Miss Austen Regrets - reviews

The following is an excerpt of a review of the Jane Austen Marathon from an article by:
Cathleen McGuigan


What trumps these three Austen adaptations [Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion] is the series' bonus, "Miss Austen Regrets," a surprisingly good fictionalized biography. Beautifully acted—especially by Olivia Williams in the title role—it focuses on the last years of Austen's life and displays a richness and wit often missing from the new films. Austen's novels always end with a wedding, but this biopic opens with one, where the spinster Austen is a guest. As the happy couple—her niece and her bridegroom—burst out of a picturesque country church, they pass among the gravestones. The shadow of death isn't far in this autumnal tale as it explores the question: did the author who wrote so magically of true love regret never marrying? "This is the real world," Austen tells another niece. "The only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up!" Yet middle-aged Miss Austen still loves to dance, to flirt ("I'm still a cat when I see a mouse," she says) and, most of all, to match wits. She's had some literary success, but she and her family, like many of her well-bred characters, suffer financial misfortune. As her novels do, this film points up the precarious position of women who lived outside the security of marriage to a man of means. The house she shares with her mother and sister resembles that in "Sense and Sensibility," which will be the final PBS film. You may wonder how this new version compares with the first-rate 1995 Ang Lee-Emma Thompson movie. Then again, comparing competing Austen films has become half the fun.


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