Thursday, September 18, 2008

Surprises all round in third episode of Lost In Austen

ITV's third episode of Lost In Austen was the funniest yet. Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) has captured the devoted attentions of Mr Darcy - unintentionally of course - and she has found that she loves him in return. But, alas, the poisonous Caroline Bingley has derailed any potential marital happiness by insinuating that Amanda has a nefarious past, and to top it off, Darcy finds Amanda's copy of 'Pride & Prejudice' and accuses her of writing a Roman a Clef, rudely failing to disguise the identities of himself and the Bennets.

This series has prospered by taking a well-loved plot and characters, altering the course of their lives beyond recognition, with the surprising result, that the new plot has become rather gripping, and the characters themselves more and more intriguing.

Surprises reigned in Episode Three. Georgiana Darcy was a sly little snake who had tricked her brother into hating Wickham, who has proved to be an honourable little sod, and a handy friend for Amanda. Caroline Bingley turns out to be a lesbian, despite her vaunted ambitions to wed Darcy and his mountain of money. Mrs Bennet is overcome with remorse for wedding sweet Jane to the abominable (albeit hilarious) Mr Collins. And Bingley is a drunk.

Hugh Bonneville continued to be marvellous as Mr Bennet - now sleeping in his beloved library to escape the hysterics of his family.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh was a formidable characterisation from Lindsey Duncan; snobbish, disdainful and astute.

Meanwhile, Elliot Cowan's Darcy really had a moment to shine - his very own wet shirt scene a la Colin Firth. His Darcy has become a formidable beast (another surprise, frankly); much more multi-layered and disarmingly 'emotional' than, certainly Austen conceived.

I still have lingering doubts about Hooper's Amanda Price; a little too forced and chipper for my liking. But this series has myriad compensations - all of them surprising. And often in a good way.

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