With the recent home rental release of the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” I started thinking about other adaptations of her works which may be less recognized by her fans but are worth checking out.
There are so many and rarely are any of them awful. Her stories are just strong enough for lots of styles and takes. Hopefully, the new version of “Emma” will become a fan favorite. But, in the meantime, there are lots of other good films to check out.
So I came up with a list of my favorites (in no particular order).
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”
Fans and critics were not high on this 2016 adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel but I actually enjoyed it. I thought it was fun to see the heroines I know and love kicking butt against zombies. I liked Lily James as Lizzie and Matt Smith did a great job as Mr. Collins. Plus, the costumes and production design are unique.
“Love and Friendship”
Director Whit Stillman’s 2016 take on an obscure Austen novel called “Lady Susan” got some attention on the indie circuit but many have still probably not seen or heard of it. Kate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan, a controlling and manipulative woman who takes advantage of those around her in the most charming way possible. The script is biting, funny and more irreverent than a typical Austen film. Also, the supporting cast is tremendous with the likes of Stephen Fry, Chloë Sevigny and Tom Bennett.
“Bride and Prejudice” and “Aisha”
Bollywood had their chance to adapt Austen, and they’ve done so with charming results. In 2004, director Gurinder Chada made “Bride and Prejudice,” which is bursting with music, color and the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Then, in 2010, we got an adaptation of “Emma” called ‘’Aisha,’’ directed by Rajshree Ojha. Sonam Kapoor plays the title character with bubbly energy and the supporting cast is all having a great time. It’s delightful.
It’s a shame Austen’s gothic novel, “Northanger Abbey,” has never been adapted as a feature film but, in 2007, it was made into a TV movie starring Felicity Jones, Carey Mulligan and JJ Feild. The leads have nice chemistry and the script does a good job telling Catherine’s story while also interweaving the stories from the spooky gothic novels she loves to read.
“Mansfield Park” (1999)
Some fans will bristle at my inclusion of this rather loose adaptation of Austen’s most forgettable novel, but I appreciate the chances it takes and find they mostly pay off. Frances O’Connor is great as the impossibly good Fanny Price and Jonny Lee Miller is appropriately clueless as the love interest Edmund. The sociopolitical additions don’t always work, but they add an interesting layer to the story I appreciate. It makes for a fascinating entry in the Jane Austen canon of films.
“Lost in Austen”
This four-part TV series should actually be entitled “Lost in Pride and Prejudice,” but, regardless, it is a fun chance to see a modern girl sent to the world of Austen and try to make the best of it. Jemima Rooper is great in the lead along with a charming supporting cast that includes Hugh Bonneville, Alex Kingston, Gemma Arterton and more.
“From Prada to Nada”
If you can get over the cringeworthy title this is actually a cute take on “Sense and Sensibility.” It stars Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega as two sisters who are forced out of their luxurious lifestyle into the modest home of their Aunt Aurelia. As they live with her, they begin to embrace their Mexican heritage and gain a new confidence they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Wilmer Valderrama is charming as one of the love interests and the story has a nice heart behind it.