5 Jane Austen Adaptations with a Modern Twist
This weekend sees the release of Austenland, a look at Jane Austen superfan Jane Hayes as she goes on vacation to the ultimate Austen experience. If there’s an author more enduring for cinema audiences than Shakespeare, then Jane Austen is it and, besides the countless period dramas, mini-series and films made from her work, the stories have also found a home in modern day settings.
Here are five versions of Austen’s work with a modern day twist:
Probably the most famous examples, and one of the most loved teen dramas of the 90s, Clueless brilliantly transplants the matchmaking antics of Emma into a US high school. Alicia Silverstone is Cher, a spoiled Valley girl based on Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, and the film updates her meddlesome ways to hilariously entertaining effect. It was a sleeper hit when released in 1995 and has spawned its own television show and book series since.
Not bothering to change the title (nor the names of its characters), this dire 2003 adaptation moves the action of its namesake to modern day Utah, where Elizabeth is working as a novelist. The Darcy in her life is a rude businessman she not-so-secretly hates/loves and, while the movie attempts to play up the feminist aspects of the character by making her a committed career woman who’s sworn off guys, it’s not the most imaginative adaptation in the world.
In another culturally shifted version of an Austen novel, From Prada to Nada takes Sense and Sensibility and gives it a Latina twist. Here, Nora and Mary Dominguez are two rich girls who lose everything when their father dies, and are then forced to move to East Los Angeles to live with their estranged aunt. It’s not great, but it’s an interesting take on old ideas. It’s also the only modern-day look at Sense and Sensibility that I’ve found.
If you’re not paying close attention, it isn’t immediately obvious that British rom-com Bridget Jones’ Diary isn’t just referential of Austen’s work, but is also a loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in itself. Colin Firth reprises his role from the famous BBC adaptation, and the screenplay was also co-written by the series’ writer Andrew Davies. Aside from Clueless, Bridget Jones is the most successful modern adaptation, spawning a sequel and with a musical in the works.
A semi-musical Hollywood/Bollywood adaptation of Austen’s most famous (and possibly most adapted) work, Bride and Prejudice plants Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in modern day England, where cultural differences cause the clash that might otherwise have been lost in translation. In this film, Indian girl Lalita rejects handsome American Darcy because of his ignorance towards her culture, but the pair predictably work things out over several fun and vibrant Bollywood dance numbers.