Sunday, April 22, 2012

Miss Austen Regrets

I watched this movie first last December for Miss Dashwood’s Jane Austen Birthday Week, because there was a challenge and we were supposed to watch a JA adaptation we hadn't seen yet, or watch one with someone else who hasn't seen it before. Well, as most the ones I wanted to show my family had already been shown to them and I’d seen all the ones I was planning to see, I didn’t know what to do. But I decided to watch Miss Austen Regrets

People say about certain movies that everyone either loves it or hates it—well, with this one, I think everyone either likes it or hates it. Also, from what I have observed, those who like it seem to hate Becoming Jane, and those who hate it seem to like Becoming Jane.

Did I like it or hate it? Well, I didn’t hate it. Which surprised me, because I expected to. I’d heard all sorts of bad things about it—but the funny thing is, when I hear all sorts of bad things about something and then actually end up watching it, it’s easier for me to notice the good points, because I'm already prepared for the bad ones. That’s the way it was when I saw the 2011 version of Jane Eyre, too.
But did I really ‘like’ it? Well… I liked some of it. I liked it, but… hmm, there would be a lot of “buts.”

I liked it, but…

…it just wasn’t Jane Austen. Maybe this should go last, because it’s the most important fault, but I’m going to put it first. Just because.
    This encompasses a lot. As you all, I am sure, know, my loyalty to dear Jane Austen is unswerving. When the movie-makers get her wrong… that just won’t do. In some respects she was actually all right. The sort of dry sense of humor she had was tolerably well done, I think. However. The sparkle was missing. The cheerful sort of way that I know she was from reading her works, her letters, and what others said about her, was absent. Now, I don’t think Jane Austen was perfect. No, indeed, I think she had many faults just like we all do. But the way they tried to make her real… was misrepresenting. The flirting was way overdone and absolutely ridiculous. She joked about flirting in her early letters to Cassandra, but that was when she was 20, not 40. I am sure she had much more prudence than that. She acted in such a way as the characters she ridiculed in her novels did. (I think I'm stealing that point of view from Miss Elizabeth, but it was a good thought.) Granted, she was mostly joking, but… still. 
   As I said, her sparkle was missing, as was her good humor. She seemed grouchy and scowlish a lot. Now, I know that towards the end this was probably owing a lot to her being ill, but when you read the letters she wrote during her illness, and what others said about her, she had rather surprised everyone by how she tried to act cheerful in spite of it.
   In general, I’d say the good qualities Jane Austen had were removed or misrepresented in this movie. And I mean the good qualities of her nature and character, not her mind. Because she was clever and witty enough. Just, as I said, not quite cheerful enough in her wittiness. 
   Also, she was sort of too… melodramatic. Or something. And not the kind of melodramatic I like.  

…the seaside gentleman was missing. One of my favorite things in Jane Austen's real-life story is that mystery about the man she supposedly met by the sea, whom Cassandra was said to have told one of their nieces later on was the only man Jane every truly loved. The mystery and romance of that appeals to me, and I think it a good challenge for every bio-fic writer to acknowledge this possibility. (Early on in the movie, she says to Fanny that she loved and lost… but she never explained what that was supposed to mean.) I can sort of understand why they wouldn’t, because it’s not a proven fact from her life, but obviously they weren’t trying to avoid that, as…

…they made up romances for Jane. There was this man, a Rev. Bridges, who was supposed to have proposed to her in the past, but she refused him. And I am not talking about Harris Bigg-Wither. He was there, too, but this is another guy. And he’s still around later on, but he’s married, and seems to still be interested in Jane (highly inappropriate!). I don’t approve. Also, she is sort of interested in a this young doctor during the story. Now, she pretends to be interested in a couple of other gentlemen too, and that’s just her flirting nonsense. Which annoys me, as I said. But she seemed to be genuinely interested in this one, but then finds out that he isn’t really interested in her, and feels rather jealous because he seems slightly taken with her 20-year-old niece, Fanny Knight. 
To read a guest post I did on Miss Dashwood’s blog about Jane Austen’s real-life romances, click here.

