Three movies surprisingly inspired by Jane Austen

Katelyn Holley

This year marks novelist Jane Austen’s 200th publishing anniversary for her novel “Emma.” The 19th century writer gained fame through other novels as well, such as “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Austen’s continued legacy can be attributed to her passionate love stories and progressive view on societal roles that remain relevant today. While almost everyone has seen Keira Knightley‘s Elizabeth Bennet falling for the infamous Mr. Darcy and Gwyneth Paltrow’s iconic archery scene in “Emma,” The Daily Texan recommends three movies based on Austen’s novels that might catch a viewer by surprise. 

“Clueless” (1995)

  • Before “Mean Girls,” there was “Clueless.” A modern take on Austen’s “Emma,” “Clueless” tells the coming-of-age story of Cher Horowitz and the complications that come from meddling in other people’s love lives. Directed by Amy Heckerling, the movie explores high school popularity and love as Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and her friend Dee (Stacey Dash) attempt to play matchmaker for two teachers and make over the new girl in school, Tai (Brittany Murphy). Equipped with antenna flip phones and computer-generated outfits, Cher realizes she has been the clueless one and her own match was there all along.   

Clever and humorous, the cinematic take on Austen’s classic novel pays respectable homage to the original text. Transforming the estates of Highbury, England into a Beverly Hills school allows for the mixing of different social statuses in one area, a major theme in Austen’s novels. Silverstone also delivers an almost perfect interpretation of the modern Emma Woodhouse. Jane Austen, while writing her novel, deemed Emma “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like,” and Silverstone conveys this statement through her tantrums and quick wit. 

Available on Netflix. 

Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001)

  • Director Sharon Maguire brings Austen’s classic love story “Pride and Prejudice” into the 21st century in her adaptation “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), a 30-year-old plump assistant at a London publishing company, is afraid she is letting her life slip and decides to take control of it. She begins an affair with her boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), while a childhood friend, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), continually pops up at the most inopportune times. Writing the events of her life in her diary, the audience is invited to share into her most personal thoughts and follow her journey for love. 

Memorable moments from Austen’s novel are closely portrayed in the movie. Much like Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship in “Pride and Prejudice,” Bridget and Mark meet at a party and quickly begin to loathe each other due to Mark’s foul mood. While there is no homage to BBC’s famous lake scene with Mr. Darcy, Maguire and Zellweger successfully bring forth a naïve and modern Elizabeth Bennet that will demonstrate the importance of listening to your heart. With a talented ensemble and ridiculously funny scenes, this rom-com will have every girl wanting to find their own Mr. Darcy.

Available on Netflix.

“From Prada to Nada” (2011)

  • A Latin spin on Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” director Angel Gracia adapts one of Austen’s most memorable works into a hilarious and endearing tale told from the point of view of two different sisters. After the death of their father, Nora (Camilla Belle) and Mary (Alexa PenaVega) lose their house to an estranged brother and are forced to leave their glamorous life behind. Humorously disgusted with their new home in East Los Angeles, the sisters learn to appreciate their Hispanic culture and find love along the way. Loosely following the story arc of Austen’s Dashwood sisters, Gracia’s adaptation speaks to the acceptance of one’s own culture and the pleasant surprises that occur when you break down stereotypes. 

By altering the culture and surroundings of the protagonists, Gracia attempts to make this classic story relevant to people of different societies and ethnicities. Gracia calls attention to the timelessness of Jane Austen’s progressive thinking and transcends the boundaries of race and time periods. 

Available on Netflix, DVD and Hulu.