JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Miss Austen Regrets

Welcome to another installment of the Jane Austen Movie Club, exclusively here at Risky Regencies! Here we meet to dissect, discuss, and generally over-analyze adaptations of Jane Austen’s work…and more.

Today we have a first: that is, our first selection which isn’t actually an Austen adaptation…but a story about Austen herself.

Yes, today we’re discussing the 2008 BBC/WGBH television production MISS AUSTEN REGRETS, a fictionalized semi-biographical story about Jane Austen, and whether she ever regretted not marrying Mr. This or Mr. That.

The relevant credits, with “you also saw her in such-and-such” notes (in green), are:

DIRECTOR: Jeremy Lovering

SCREENPLAY: Gwyneth Hughes

CAST:

Olivia Williams — Jane Austen

Olivia Williams played Jane Fairfax in the 1996 BBC version of Emma.

Greta Scacchi — Cassandra Austen

Greta Scacchi played Mrs. Weston, also in the 1996 Emma.

Hugh Bonneville — Rev. Brook Bridges

Hugh Bonneville played the Prince Regent in the recent Purefoy version of Brummell, and Mr. Rushworth in the 1999 movie of Mansfield Park.

Phyllida Law — Mrs. Austen

Law is the third member of this cast to also appear in the 1996 Emma: she played Mrs. Bates. She also happens to be the mother of Emma Thompson, who scripted and starred in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility.

Adrian Edmondson — Henry Austen

Jack Huston — Doctor Charles Haden

Imogen Poots — Fanny Austen-Knight

Samuel Roukin — Harris Bigg

Pip Torrens — Edward Austen-Knight

Pip Torrens played the Netherfield butler in the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice. (And Bingo Little in the Fry & Laurie Jeeves and Wooster.)

Tom Hiddleston — Mr. John Plumptre

Jason Watkins — Rev. Clarke

Sally Tatum — Anna Lefroy

Sylvie Herbert — Mme. Bigeon

(Here is Jane…and her very useful brother…)

So…what did you think?

All opinions welcome!

Cara
Cara King, whose cat would have appeared in the 1996 Emma except that he was busy conquering the world that day

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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23 Responses to JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Miss Austen Regrets

  1. I ADORED this movie even though I cried buckets. Williams was very convincing as Jane Austen and certainly not to be mistaken with Anne Hathaway’s Jane.

    My browser is acting up. So I’ll be back later to comment some more.

  2. Todd says:

    Keira wrote:

    I ADORED this movie even though I cried buckets.

    Keira, you night-owl!

    I also liked this movie a lot. I am, however, far too manly to cry. (Occasionally, when I am deeply moved, my eyes show a suspicious brightness. What they are suspicious of, I am not sure.)

    I have no idea if Jane Austen did regret any of her earlier choices. I also don’t know if her niece was in reality such a brat. But I found the portrayal of the characters believable, given what I know about Jane Austen’s life–I read a biography of her a few years ago, and the odd article here and there since then.

    I must say, though–for me, the saddest part was not that she had never found the right man to marry, but that she died young and never had the chance to write more novels. Given the outstanding quality of all her published books, I can only wonder what she might have accomplished given a few more years.

    Todd-whose-eyes-have-a-suspicious-brightness-at-the-thought

  3. I have to agree with everyone so far that I absolutely adored this film and I wasn’t sure that I would after the horrors of Mansfield Park. I thought Olivia Williams was wonderful as Jane, loving but sarcastic, realistic but there was a part of her that perhaps yearned for love, although she realized that she probably would not have had the freedom to write. The only thing that I would have to liked to see more of was the relationship between Cassandra and Jane. The movie seemed to spend a little too much time on her relationship with her niece Fanny, and I would have liked to have known when Henry’s wife died. I did love the scene between her and Bridges when he asks her to tell him that she regrets turning him down even if it’s a life and she replies “What’s the point?” Loved the fact that Tom Lefroy was dismissed in a short scene. Take that Becoming Jane!

  4. Elena Greene says:

    I love how this movie dealt with the issue of reconciling romance with reality, that it could make us think without forcing conclusions. It is rather like Jane herself, when you consider how many interpretations there are of her works.

  5. I liked this one, too! I don’t think I Loved it, would have to watch again to see. I do wish it could have been a bit longer, at least a full 2 hours–I could see where someone who didn’t already know who all the “characters” are might have gotten confused. And I didn’t like that lace do rag she wore on her head so often (I would have worn a proper hat to go see the Prince Regent’s librarian, lol!). But Olivia Williams was so much more my own idea of JA than AH was was. πŸ™‚

  6. Mostly I liked this. I LOVED her clothes–the very simple lines and the turban-esque things. I thought Olivia Williams was wonderful, Greta Scacchi was amazing, and I was saddened to see Phyllida Lawes looking so old (I’m assuming some of that was makeup, but…). And Hugh Bonneville is always wonderful.