…Cassandra Austen wasn’t right. She just… wasn’t. Also, in this movie, they have Cassandra help Jane decide to break her engagement with Harris (which they also made up, to the best of my knowledge), and near the end she says, weepingly, “I didn’t do it for you… I'm so ashamed!” and what was that supposed to mean? It was unexplained. And I don’t like loose ends. The speech she makes to Fanny at the end is quite good, but that’s only because it’s what she wrote in a letter in real life. It’s so touching and makes me cry every time. “She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I have lost a part of myself.” *sniff*

…it had some things I found slightly indecent. There were a few things in there that made me think “um, was that really necessary?” or “if they say something else like that, I’m turning this off.” (One might consider me to be very picky, though.) If you want me to explain better, let me know.

…there was too much wine-drinking going on. Need I say more?

…Mrs. Austen was too… annoying. From what I know of the real Mrs. Austen, she wasn’t exactly the nicest or wisest character, but in this movie they just make her too mean and… eehh.

So. After all that, you might be wondering… what did I like about it? What about it made me not exactly dislike it?

Well, despite all the inaccuracies, it is supposed to be about Jane Austen, and it’s just too much fun to have all those beloved names spoken, and actually hearing the characters talk about Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility; to hear people quote Mansfield Park, and Jane reading Persuasion aloud to Mrs. Austen and Cassandra in the kitchen; these things just can’t be in the Jane Austen novel adaptations, and I found it delightful. And of course it includes some tidbits of things that really did happen in Jane Austen’s life; like being ‘invited’ to dedicate Emma to the Prince Regent.

I also thought the focus of Jane’s relationship with her niece Fanny Knight was interesting; Jane Austen really did have a special friendship with Fanny, and though they made everything a bit silly at times, I still found most of it enjoyable. Fanny sometimes acted like an immature, spoiled brat, but when she didn't act like that I rather liked her. "You said yes because he was rich and no because you didn't love him? That's so romantic!" (Speaking of Harris Bigg. And I completely agree.)

Also, the music. When I like the soundtrack to something, the movie usually goes up a couple notches in my head. But then, I usually have to like a movie to like its soundtrack. Well, no, maybe I just have to have seen the movie to like its soundtrack. And I need to stick to the point here.
Anyways. I found the soundtrack on YouTube, and it’s one of my favorite things to listen to while I’m doing dishes. Heehee.
One of my favorite songs from the movie:

So, would I recommend this movie? Weeeeell… if you’re already a secure Janeite – read the novels, learned a bit about Jane Austen’s life, perhaps even read some of her letters – and want to watch a bio-fic movie, then maybe so. Just prepare to be disappointed.

My Grade/Rating: B-

Actors I recognized from other films I’ve seen/seen part of
Olivia Williams (Jane Austen) – Jane Fairfax in Emma (1996, A&E)
Greta Scacchi (Cassandra Austen) – Mrs. Weston in Emma (1996, Miramax), Lydia Glasher in Daniel Deronda (2002)
Imogen Poots (Fanny Knight) – Blanche Ingram in Jane Eyre (2011)
Tom Hiddleston (John Plumptre) – William Buxton in Return to Cranford (2009)
Hugh Bonneville (Rev. Brook Bridges) – creepy guy Mr. Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda (2002)



Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Thanks for the shout-out in your post! Personally, I didn't like either Becoming Jane or Miss Austen Regrets; 'course I could just be picky hehe! :-)

From what I've read, Reverend Bridges did exist. Jane Austen's brother, Edward, married Rev. Bridges's sister, Elizabeth. I guess him and Jane were good friends, but chances are that they were just good friends. If you want to read up more about him, they have an article at The Jane Austen Center's website ( The doctor I'm nearly certain was made up.

If I remember correctly, I thought Cassandra helped Jane break off her engagement because she didn't want to be alone without her.

Yes! Way too much wine in Miss Austen Regrets!

