Jane Austen in Hollywood

51mCXDLFIrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ed. by Linda Troost

4/5

This book is a collection of scholarly essays focusing on movies based off Jane Austen’s works. It was published in 2002, so the two main works it focuses on is the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy), and the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, written and starred in by Emma Thompson. But certainly other essays focus on the 1996 Persuasion, the 1996 Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow,  and Clueless. The essays cover a variety of topics, including feminism, the female gaze, modernizing Jane, and others.

This book was really interesting. I especially enjoyed the essay about the physicality of Darcy and Col. Brandon. In the book, neither are really described, but in the movies, almost every scene added to the 1995 P&P was to do with Darcy and movement – Darcy fencing, Darcy swimming, Darcy riding his horse. In this way we are shown that while he dances and wears breeches, Darcy is a man. An interesting perspective, and certainly goes a long way towards seeing why Elizabeth starts to fall in love with him. We are constantly watching him watch her. In the book we only get Elizabeth’s (limited) point of view. She’s an unreliable narrator. This way, we get to see what Darcy thinks and feels about certain circumstances, get to watch him agonize as he composes the famous letter to her, get to watch him struggle to conquer his feelings through fencing.

Another great essay was about how the movie version of S&S reverses the theme of the book. In the book, sensibility, that is wild romance, is bad. Look what happens to Marianne when she gives into it. The book is the journey of Marianne becoming less sensitive, and more practical. In the movie, the focus is on Elinor. It is Elinor’s journey towards learning to open her heart up to love.  The author also claims that Willoughby and Brandon have similar arcs, and that Brandon imitates Willoughby. Willoughby brings flowers, Brandon brings flowers. Willoughby rescues in the rain, Brandon rescues in the rain. Willoughby reads poetry, Brandon reads poetry. The author says this like it’s a negative thing, but I don’t think it is. Willoughby does these things in the wrong way – outside of society’s bounds, with too much passion and not enough thought for Marianne’s reputation. Brandon, on the other hand, does it in the correct way, with just enough passion. Maybe I’m saying this because I adore Brandon and will defend him to the death. But there you go.

I also enjoyed the essay comparing the 1996 Emma with Clueless. According to the author of that essay, Clueless follows more closely with the book’s plot, especially when it comes to Cher’s voiceover. The irony of Emma comes in hearing Emma’s thoughts and their juxtaposition of how things really are. In Clueless, that juxtaposition becomes obvious in the form of a voiceover narrating what was going on. I love this movie so much so I’m glad that it’s getting some love and isn’t just dismissed as a lame teen movie. It’s so clever!

I really enjoyed this book. Some of the essays were kind of dry, but for the most part they were interesting and thought provoking. It’s academic enough that I would cite it in a paper, but accessible enough that I had no trouble reading and understanding what the authors were taking about. A good balance. I also got the book from my local library, so it’s clearly not too scholarly to understand.

However, this book was published in 2002. There have been a whole new crop of adaptations since then, not to mention adaptations like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Bride and Prejudice, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I would love to see a second volume put out focusing on these new works and comparing and contrasting them to the older works. In fact, if they’re taking submissions, I have a lot of thoughts about comparing Edward Ferrars in the 1996 and the 2008 movies. I hope they write a new volume, because I would love to read it.

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