    But (I always have a but, as my husband likes to remind me), I felt the script had her quoting herself too much, something Austen would never have done, and it was disconcerting. And do we really need all those shots of women cavorting over green fields, all the time? It didn’t really look like Hampshire.

    But overall, good. I’m going to watch it again with my husband who I know will cry buckets. He’s so girly where movies are concerned. He’s the only person I know who cried at “Gladiator.”

  7. Oh, I also liked it that the actors actually looked like they could be related. You’re right, Janet–she DID seem to quote herself a lot. Maybe the writer(s) really did their homework and were dead-set on showing that. πŸ™‚

    Unrelated to anything Austen-like (unless it’s the powerless position of women in the early 19th century!) go vote today!!! πŸ™‚

  8. It was so tragic, and so well done. Such a shame that people died of Addison’s disease far to easily in those days.

    I am a historical CLUE-LESS I looked up the Prince Regent and read the accompanying commentary and found it quite fascinating.

    What truly struck me was how Jane’s internal struggles and some external have not changed all that much for women in some 200 years.

  9. Lois says:

    I really liked it too, and yep, teared up at the end. . . to me, the reason why this worked is they took what letters we do have and speculated. The big problem with Becoming Jane was they changed the facts that we do know. Here, we don’t really know if they were changing history. Only Jane does. LOL πŸ™‚

    But it also works because I think it’s only natural to immediately assume that a woman who wrote about happy ever afters who didn’t have her own in a world where it was unusual for a woman to be unmarried, that maybe she did have some regrets or second thoughts. We all wonder about our decisions in life, she probably did too. About exactly what, well, that’s for our imaginations. πŸ™‚

    Lois

  10. This is just an FYI, but Adrian Edmondson who played Henry is married to Jennifer Saunders of Ab Fab fame. He’s also done a variety of Brit-coms including The Young Ones, with Rik Mayall, which I used to adore watching when I was doing my semester abroad in London. Interesting to see him playing a more or less ‘straight’ character instead of the comic relief.

  11. Diane Gaston says:

    The sound was fuzzy and it was a struggle for me to hear what they were saying. I think I missed a lot as a result.

    I loved Williams as a mature Jane (don’t forget. Anne Hathaway played a young Jane)and I loved the idea of another romance lost in the letters Cassandra burned, a romance that perhaps inspired Persuasion.

    I also loved the actress who played Fanny. I loved her depiction of a young Regency miss.

    Who was the lady with the foreign accent in Henry’s house? Was she supposed to be his wife? Or a housekeeper? Because Henry was married to their cousin, wasn’t he? and she wasn’t foreign…although her first husband was.

    That was one of the things I missed, not being able to hear it clearly.

  12. Cara King says:

    To begin with, Todd reminded me that I should have mentioned that Phyllida Law is of course the mother not only of Emma Thompson, but also of Sophie Thompson, who played Mary in the Root/Hinds Persuasion, and Miss Bates in the Paltrow Emma. (It was late, & I was tired…otherwise I wouldn’t have forgotten. I’ve been a big fan of Sophie Thompson for years.)

    Elizabeth Kerri Mahon wrote:

    The only thing that I would have to liked to see more of was the relationship between Cassandra and Jane.

    Oh, me too! That’s just what I was thinking after it was over…

    Janet Mullany wrote:

    I felt the script had her quoting herself too much

    That bugged me too, Janet — though I took it to be not that she was quoting herself, but that in the movie version, these were things she’d said rather than written in a letter… (Rather like in the adaptations of her novels where the narrator’s words are turned into dialogue…) But the more famous bits, like the ivory, really bugged me for some reason!

    Tina M. Russo wrote:

    What truly struck me was how Jane’s internal struggles and some external have not changed all that much for women in some 200 years.

    Yes. It does give one pause. When her mother started in on her toward the end I just wanted someone to give her a good shake to shake some sense into her!

    EKM wrote:

    Interesting to see him playing a more or less ‘straight’ character instead of the comic relief.

    Like when Hugh Laurie started doing House! πŸ™‚

    Diane, I’m pretty sure that was his housekeeper.

    Cara

  13. Hooot! Hooot! Hello from one night-owl to another. Only a suspicious brighteness, Todd? (For women that would’ve been “sheen”.) How about a lone tear?

    Janet, your husband cried over “Gladiator?” I may have drooled an equal amount of liquid, but my eyes were quite dry.

    Elizabeth, aha! We now have dueling women: Williams v. Hathaway.

    Diane, that was the French emigre housekeeper.

    I wondered why Cassandra was shown to be so much older of a person, than Jane, and with so much regret in the lines of her face, as compared with Jane. I, too, would’ve liked to have seen more of the sisters and their relationship. In fact, a little more of the mother (while a viper) would’ve also helped.

    The notion of a flighty, flirtatious Jane with many lovers (in fact or platonic) sits oddly with me. If so, why would her brother consider her as a proper companion for Fanny?

