What Jane Austen adaptations are you in the mood for? (Part 2)


Second in a series (here’s the first post) about matching your mood to the proper Jane Austen Adaptation (hereafter, “JAA”).

Mood #2: The baby’s got a cold that I’m going to get and all the romance has gone out of my life and my boss is a jerk.

Ah, my friend, we’ve all been there. And for you I’m going to prescribe the JAAs that I call “Totally Sappy.” They’re not the most faithful to Austen’s texts, they can in fact take ridiculous liberties with the story and casting in the service of largely being the biggest tearjerkers ever, but that sort of thing can be very cathartic. Cuddle in with a blankie (even if it’s 80 degrees out) for the security, and sap out.

The 2007 BBC version of Persuasion struggles a bit with taking itself too seriously, but  its portrayal of the love story between Anne Elliott (Austen’s oldest protagonist, at the spinsterly old age of 27) and dashing naval captain Frederick Wentworth, a couple who had once been engaged but who were separated when Anne felt the crushing weight of her family’s disappointment with her “unsuitable” choice, hits all the right wistful notes. At 90 minutes, you can get this one watched even if you’re distracted by workaday problems, and the soundtrack is lovely (if, again, a bit melodramatic) and who doesn’t feel better after they look at Rupert Penry-Jones (who starred here as Wentworth) for a while?

When Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen came out in 2005, a lot of people (most notably my husband) wondered why on earth people would pay good money to see yet another adaptation of this book. My response to his question was to take myself to the movie, and then report back that never had I seen such an attentive movie audience in my entire life. Really. No one went to get popcorn, no one went to the bathroom (I’m still amazed by this), and it was so quiet I found myself hoping that everyone remembered to keep breathing as we all stared, rapt, at the big screen. Again, this adaptation misses a lot of Austen’s humor, but the lush settings, the absolutely gorgeous soundtrack, and the different take on Mr. Darcy—Macfadyen played him more as a shy tortured hero than a prideful rich kid—conspired to make this a completely sigh-worthy and totally sappy (in the best possible way) film. Just go to YouTube and search for “Pride and Prejudice ending”—you don’t have to be any more specific than that, and you’ll be whisked away on a vision of this Darcy telling his Elizabeth that she’s bewitched him, body and soul.

Another lush adaptation gifted to us by the BBC was 2008’s Sense & Sensibility, starring Dan Stevens (who would go on to even bigger things by starring in Downton Abbey), as well as Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as the disappointed-in-fortune-and-love Dashwood sisters. Watch this one for the lush soundtrack, the fabulous cliffside scenery, and the absolute anguish in Elinor’s eyes as she must tell her beloved (who rather accidentally got engaged to someone else before he met his true love, Elinor, and then had to stick with his earlier poor choice) that a mutual friend of theirs can guarantee them a clerical living and house and therefore he can get married (but not to her). Nobody has ever put as much quiet heartsickness into a role as Morahan does here.

Enjoy a good JAA and I hope this mood is short-lived for you!


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