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|Index||13 reviews in total|
As one of the many Austen fans still smarting from the vacuously boring
Becoming Jane, I was nervous about this. As if sensing this
apprehension, Miss Austen Regrets set off at a gallop. One and a half
minutes in and we are already over the worst hurdles. We have a
talented, intelligent lead - an innovative, sparkily humorous script -
tactful and assured direction. Phew!
All memory of the toxically banal Ann Hathaway as the younger Jane evaporated as the lovely Olivia Williams settled into the part - so successfully that the sideswipe the writer takes at the earlier production 20 minutes in seems inappropriately vengeful.
Without hitting the exact spot, this was very, very much better.
It played on safer ground. It portrays Austen between the publication of Mansfield Park and Emma, just starting on the first draft of Persuasion and surrounds her with characters with credible lives of their own. It does an excellent job of demonstrating just how fragile was the life of even a woman successful and famous enough to be a guest of the Prince Regent. Only by marriage rather than as a result of her work can Jane support her family in their modest style of life. Questions over her brother's estate threaten the house she lives in but can never own. This insecurity is what Miss Austen really regrets.
All the minor performances are what you'd expect from top-drawer BBC period drama and Olivia Williams and Imogen Poots are excellent in the two central roles of aunt who hasn't given up flirting and the niece about to become engaged who is still learning the ropes. The whole production portrays an interesting life, full of love, frustration, struggle and uncertainty about life's choices, and does something like justice to one of the greatest authors of literature and her most intimate concerns.
So, if you've seen neither of the two recent dramas about Jane Austen's life and you're prone to kicking the cat when angered, make absolutely certain that you see this one first.
This was quite good. All the acting was wonderful, especially Olivia
Williams. She brought all the intelligence and wit and feeling to Jane
that one would expect. The last scene between Jane and Cassandra was
absolutely incredible, so beautifully done. It made me wish this had
been made for theatrical release instead of "Becoming Jane." The
dialogue was very well written - witty where appropriate, cutting when
needed, and always intelligent and natural. My only quibble is the need
to show JA regretting anything. I like to imagine that she and
Cassandra and their mother (and friend who lived with them in real
life) all lived happily together and had even less stress and regret
than was shown in the film, although I realize that wouldn't be a very
long movie. Don't know why all these bio-pics feel the need to have
JA's mother trying to talk her into marrying for money, I don't think
there is any basis for that. However, that aside, it was very well
I don't understand why, in the 2007/8 BBC JA fest, this and Northanger Abbey were so good, and Persuasion and Mansfield Park we so very, very bad. Couldn't they have gotten some of the people who did such a great job on these (script, camera, production) and put them on the rest? I don't have much hope for the Sense & Sensibility, but we'll see.
I SO wanted to absolutely love this movie. I did. Don't get me wrong --
it got a lot right. It was on Masterpiece Theater, for heaven's sake,
and the script generally tried to stay closer to the few facts we have
about Austen's life. It had decent direction and adept, credible Brits
portraying Jane and her family. And yet, there was one huge flaw that I
just couldn't ignore. Miss Austen Regrets would have us believe that
Jane had several offers of marriage during her lifetime but knowingly
and deliberately chose to remain single and focus on her work. This is
a 20th to 21st century conceit awkwardly imposed on a 19th century
The few facts we have show that Jane received only one marriage proposal during her life, and that was from someone with an irritating personality. Harris Bigg-Wither was described by Jane's niece Caroline Austen and by one of his own descendants, Reginald Bigg-Wither, as unattractive at best: he was plain, if not homely, stuttered, aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless. Those objectionable qualities, despite his comfortable financial position, would have put off many women, then *or* now. Had he had a more pleasing personality, Harris might have tried first for a fiancée from a more prosperous family instead of proposing to Jane.
Moreover, Jane had known Harris since childhood and probably knew full well what she'd be getting into if she decided to marry him. To endure Bigg-Wither every so often at social occasions was one thing, but to marry him and have to endure that personality day in and day out would have been quite another. The simplest explanation is that Austen initially agreed to his proposal in order to be less of a burden to and/or provide for her family, but she knew him too well not to immediately regret her decision the next morning -- and thus she reneged on her acceptance in less than a day, and remained single. She probably considered that the lesser of two evils.