    Without a doubt Jane was in love with the notion of love, she herself fell in love easily, so I definitely believed she regretted not having a HEA for herself.

    I have a feeling that she used “a wealthy man” as an excuse to say why she wasn’t married. While partly true, it was the fear of what marriage (wife, children, household) might do to her writing that caused her to not marry. This is interesting today, because quite a few women try their hand at writing when they are housebound with little kids.

    When do they show the movie again?

  14. doglady says:

    I have to agree with Todd that the saddest thing about her too short life was the fact that I feel certain there were more wonderful novels rattling around in her brain.

    I thought the film was well done and I did tear up a bit. Loved the clothes. The script was a bit contrived at times, but overall it was a pleasant surprise.

  15. Cara King says:

    I guess I never really commented properly on this!

    I liked it, but it mostly didn’t excite me. I liked Olivia Williams’s performance a lot — she radiated intelligence — though on occasion a few things rang false. (Her messing with the curate’s head felt too cruel to me — at least, the way it was played here, with these two actors and these performances. From what I’ve seen in her letters, it didn’t feel quite right…but maybe that’s just me.)

    I did want to slap Fanny, but I know I was supposed to feel that way… πŸ™‚

    I guess I thought Henry might have been a bit off. I always inferred he was quite a charmer — the women in the family always seemed to adore him, though he always sounded to me like a lazy and selfish guy…from which I conclude that he had one of those vibrant, lovable personalities. And this guy seemed rather dull…

    BTW, it didn’t bother me that Cassandra looked so much older than Jane, because (1) different women age at different rates, (2) given the state of their medicine, cosmetics & lotions, and lifestyle, there could be lots of reasons for premature aging, and (3) one of the characters said something about her growing old overnight when her fiance died…which could imply it was due to stress, or illness, or even that Jane made efforts to look “pretty” (as she still loved to flirt) but Cassandra didn’t care how she looked…

    The notion of a flighty, flirtatious Jane with many lovers (in fact or platonic) sits oddly with me. If so, why would her brother consider her as a proper companion for Fanny?

    They might have overdone it a little in the “drinking and spying on the men” scene, but otherwise I took it to mean that Jane never went over the line in her flirting… Anyway, that’s how I saw it, Keira!

    I don’t know when or if they’ll show the movie again — I think you’ll have to check the schedule on your local pbs station… (www.pbs.org).

    Cara

  16. Cara, I don’t think I said this before, or if I did, it bears repeating. Thank you for leading this discussions here. Yours and everyone else’s comments have opened up JA’s world to me even more and it’s a ton of fun.

  17. Georgie Lee says:

    I wish Masterpiece Theater was on Saturday nights. I’m falling behind on my Jane Austen movies πŸ™

  18. Cara King says:

    Oh, it’s too bad you’re missing them, Georgie! Luckily, I think they’re all going out on DVD pretty much right after they air…

    Thanks, Keira! I have a lot of fun doing this. (I’m delighted to have a place where I can talk these movies over with folks who’ve actually watched them! And not only that, but have usually watched other versions to compare them to! Heaven!)

    Cara

  19. Diane Gaston says:

    Georgie, my cable station repeats Masterpiece Theatre during the week. Check your schedule and see if yours does too.

  20. Todd says:

    Keira wrote:

    Hooot! Hooot! Hello from one night-owl to another. Only a suspicious brightness, Todd? (For women that would’ve been “sheen”.) How about a lone tear?

    No lone tear. But there might have been the faintest quiver of the chin. πŸ™‚

    I do agree with Cara about Henry–given his various attempts at different professions (soldier, banker, clergyman), he comes across when you read about him as rather a flake. So the fact that Jane and Cassandra adored him makes you think he must have been quite charming. And I thought Edward came across a bit too censorious, too.

    Todd-who-gives-a-hoot

  21. Todd, you’re such a hoot.

    I saw Henry as helpless and hapless, thereby, arousing the maternal instincts and a tolerable attitude. Oh, poor Henry. Another failure. Poor fellow, he can’t help it.

  22. scandibaby says:

    Olivia Williams did NOT play Jane Fairfax in the 1996 version of Emma with Gwynneth Paltrow. That honor was bestowed on the oddest cast member of all — Polly Walker who seemed very foreign.

  23. Cara King says:

    Olivia Williams did NOT play Jane Fairfax in the 1996 version of Emma with Gwynneth Paltrow. That honor was bestowed on the oddest cast member of all — Polly Walker who seemed very foreign.

    I agree that Polly Walker made a very odd Jane Fairfax, Scandibaby!

    BTW, the confusion here is that there were two 1996 Emmas: the one with Gwyneth Paltrow, and the one with Kate Beckinsale. I should have clarified that I meant the Beckinsale version!

    BTW, lovely to find yet another Austen movie junkie! πŸ™‚

    Cara

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