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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Hey, cupcake

Last month, noting the pending release of a Pride and Prejudice screen update entitled Townhouse Confidential, I reported, “My expectations are rock-bottom.”

But I’m a Jane Austen video completist, and so last week, I donated $5.32 to the Bezos children's college fund, gathered up a drink and a snack, and sat down to stream the movie. And . . . it appears that my expectations weren’t low enough.

Based on the unpromising trailer, I had expected Townhouse Confidential to be pretty bad. I had expected slack writing, amateurish acting, and a love story without sparks. And I got all of that! What I hadn’t counted on—given that Jane Austen had provided the TC team with, you know, a pretty good story template—was the sheer incoherence of the entire enterprise.

Here is Our Heroine, Liz Perry, who allegedly supports herself in New York City by frosting cupcakes at the Magnolia Bakery, storming out of a blind date with a creepy, married mortgage broker (the Mr. Collins analog) who demands oral sex in the crudest terms. And now here is Liz calling up the same guy and inviting him over to solicit his help in saving her adorable West Village townhouse from foreclosure. What, she can’t locate a single other mortgage broker in the five boroughs?

Here is Our Hero, real estate tycoon George Fitzwilliam Barrow—yes, that’s his name; I swear I’m not making this up—finding himself so strapped for cash that he accepts the extortionate loan terms offered by two sleazy mafia types named Sal Carmine and Big Sal. (I swear I’m not making up their names, either.) And now here is George saving Liz’s adorable West Village townhouse from foreclosure by buying it and promising to let her family live there in perpetuity. What, has he just won the lottery?

And again: Here is Our Hero explaining that he did not tell the police about a Wickhamesque friend’s dastardly plot to defraud the Barrow family out of their palatial West Village townhouse because Our Hero's Lady Catherinesque mother didn’t want to sully her family’s reputation. And here am I, befuddled viewer, wondering how bringing a fraud prosecution against someone you aren’t related to could sully your family’s reputation.

And yet again: Here is Our Hero, age thirty-two, announcing that he has loved Liz, age thirty, ever since a childhood encounter at a birthday party. And here am I, befuddled viewer, wondering why he has made no move to act on this smoldering passion despite living mere blocks away from her for the succeeding twenty-five years.

I could go on. I could note the way that sister Mary’s real estate blog functions as a shameless rip-off of the Lady Whistledown gossip rag in Bridgerton. I could point out that giving the name “Tommy Leroy” to the aforesaid Wickhamesque figure, a hot but amoral local handyman, is another example of the unfair hit that poor Tom Lefroy’s reputation has taken in the years since Becoming Jane. I could note the ickiness of the scene in which Liz—Our Heroine, for crying out loud!—cops a squeeze of Tommy’s shapely butt when he bends over to pick up some broken glass. What, she was too busy frosting cupcakes to notice the whole #MeToo/consent-is-cool moment? But I’ll leave it there. You get the picture.

On the plus side: Those cupcakes do look delicious.

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