I hope one day there will be a good biopic about Jane Austen that everyone will like. I'm not satisfied with either Becoming Jane or Miss Austen Regrets.

Great review!

Anonymous said...

Great review! I would like to hear further details on the indecent content. I've had this movie for a long time, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet, so I don't want to be surprised by anything! =) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the extra info, Melody! :) I really appreciate it.

Jessica said...

I only saw about the last third of this movie on TV one time, and was highly under-impressed. Ha Of course, I probably missed the good parts, but the whole flirting and drunkenness thing turned me off of the movie.

Eva said...

I know this is totally unrelated to the post, but I needed to contact you. Miss Laurie contacted you about the Emma comparisons, right?

Could you e-mail me at It would be more convenient for me to be able to e-mail you directly. :)

Thanks and God bless.

Miss Dashwood said...

Hmmm... I'm not sure if I want to see this or not. I think I'd rather see this than Becoming Jane, but IDK if I really want to have my perception of JA spoiled by an inaccurate biopic (drinking and flirting??? Seriously?). But p'haps you and I could watch it together sometime, Dearest, and you can hold the remote since you know when to hit the fast-forward button. :D

Olivia Williams and Greta Scacchi definitely look like they could be sisters, which is a nice plus. Anna Maxwell Martin and Anne Hathaway do NOT (though AMM is exactly the way I've pictured Cassandra...)

Aww, no seaside gentleman? Shnibly.

Haha, the Cassandra line about "I didn't do it for you" reminds me of John Chivery.
John: "I didn't do it... for YOU. I did it for HER!"
Arthur: "Duh, what? For who, John?" [I may or may not have added something to that line]
John: "For AMY! Because she LOVES YOU!"

So I'm wondering... were they possibly trying to make it seem as though Cassandra loved Harris Bigg-Wither and therefore didn't want him to marry Jane? Um, that's just kind of weird. Cassandra was true to Tom's memory. Unshakably. *nods emphatically*

Haha, did they do a good job of the part where she's ‘invited’ to dedicate Emma to the Prince Regent? That would definitely be amusing.

I don't quiiiiiiite agree with you about soundtracks, tootuz I don't have to have seen the movie to like its soundtrack. I really do like that track you included here.

Well, I'm already a secure Janeite, so I'd be willing to give this movie a try. But only if you were next to me with the remote. :D

Melody said...

Miss Elizabeth,
Well, that makes sense. One can easily dislike both. ;-) It's just that most people who DO like Becoming Jane tend not to like Miss Austen Regrets, and vice versa. ;-)
Oh! Thank you for the info about the Bridges! It's interesting to know they did base the character off of someone from real life... then again, it makes it annoying that they invented Jane having a romance with someone who was real, that didn't happen in real life... >.<
I agree, someone needs to make a good one!

I know... I highly disapprove. As you might imagine. ;-) Though it wasn't quite as severe as I thought it was going to be... that is, I was prepared for the worst. I fast-forwarded a part or two when I re-watched it recently, though.

Melody said...

Miss Dashwood,
Gasp! Then I must have failed my review! (haha, kidding... I just remember you saying you normally know whether or not you want to watch something after reading one of my reviews. ;))
Yeah, well, see, that's the thing... somehow this movie didn't spoil my perception of Jane Austen. (But then, what could?) Also if I didn't like Jane Austen, I probably wouldn't have liked that movie, which is odd since I don't think it's an accurate portrayal, and about such things most people say they like such movies if they can look at it as an unrelated story...
I guess I'm just a crazed fan and overly-thrilled by anything that talks about Jane Austen. And the novels and their characters. Sigh.


Ooh, nooo, I really doubt they were implying that. I think I agree with what Miss Elizabeth said... they probably just meant that Cassandra was unwilling to let Jane go off and get married, and leave poor her with half of her sister taken away. :P You know, like Anne not wanting Diana to marry. :D (Of course, that was when she was a little girl... but anyways.)
Besides, it would have been too ridiculous. When is a man to be safe from such wit, if--um, I mean, because Harris was already like 5 years younger than Jane, and so he would have been like 8 years younger than Cassandra, and he just wasn't a likable sort of person, from what I've heard.

