Every few years, a Jane Austen adaptation or inspiration graces our theater or television screens. Most of these productions have been provided to us by the BBC or ITV (apparently the British cannot get enough of Jane Austen), but they are still hits in America. Many of these adaptations have given several prominent actors their big break, including Colin Firth in the 1995 miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Yet another Jane Austen-themed movie is set to release this Friday, the aptly named Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ), based on the popular 2009 mash-up novel. For true Austen fans, there is plenty of material to enjoy in addition to the newly canonized PPZ, from the small screen, to the big screen and to the more outlandish attempts.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
The 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is often thought of as the moment where Jane Austen received a revival in Hollywood. One of her most popular novels, Sense and Sensibility, follows a simple plot of two sisters with opposite personalities attempting to find marriage after their father dies and leaves them with nothing.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Emma Thompson’s film is considered the best Sense and Sensibility adaptation, and perhaps one of the best Jane Austen adaptations. The movie gave Kate Winslet her breakout role and gave Thompson an Academy Award for screenwriting. Sensitively handled and beautifully performed, the movie stands the test of time and is a go-to for any Austen fanatic.
Sense and Sensibility (2008 miniseries)
A BBC adaptation of the novel, Sense and Sensibility made a nice change to the small screen as well. Starring a young Dominic Cooper, the three-part miniseries did well with both audiences and critics, with the treatment, visuals and performances are receiving good reviews. Screenwriter Andrew Davies is most well known for another Austen adaptation, the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice, which is a considerably better adaptation despite the success of Sense and Sensibility.
From Prada to Nada (2011)
Dubbed as the Mexican version of Sense and Sensibility, From Prada to Nada follows two sisters who are left penniless after their father’s death and move to L.A. to stay with their aunt. Surprisingly starring some familiar names, Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega play the two sisters. Although this loose adaptation has nothing on its 1995 counterpart, it is an original and inventive take on Austen’s novel.
The 1996 adaptation of Emma followed almost immediately after the success of Sense and Sensibility, continuing the 90s trend of Jane Austen adaptations. However, the most popular adaptation is the loose version found in the 1995 cult classic, Clueless. Again, Jane Austen’s plot is easy to manipulate: a young woman attempts to play matchmaker even though things go awry.
Emma (2009 miniseries)
In a four-part series by the BCC, Emma is a well made adaptation of the classic comedy. It also stars a pre-Elementary Jonny Lee Miller as a wonderful interpretation of George Knightley, Emma’s romantic interest. Although it does not surpass other adaptations of Austen’s work, even in the miniseries category, the performances make up for the slightly muddled direction.
Although not one of the most popular Austen adaptations, Emma is still a faithful adaptation of her novel and a must-see for fans, despite the fact that it is unremarkable and uninspired. Everything is well made, but the performances are flat and the direction does not inspire emotional connection. Perhaps it is most well known for giving Gwyneth Paltrow a chance to practice her English accent which should would utilize in a similar film, Shakespeare in Love, and in her Academy Award winning performance.
A very loose adaptation of Emma, Clueless is nonetheless an entertaining and overall enjoyable movie that has been turned into a cult classic over time with catchy one-liners (“as if”) and memorable outfits (Cher’s yellow plaid suit). One of the most quotable films of all time, Clueless may be the best adaptation of Emma, although perhaps not in the way that Jane Austen imagined it.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
The unequivocal masterpiece of Jane Austen’s extensive literary canon, Pride and Prejudice has received many adaptations in different forms of media, ranging from the faithful to the obscure. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy are two of the most recognizable characters in literature and film, and have been played by a large number of actors since the early 20th century. The story follows Elizabeth and her relationship with Darcy, as they overcome boundaries like pride, judgment, social classes and her family.
Pride and Prejudice (1995 miniseries)
The 1995 BBC miniseries is the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Almost every part and every scene featured within the novel is expertly composed in the series. The miniseries made a star out of Colin Firth, who is considered among Austen fans, the best Darcy to appear on screen. The popularity of the series, along with Sense and Sensibility, helped to spur the Austen fanaticism that is still consuming viewers today.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Joe Wright’s sweeping and beautifully shot adaptation is one of the more recent in the last 10 years. While it may not reach the same heights as the miniseries, Keira Knightley shines as the perfect Elizabeth Bennett and features a lovely score from Dario Marianelli. This adaptation may not be remembered as highly as others, but it is still a wonderful addition to the canon.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Based off the popular novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary takes Pride and Prejudice and modernizes it for the 21st century. Instead of a fierce and witty Elizabeth Bennet, we get the slightly uncoordinated and down-on-her-luck Bridget. Ironically, it stars Colin Firth as the loose adaptation of Fitzwilliam Darcy (the character’s last name is also Darcy in the Bridget Jones’s Diary), and his performance in the miniseries is undoubtedly the reason he was cast.