, often to their detriment as well as her own!

I am still reeling from some of the events in this adaption with a lifetime of firm opinions on characters and conclusions distorted: Wickham with honourable intentions, a repudiated Darcy and a hedonistic Bingley! (Don’t worry, that won’t spoil anything for you!)

Watching Amanda living out a popular post-modern fantasy, it struck me how many Jane Austen adaptations and references there have been in the past decade.... some good, others [shudders] best left forgotten on the video store shelf. There are also references in other popular films such as You’ve Got Mail, the direct adaptations such as the three based on Pride and Prejudice (including Bridget Jones’ Diary) and those a little left of field such as Lost in Austen, Becoming Jane, even Clueless and Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice!

I won’t monopolise your day with my own opinions on what it is about these stories that’s so appealing.

Rather, let’s keep it short and sweet. If you’re looking to escape the ennui of everyday life, need a bit of romance or want a happy ending, check out my favourite of all the Austen adaptations: Sense and Sensibility.

So what should you get?

Sense and Sensibility

DIRECTOR: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)

CAST: Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee, Love Actually), Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic), Hugh Grant (Love Actually, About a Boy), Alan Rickman (Love Actually, Harry Potter), Greg Wise (Cranford), Hugh Laurie (Blackadder, House).

PLOT: The Misses Dashwood, sensible Elinor and romantic Marianne, along with their mother and youngest sister Margaret find themselves guests in their own home when their late father’s estate is entailed away to their older half brother and his wife. John and Fanny’s arrival at Norland also brings Fanny’s delightful but reserved brother Edward Ferrars who strikes up a promising friendship with Elinor. But his family disapproves and the Dashwoods must move to the only place they can afford, a much smaller cottage in the country. In their new home in Devonshire the girls become a new project for matchmaking neighbour Mrs Jennings. Despite her attempts to join Marianne to the dignified Colonel Brandon, Marianne is rescued by the dashing Willoughby and a passion ensues. But when Willoughby suddenly departs with no explanation and Mrs Jennings’ cousin arrives, two shocking revelations are made which will forever influence the lives and loves of both the young women.


For more Austen on film see:

  • Lost in Austen
  • Becoming Jane
  • Persuasion
  • Pride and Prejudice (BBC)
  • Pride and Prejudice (Working Title)
  • Mansfield Park 
  • Emma


Lead actress Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for her adaptation of the novel and was called in to doctor the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice because of her earlier success at translating Austen to the big screen.

Amanda Root was originally cast as Marianne but due to a scheduling conflict (ironically, another Austen adaptation Persuasion) the role went to Kate Winslet, who earned her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal.

For some real character dissonance, after seeing this, watch Love Actually and see Emma Thompson married to Alan Rickman (her sister’s suitor in Sense and Sensibility) and Hugh Grant (her own love interest) as her older brother!


Do you like classics, comedies or dramas? Do you prefer being swept off on an adventure or prefer to be intellectually challenged?

It may come as no surprise to you that I can tell a lot about a person by their favourite movie. The kind of film one enjoys is generally indicative of their personality, sense of humour, even how they spend their free time. Not to say that a person’s favourite movie is the be all and end all... rather that it gives you insight into a side of them you may not be aware of. My Formula 1 fanatic father’s all time favourite for example is about Mozart! Asking someone’s favourite film presents a great opening for small talk with a new acquaintance or to rescue a dinner party conversation that’s losing its bloom.

It’s interesting how many people find the question difficult though. How do you define your favourite film? Is it a movie that you only saw once but it touched your soul... or is it a film you can watch over and over again and enjoy it as much as you did before? Do you have more than one favourite?

Think it over – what does your favourite movie say about you?
So what is my favourite?

I first saw this quirky fairy tale as a young girl and over two decades later I still adore its irreverent wit and the eccentricities of its characters. I love it for its optimism. I love Mark Knopfler’s score. And of course, I was always in love with its hero, Westley. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it; only that I stopped counting years ago.

 The only thing I dislike about it is that it is very difficult to convey just what makes it so thoroughly fun. I could tell you that it’s not really a kids’ fairy tale but children and adults alike will enjoy it. I could tell you it has an ensemble cast that puts Ocean’s 11 to shame but you may not recognise any of them. Though you’re bound to have heard some of the eternally quotable lines before, would that be a strong enough endorsement?

In the end I will simply say: “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...” What more could you want in a story?
As an aside, it should be noted that while the ‘story within the story’ fairy tale is the main focus of the film, the relationship between the grandfather and his reluctant audience is also a beautiful story of childhood and family relationships. Their sub-plot is an inventive way of telling Buttercup and Westley’s fairy tale which sets this film apart from those that share its genre and it also provides some of the best moments of the film.
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, This is Spinal Tap, The Bucket List?
CAST: Robin Wright-Penn (White Oleander, Forrest Gump), Cary Elwes (Kiss the Girls, Robin Hood: Men In Tights), Wallace Shawn (Clueless, Toy Story), Mandy Patinkin (Criminal Minds, Chicago Hope), Andre The Giant, Christopher Guest (Best in Show)
PLOT: A grandfather visits his sick grandson and reads him a special book: it is the story of Buttercup and her true love, the farm boy Westley. To enable them to marry, Westley seeks his fortune across the sea but is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup, though vowing never to love again, is persuaded by Humperdinck, the ambitious heir to the throne, to be his bride. She is kidnapped by an unusual gang of misfits in order to start a war, and as they haul her to the setting for her murder, they are pursued by a man in black whose intentions and identify are equally mysterious.
If you enjoyed this, see:
  • Stardust 
  • Willow 
  • Ladyhawke 
  • Legend 
  • Enchanted 
  • The Neverending Story
See if you can spot Billy Crystal’s fabulous cameo.