Haha, I don't always have to have seen a movie to like its soundtrack (example: Becoming Jane :P), but I was just noticing that is the way it normally is for some reason... *shrugs* Not that I think other people should be that way. It's just a whim of mine. :D

Aww, happy thoughts of watching JA stuff with you... haha.
Um, how much time are we going to have to watch all these things??? hahahaha.
Indubitably. I am very fond of the fast-forward button. It is my nice friend.

Lauren said...

Dear Melody

For these holidays I am allowed to choose some movies we might be able to hire at blockbuster. Seeing as I prefer classic movies over modern ones, I am thinking of quite a few seeing as it is quite likely blockbuster won't have the first three I look for (blockbuster is horrible at stocking classics, didn't even have any Persuasion movies last time I checked)

Anyway, all that to say which of the Jane Austen movies (Becoming Jane, or Miss Austen Regrets) do you think is the best, and more appropriate (for younger siblings).

Sorry I am being such a bother, I should really just thougherly read this post, but I thought it would be easier asking you, since you don't have a review on Becoming Jane.

By the way, is there only one North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) movie version?

Sorry, I am such a nuisance. I really do consider you a classic movie expert, who has very similer views on the moriality of movies that I do.


Melody said...

I am always happy to help you out when I can! :) I would say definitely Miss Austen Regrets over Becoming Jane but, ha, that's not saying much. Becoming Jane, from what I have heard, has quite a bit of inappropriate material. And as for Miss Austen Regrets, I still wouldn't really recommend it...I don't think it would be rated more than PG, but I'd say watch it with your parents and see what they think. Most of the things I didn't like were pretty near the beginning.

There are at least two mini-series for North and South, but I've only seen the 2004 version...the other one's older and I have a feeling it's not nearly as good, though I can't tell you first-hand.

Have you checked out the page with my favorite old-fashioned movies? If not, here's a link:

Melody said...

Oh, I meant to say I wouldn't recommend MAR as a whole for something to watch with younger siblings, and then the thing about parents. Haha, my mind got side-tracked...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review...I couldn't agree more. I'm glad to see that someone agrees with me :) Even though I don't know ALL about Jane Austen, I have to say that I was very disappointed when I watched Miss Austen Regrets. In fact I didn't even finish it...wasn't worth the time. I did think there was much to much drinking and flirting going on, which I didn't approve of. I thought, "I really hope the real Jane didn't act like that." I just couldn't imagine a 40 year old in the regency era behaving that a silly little 12 year old...much less Jane. I had such a high opinion of her from reading her novels. But the more I hear and read about the real Jane, my mind is more at ease. I'm sure the real Jane Austen was nothing much like the one in this movie. I couldn't get myself to like the character if Fanny either...I actually disliked her quite a bit.
Anyway, as I said, I didn't actually watch the whole movie. But I stick by my opinion of it nonetheless.
Thanks again.

Melody said...

Enjoyed your comment! And believe me, the real Jane Austen was nothing like the one portrayed in this movie. I have read enough of her life and her letters to know that. Unlike a lot of authors, nothing I've learned about her made me disappointed or think any differently of her books. It's very nice. :) One of the reasons I love her so much. The only similarities were things that were actual direct quotes and situations from her life--but even many of those were, I think, portrayed differently.

And what I said up there reminded me--there is this documentary called The Real Jane Austen, which is very good and interesting. Unlike most documentaries it kept my attention the entire time, and had different 'actors' playing the parts of the people in JA's life which was very fun. It's on YouTube. :)

Sean said...

Movies that are historical fiction tend to always disappoint me. I would say that the best representation of Jane Austen out there are Stephanie Barron's mystery series starring Jane. This indeed is pure fiction, but i think the author has the people in it (especially Jane) acting true to life (at least as much as we know of her life and personality)

Would you rather hear the story...

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