An American in Austen (2024) poster

An American in Austen (2024)

Rating:


USA. 2024.

Crew

Director – Clare Neiderpruem, Screenplay – Cameron Johann, Producers – Jeffrey Beach, Kristina Kambitova & Phillip J. Roth, Photography – Alexander Krumov, Music – Jerome Leroy, Visual Effects – Cinedigital VFX, Production Design – Alexei Karaghiaur. Production Company – Hallmark Media/UFO International Productions.

Cast

Eliza Bennett (Harriet Goodson), Nicholas Bishop (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Nell Barlow (Elizabeth Bennet), Catherine Hannay (Jane Bennet), Erica Ford (Kitty Bennet), Grace Hogg-Robinson (Lydia Bennet), Calypso Crag (Mary Bennet), Robin Weaver (Mrs Bennet), Robert Portal (Mr. Bennet), Toby Alexander-Smith (Charles Bingley), Bert Seymour (Ethan Pronce), Joseph Richardson (William Collins), Olivia Benjamin (Caroline Bingley), Dominic Andersen (George Wickham), Charlotte Wakefield (Charlotte Lucas), Kate Nichols (Natalie), Shin-Fei Chen (Wendy), Sarah Ferguson (The Duchess)


Plot

Harriet is an American librarian who regards Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as the greatest novel ever written and Mr Darcy as her romantic ideal. Harriet’s boyfriend Ethan stages an elaborate proposal for her but she only says maybe. Seeing a falling star, she wishes that she was with Mr Darcy instead. On the taxi ride home, she falls asleep and wakes up just as a coach delivers her to Longbourn house, the home of the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice, back in 1813. She is welcomed by the Bennets as an American relative. As the events of Pride and Prejudice start to play out, Harriet wonders if she is caught up in an elaborate historical re-enactment. She duly meets Mr Darcy. However, in trying to warn people of what is going to happen to them and prompt events to happen the way they should, Harriet ends up disrupting the story and causing Mr Darcy to fall for her instead of Elizabeth Bennet.


An American in Austen was one of a series of TV Movies made by the Hallmark Channel for an event they called Loveuary (February 2024) during which they aired four new films based on Jane Austen. The others among these included Love & Jane (2024) where a fan wishes Jane Austen to appear; Paging Mr Darcy (2024), a romance set around a modern Jane Austen conference; and a version of Sense & Sensibility (2024) where the Dashwoods are cast with Afro-British actors.

An American in Austen is a blatant copy of the much superior British tv mini-series Lost in Austen (2008), which came in four one-hour episodes, where Jemima Rooper was a modern girl who had no luck in love who found herself abruptly transported back to Regency Era Hertfordshire in the midst of the events of Pride and Prejudice (1813), while the book’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet took her place in the present and seemed perfectly at home. Jemima’s modern presence ended up considerably disrupting the way the story is meant to play out, as well as attracted the attentions of Mr Darcy (Elliot Cowan) as she tried to get the story back on track. A film adaptation of Lost in Austen had been announced at one point. An American in Austen appears to have just stolen the premise without any acknowledgement.

Here we get the basics of Lost in Austen with Eliza Bennett (a British actress who rather confusingly has a name almost identical to Pride and Prejudice’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet) as a modern American girl who makes a wish and turns up in 1813 where her presence proceeds to disrupt the standard story.

Eliza Bennett and Mr Darcy (Nicholas Bishop)
Modern girl Eliza Bennett and Mr Darcy (Nicholas Bishop)

This has potential but doesn’t get a particularly great treatment. For one, Eliza Bennett comes from standard blonde starlet casting call and there is nothing whatsoever that is remarkable about her. Nicholas Bishop plays a suitably haughty and standoffish Darcy. However, in the scenes where he is running around after Eliza Bennett, pleading his love, the film does a serious disservice to the one of the great romantic characters and turns him into a pathetically needy puppy dog.

The production does a passable replication of England in 1813, even if the show was actually shot in Ireland and Bulgaria of all places. Amid this, the temporally displaced heroine expresses surprisingly little in the way of culture shock and difficulty adjusting to being back two centuries earlier. There is some amusement in the scenes where Eliza’s presence ends up distorting the story and as she tries to make everything fall into correct place, before an eminently predictable happy ending.

Elsewhere, director Clare Neiderpruem has directed over a dozen romance and Christmas tv movies mostly for the Hallmark Channel. The interesting name on the credits is that of Phillip J. Roth, who heads UFO International Film Productions and has produced a number of B genre films, as well as directing several with the likes of Apex (1994), Digital Man (1995) and New Alcatraz (2002).


Trailer here


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