Deborah Yaffe

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Party like it's 1995

By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 11 2016 04:37PM

You remember 1995, right? The beginning of that halcyon eighteen-month stretch during which six Jane Austen film adaptations, ranging in quality from pretty good to totally classic, were released on big and small screens? Happy days.


Well, it’s beginning to look like happy days might be here again. As I reported previously, already this year we’ve seen the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Love and Friendship, Whit Stillman’s adaptation of Lady Susan; the Hallmark Channel screening of Unleashing Mr. Darcy, based on a fan fiction update of Pride and Prejudice; and, just last weekend, the release of the movie version of the best-selling 2009 mashup Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


And now comes word that a UK production company is getting ready to shoot a film based on Sanditon, the novel Austen left unfinished at her death. Charlotte Rampling, currently up for a Best Actress Oscar, will star as Lady Denham. This is great news: except for the extremely uneven web adaptation Welcome to Sanditon, the sophomore-slump effort of the folks who brought us the fabulous Lizzie Bennet Diaries, no one has ever tried to film Sanditon, whose seventy-five-ish pages tantalize with the promise of another great novel.


So far, it must be said, this current film boomlet hasn’t lived up to the high standard set by its1995-97 predecessor, which included the immortal Clueless, the iconic Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice, and the sublime Emma Thompson/Ang Lee Sense and Sensibility. While Love and Friendship has earned excellent reviews, P&P&Z got a decidedly mixed reception and looks to be a financial failure. I haven’t seen either of those yet, but I can attest that Unleashing Mr. Darcy was execrable.


Still: Sanditon! Can’t wait. And as long as we’re mining lesser-known Jane Austen, do I have any takers for The Watsons? This seems like the time to do it.


2 comments
Feb 19 2016 04:28PM by jules

Actually I think it is particularly great that film crews are looking at lesser-Austen, rather than doing another (entirely unnecessary) rehash of Pride and Prejudice or one of the the other 5 novels (possible exceptions being Northanger and Mansfield which have faired very badly in the adaptation stakes). I have long wished to see an adaptation of Lady Susan. she is a dramatists dream, and it was shot in my hometown of Dublin. Very much looking forward to Sanditon too. I wonder if they will incorporate Anna Lefroys continuation? I hope someone does adapt Watsons as we have more of an idea how Austen intended to finish it. again it could incorporate Catherine Hubback's continuation, but with Austens original dialogue and storyline, as far as it goes.

Feb 19 2016 05:02PM by dyaffe

I agree -- I'm delighted to see filmmakers working on the lesser-told Austens (though I'm still hankering for a definitive MP). I'm especially curious about Sanditon: since the screenwriters will be making up at least 3/4 of the story from scratch, it will be interesting to see if they produce something that feels Austen-like.

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