Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Lost in Austen

So Amazon Instant Video’s got this new thing: a long list of shows that you can watch through their service, but only the first episode is free.
There are tons of titles available through Amazon Prime, but if you’re not up for anything on that list, you can always pay for your movies and TV... or torture yourself by trying to watch only the first episode of something. I mean, there’s no way you’re going to watch the second episode if it isn’t free, right? Surely you can resist watching the rest of the show in our current binge-television-watching world, right?
Long ago, Lost in Austen was on Netflix and available to watch on Prime, but I was hesitant. The synopsis painted a picture of a modern London girl inserted into Austen’s world, so the literary purist in me shouted, “but that would make everything all wrong!” But then of course the day I decided I finally wanted to try it was the day that I found out it was no longer available (for free) anywhere. Last night, though, I saw that it was on the dangerous list of Amazon’s “only the first one’s free.” I said to my husband, “It might be terrible; I may as well watch the first episode and find out.”
Well, it turns out I was right. About everything.
Not about it being terrible, but I guess that depends on your definition of "terrible." Inserting a modern person in the Regency period was disruptive and it did mess everything up. And watching only the first episode of a television show is like trying to eat only one potato chip: IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. So my advice for trying out Amazon’s drug dealer style “first episode free with ads” service?
(So far this has been more a review of Amazon Instant Video’s new attempt to get you hooked and give them your money. We now return you to your regularly scheduled review of fan fiction on film.)
Here’s the question that sets the whole thing up: what would any loyal Austen fan do if they were inserted into one of the books? The answer is: try to make sure everything happens the way it’s supposed to. And what would happen instead? Of course everything would go wrong.
No Austen fan, no matter how devoted, would be able to switch over in to the speech patterns of the early 1800s immediately. There would be at least one moment when they would be yelling, “WHERE ARE THE HIDDEN CAMERAS??” And no one would be able to resist predicting things or trying to influence the characters. Nobody who is a true Austen fan would be able to just sit back and watch things happen when they have a chance to interact with the characters they love.
And that’s what Lost in Austen is about. Amanda Price is a Londoner whose favorite night in consists of curling up alone on the couch with Pride and Prejudice, even though she could probably recite the greater part of the book without opening it. She’s understandably shocked when she finds that Lizzy Bennet has entered her bathroom through a secret door, and even more shocked when she goes through the door and finds out it won’t open after Lizzy closes it behind her.
Amanda is rude and sometimes vulgar and gets drunk at pretty much any opportunity (which may put you off watching it if you can’t tolerate that kind of thing). But she tries her best to get things done the way they should be in Lizzy’s absence while trying to hang on to her sanity. “I may be losing my grip on reality, but at least I’m still in control of my hair.”
The greatest part about this romp through Austen’s world is how well the writers grasp the characters (although I suppose it isn’t hard when you’ve had two hundred years to study them). Bingley just wants to fall in love with someone beautiful, Darcy wants someone who doesn’t fall all over themselves trying to make a good impression on him, Mr. Collins is susceptible to any kind of praise (especially of Lady Catherine), Caroline Bingley is a snob, Mr. Bennet loves his daughters despite the fact that they drive him crazy, Mrs. Bennet is determined to have all her daughters marry well, and Mr. Wickham is an unscrupulous liar.
It’s hard to find good fan fiction. And it’s even harder for Austen fans, a fact that is unfair, since our beloved author only wrote six books to begin with! Pretty much any re-imaginings of Austen are the raindrops that quench Austen lovers’ souls.
Is Lost in Austen ridiculous? Yes. Is it fun? Absolutely. Is everything wrong? Pretty much, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. It’s Austeny. And if that’s what you want, Lost in Austen is what you need.
Just know that you’ll only be able to watch the first episode for free.


  1. I love Lost in Austen! I even own the DVDs - and actually watch them.

    I like the little details - sandwiches hadn't been invented yet, cleaning one's teeth with chalk, how they curled their hair. Though I totally would've let Mary and Kitty do my hair.

    1. That would have been the FIRST thing for me: "Sorry, I'm not up for meeting any super-hot gentlemen until my hair is right." I would have thought Amanda would have been more concerned about only having ONE cigarette with her.