The truth, then, is *not* that Jane Austen turned down acceptable proposals and made a conscious decision to put her writing first and stay independent, particularly given that she *never was* financially independent, but rather that no handsome, sweet-tempered, intelligent man, with or without means, ever asked her. She may have had such men as friends or acquaintances, but none of them ever proposed. If one had, remaining single would have been a much harder decision -- but that's moot, because such a man never did ask. Period. And that's a rude truth she had to suffer for all her adult life. It's not a truth that Miss Austen Regrets chose to address, however, and that is the film's greatest failing.
This film is so much better than 'Becoming Jane' (which deals with Jane Austen's earlier life), that it is really in another category altogether. Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in this film is scintillatingly brilliant, she truly becomes the character, and although she had already shown in 'The Heart of Me' (see my review) what a sensational actress she is, here she transcends herself. Rarely can an actress have so thoroughly 'become' a historical character as in this film. Olivia Williams has now proved that she is one of the finest actresses in Britain today. She is not vain, and is not afraid to look rough when necessary for the story, whereas Hollywood actresses do not ever want to be seen from the wrong angle, so that they become artificial. Olivia Williams really does seem to suffer with her character every step of the way. She also effervesces and bubbles with uncontrollable mischief and naughtiness, rebelling against the intolerable restrictions of life for a woman in those days. The pathos of Austen's solitary state, when women who were unmarried could not carry on any other relationships either, is vividly portrayed. Greta Scacchi is marvellous as the silent sister Cassandra, though it is hard for me to come to terms with her no longer being the dazzling starlet she was when younger, as I still envisage her as that. Imogen Poots is a mixture of charm and jealousy, feather-brained idiocy, and beaming smiles, even a touch of innate wisdom, in other words, just as full of contradictions as a real person. She pulls it all off, and we believe every aspect of her changing nature as it varies from circumstance to circumstance, laughing with her one minute and at her the next. Her versatility and instinct will doubtless bring her a fine career. Phyllida Law is marvellous as Mrs. Austen, the mother worn out by it all. Adrian Edmondson does a wonderful job as brother Henry, charming but hopeless, devoted brother and failed banker. The director, Jeremy Lovering, has never directed anything other than television material, but here he shows himself as a superb feature film director, albeit this was a film made for television. Let's hope he can now break out of the box. He is announced as director for 'The Wedding Party', and maybe that is for a larger screen. He has proved that he knows how to tease the best results out of his actors and actresses. This film is a genuine triumph, and everyone connected with it should be thrilled at the result, which could hardly be bettered. It is an instant classic, and long may it live its life as a DVD, avidly watched by anyone with an ounce of taste. And above all, what will the amazing Olivia Williams do next? Will she get all the plum roles she deserves? If there be any justice in the world at all, we will see no end of her from now every which way we turn.
I won't bother comparing Miss Austen Regrets to Becoming Jane. I will
simply say: skip the latter and turn to the former if truly interested
in the life of Jane Austen and not the fictional speculation. One is
BBC and the other Hollywood. Enough said.
The only possible criticism of Miss Austen Regrets is how it starts off at such a startlingly quick pace, so much so that if the credits hadn't run I would have thought I'd come in on a good third of the production already gone. Allthe speculation of Jane Austen never having been in love, or having a chance at marriage (especially an advantageous one) is dashed in the first few minutes. From there the audience is left to wonder at the title--is it a what or who she regrets?
The biopic focuses on Jane Austen's latter years, and uses her relationship with her niece Fanny as a means of exploring her past relationships. We come to see financial security was of paramount concern to her, yet that concern was not so much for her sake as it was for her family's. We also see that her freedom to write being more important to her than love. Yet, it is all speculation. It isn't really clear that she had regrets at all. She exuded a satisfaction, so the title is a bit misleading.
