Pop Culture Princess

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Miss Austen Regrets but we viewers do not

The latest entry in PBS' Complete Jane Austen series was a brief biopic entitled Miss Austen Regrets,which starred Olivia Williams as the lady in question towards the end of her life and mulling over her past choices in love. The prologue shows one of Jane's more well known marriage proposals,given by Harris Bigg-Wither,whom Jane accepts in the evening and then rejects by morning.

The vast majority of the film deals with Jane's relationship with her niece Fanny Knight(Imogen Poots),a lively young woman seeking some romantic advice from her favorite aunt. Jane is more than willing to help Fanny out but does not pretend that her personal experience in these matters is a tad limited.

You can easily see why Fanny would want to hang out with her Aunt Jane,a witty woman with some small amount of fame who still enjoys a good flirtation and a couple of glasses of wine in the evening.

Jane's life,however,is not all fun and games-she struggles with doubts about her writing,worries when her brother's financial troubles threaten to take away the only comfortable home that Jane,her big sister Cassandra(Greta Scacchi)and their mother have had in years.

Jane also runs into a former beau of hers,Mr. Brook Bridges(Hugh Bonneville),as well as entertains a crush on a young doctor who attends her brother Henry during his illness,a year before Jane's own health problems started to arise.

One of the best things about this film is how down to earth is about all of the situations that Jane and her family had to deal with. There's not an overblown or over dramatized scene here,even when confrontations and arguments crop up:

Olivia Williams is excellent as Jane,a woman who was determined to live her life in a way that pleased her but yet still had struggles with not only those decisions that affected her happiness but also extended into the lives of her sister and mother as well.

One of the most sad and beautifully touching scenes in the film is between an ailing Jane and Cassandra in attendance as the two of them share their sorrows over choices that lead them to where they are now. A truly bittersweet moment of sibling bonding and love,with both ladies hitting of the right notes that makes you want to cry in a non cheesy-break-out-the-Kleenex kind of way.

This past summer's Austen biopic,Becoming Jane,will be out on DVD soon and it may be an interesting bookend to Miss Austen Regrets(even with Tom Lefroy not being as strongly highlighted in MAR as he is in the Hathaway film). If you wish to see Miss Austen Regrets on video,you will have to wait for the upcoming Sense and Sensibility miniseries DVD,which will offer the film as one of it's bonus features. Miss Austen Regrets is a melancholy yet memorable tribute to the literary legend that is Jane Austen and one that both fans and historians can mutually enjoy.

Next week begins the Pride and Prejudice miniseries run,which I am sure that many delighted Austen fans will be watching,even if they have already seen it more times that they can count and own it on either video or DVD.(full disclosure:I not only have the VHS set of P&P,I have two DVD sets of it,one of which is kept as a display item in my Jane Austen shrine. Yes,I have a Jane Austen shrine-no joke. I wear my geek girl colors with pride,folks).

Since there's no need to review P&P,I decided that for each week of the miniseries that I would have a character profile of the leading lady and gentleman,along with a college of my favorite good and bad supporting players in this story. We will begin with Miss Independent herself,Elizabeth Bennet:

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