First in a series about matching your mood to the proper Jane Austen Adaptation (hereafter, “JAA”).
Mood #1: Everything’s lovely. I had a great week and I feel very bubbly and happy.
Firstly, congratulations to you for having a good week. Love those! For you I would suggest some of the JAAs that I consider primarily light and delightful. Among them:
Pride and Prejudice, the infamous 1995 BBC/A&E adaptation that arguably re-lit the fires of Austen Mania that has prevailed in the culture since the 1990s. And there was good reason for that: this adaptation, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, as well as a stellar supporting cast, became one of the biggest Austen culture touchstones ever. Quick, what’s the one thing you know about Colin Firth? That he took a lovely swim in his estate’s pond in the middle of this series and emerged, dripping, to leave an indelible impression on the minds of women viewers everywhere? Yup, that’s what everyone knows about Colin Firth. That’s how big this adaptation was.
At six hours long, it also took the time to be extremely faithful to Austen’s prose and the actors perfectly nailed the author’s humor, fractiousness, devotion, pride, and, well, prejudice in a way that has seldom been repeated in all the JAAs.
Northanger Abbey, the 2007 adaptation, starring Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild. The fact that the main actor in this program is named Felicity (“happiness”) is perfect. This most troublesome to adapt of Austen’s novels, as it was written as a spoof of popular gothic novels of the time, and is therefore a bit different than the rest of Austen’s work, has also not been adapted as often as many of her other novels. But this one hit it out of the park, complete with over-the-top fantasy sequences in which the heroine, Catherine Morland, features as the starlet in imagined versions of all the super trashy and therefore utterly enjoyable gothic novels she’s been reading. It’s got its dark moments too, complete with a possible murder mystery, a cruel and overbearing father, and nefarious soldiers who tread lightly on the honor of young maidens, but mainly it’s got humor and prevailing kindness and good sense on the parts of the Catherine’s parents and older friends, as well as a scorching attraction between Catherine and the sweet, teasing Henry, second son from Northanger Abbey.
Another longer and very faithful adaptation that perfectly showcases Austen’s humor and unique characters is 2009’s Emma starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller (as perhaps the most swoon-worthy Mr. Knightley ever, what with his cutie-pie eyes, strong self-confidence that nonetheless falters a bit around Emma, and his sarcastic putting in place of such buffoons as Mr. Elton). Everyone in this adaptation is well-cast, right down to Emma’s hypochondriac father, her lighthearted and very maternal sister, and of course the Misses Bates.
Come to think of it, what I tend to think of as the most light and delightful of all the JAAs also tend to be very faithful, as well as filled with her sly humor—leading me to believe that Austen herself must have been a light and delightful person.
Enjoy the rest of your week!