What this new biopic brings out is the independence Jane enjoyed, and how much she enjoyed writing. The acting is commendable, the factual details admirable, and the rendering of the time satisfactory (although Jane's outfits swung from either being rather matronly to almost brazen). An enjoyable addition to Austen offerings. Yet, maybe it's time to leave off on the conjectures and meddling in her love life and focus on the brilliance of her writing--no speculation there.
The Austen Industry ensures that almost every year there is a new production of either one of her books, or of films about how us moderns are affected by her work (The Jane Austen Book Club, Lost in Austen)almost two centuries after she lived. This film turns the spotlight away from her characters to the author herself, and does it wonderfully well: we see her as sister, daughter,and aunt, a creature of flesh and blood who is not beyond the occasional infatuation in middle age. Well cast, well acted and all that one expects from a satisfying period drama. For an hour and a half I was transported from monsoonal India to nineteenth century England -- what more can one ask for!
I really loved this movie. I have read a biography or two about Jane
Austen and this movie seemed to me much more accurate than Becoming
Jane. Olivia Williams gave a brilliant performance as Jane. I also
liked Imogen Poots as Fanny. The actors who were her brothers Edward
and Henry were good too. I really liked the guy who played Mr. Haden
I have enjoyed this much more than the new adaptations of her novels on Masterpiece Theatre except for Northanger Abbey. Mansfield Park and Persuasion were OK but not great and I don't know how good Sense and Sensibility is going to be.
I have watched this movie because I love Jane Austen's books, and because I have seen "Becoming Jane", and because I have read a TLS review of it. But, somewhat to my surprise, it is not Austen's biographical details true or false that were my main attraction. The point is, the movie tells an important truth (apart from delivering a series of trite statements on men-women relationships, which are all trite because they are so true ) about life stories, or the ways people think and talk about their lives. They oscillate at least Jane did, as many of us do between regrets (in spite of the title, the movie is NOT about regrets) and the idea that one could have made a "better" decision, and the feeling that the decision was absolutely right ("I have won my freedom"), and yet another feeling, that there was no decision at all, just a coincidence, which (Freud would have said) expressed the true longings and desires, or (some other people would have said), ended up as it did ("things turn out for the best", the movie says). I would hate to think that people see that movie as "just about Jane Austen" much as I admire her, it is about all of us, and importantly so...
Jane Austen's (16 December 1775 18 July 1817) last few years,
gorgeously filmed and directed, just as it would be one of her own
creations, with the difference that her novels end with 'happy
endings', like love and marriage, whilst Austen died at 42 unmarried
and depending on her family. One does wonder why Austen, whose very
witty and vibrant (though social-critical) books are about women and
the necessity of marriage for a social and financial security at her
time, never married!?!
This movie is apparently very closely based on the few remaining letters between Jane, her sister Cassandra and her favourite niece Fanny; an assumption of those very intimate and loving letters, a sort of a hypothesis that Jane chose not to marry of her own, by refusing several marriage proposals to be able to write and for her 'freedom'. It is a very emancipated and 21st Century feminist friendly theory. Some hard- core Austen historians still insist though, that Jane never married because, in her very youth, she refused a marriage proposal from a very rich yet ugly, old and dull man...Mr Bigg...and then she was never asked again...for her no Mr. Darcy came along.
Therefore, biographically not fully bullet-proofed but historical events are accurate.
Love the many quotes incorporated in the movie!
I've never heard of Olivia Williams but I must say she earned all my admiration and will look out for her past and future works! Great actress!
If you like BBC period dramas or even Jane Austen's novels adaptations, then you most certainly will enjoy this; a great family-movie which will inspire the interested Teenager to read Jane Austen novels...(so I hope!)
film about a legend, it is a serious work. her life is more than a picture. her work is more than portrait of a world. because the heart of pages, existence is the sacrifice. it is answer to many ordinaries questions. and beginning to a trip in essence of a society not more different by ours. basic virtue - excellent performance. the second - air of a time - mixture between honey and ash. so, if it is not accurate image about Jane Austen, it is realistic. seductive. and a real show of nuances. the regrets - only flowers of a way to understand life. a kind of lesson , idealistic, of course, but very important as subject of reflection. it is a necessary film in the middle of Jane Austen adaptations. because makes her human been more than a character writing about others characters.
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