Metropolitan, Clueless and Bridget Jones's Diary
Americans have always been fascinated by and quick to follow success. It is no wonder then, that with the recent revival of Austen films, movie-goers have also been treated to a rash of Austen updates. These films, produced by the same companies that brought us the original Austen adaptations, have each enjoyed a wide popularity and garnered a fistful of awards. They are all listed as comedies. They are all rated PG-13 or R. Wait a minute! An Austen adaptation rated R? What gives? Well, along with their other similarities- they all also share a very un-Austen like fascination with sex. It is unfortunate that the makers of such wonderful family films as Emma and Sense and Sensibility could come up with nothing funnier or more sophisticated than traditional Hollywood fare. Perhaps it is the American influence. Perhaps the screenwriters feel that, as Austen did in her day, they are simply mirroring popular culture. What remains are three films which may be funny to the majority of film audiences, but are blatently offensive to common morality and certainly not a credit to the tradition of Austen adaptations. The first of these movies, Metropolitan (Newline Cinema, 1990) is a cosmopolitan update of Mansfield Park, transferring the story from the English countryside of the 18th c. to New York City in the 1920's. Tom Townsend (the Fanny Price character) a middle class young man of indifferent fortune, is, by a *shocking* lack of male escorts, drawn into upperclass life by a circle of self-proclaimed urban haute bourgeoisie types. His background is much simpler (he entertains socialist viewpoints) and he is critical of their way of life, but he finds a soul mate in Audrey, who without his knowledge falls in love with him. The key to the film is understanding the shallowness of these people and the fact that their very way of life is disintegrating before them. The admirable acting by cast of newcomers, accentuated by the sharply satirical script, was the directoral debut of Whit Stillman (Last Days of Disco) whose screenplay for this film was nominated for an Oscar. Metropolitan is available on video in both VHS and PAL format. It is rated PG-13 and runs for 98 minutes. Five years later, audiences thrilled to watch Alicia Silverstone (Love's Labours Lost) as Cher, the epitome of Vally Girlhood, in Clueless, Amy Heckerling's modern adaptation of Emma. Produced by Paramount in the same year that Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion were released, Clueless was anything but a traditional take on Jane Austen. Inspiring everything from Barbie Dolls to a movie-based sitcom, this 'Emma' had an entirely new look. Pure Austen? As if!! Rich snob, Cher, spends her time and her dad's money trying to create matches among her teachers, while also giving a make-over to new student, Tai (in order to introduce her to playboy Elton.) Plans go awry, humiliations abound and Cher realizes that the man of her dreams has been under her very nose the whole time. With snappy (if off-color) dialogue and a smart take on both the novel and Beverly Hills, Clueless is, perhaps the most popular of the Austen updates. Clueless is available on video in both VHS and PAL format, as well as on DVD. The DVD features language selection, theatrical trailers and widescreen format. Rated PG-13, Clueless runs for 97 mins. The soundtrack, a mix of pop and classic songs is available from Capitol Records. Miramax, the latest production company to cash in on Austenmania with Emma and Mansfield Park, released it's Austen Update, Bridget Jones's Diary, earlier this year. Based on the bestseller by the same name, the screenplay was written by author Helen Fielding and Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice.) The plot surrounds Bridget Jones (over 30 and overweight ) and her New Year's resolution to lose weight, smoke less, and get a man. All this is recorded in her diary for all the world to see. Loosely based on events from Pride and Prejudice, this film boasts several Austen alumni: Hugh Grant- the Willoughby character, Colin Firth- Mark Darcy (obvious), Crispen Bonham-Carter and Embeth Davidtz (Mansfield Park) in the "Caroline Bingely" role. The film boasts many changes from the book, most notably during the last few minutes. Because of the pre-occupation with sex (and accompanying scenes) and foul language, this is most certainly a film for Adults. Do not take your children. One wonders, indeed, what Jane Austen would have thought, to see her creation so maligned. Bridget Jones's Diary is scheduled for release on Video and DVD on October 9, 2001. The soundtrack, a compilation by an assortment of artists, features an instrumental track by Patrick Doyle (Sense and Sensibility) and is available from UNI/Island. Bridget Jones's Diary runs for 97 mins. and is rated R. Laura Sauer is a milliner and runs Austentation, an online business specializing in Regency accessories. Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape into the world of Jane Austen.