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Review: Hallmark's "Paging Mr. Darcy" Is a Delightful Start to Loveuary!

Updated: Feb 20

Jane Austen remains a wildly popular author with a massive following more than 200 years after her death. Countless adaptations of her novels have been produced, yet Hallmark has managed to rework Austen's magic into a series of movies that are premiering in the network's annual 2024 Loveuary celebration.



Will Kemp Leaves His Mark as Mr. Darcy


If you enjoy Hallmark's version of Mr. Darcy but are unfamiliar with the Austen character, here's a quick recap. Mr. Darcy is introduced in Pride & Prejudice, and he represents the stereotypical aloof, romantic hero. His "pride" in his nobility and social stature causes Elizabeth Bennett to develop a "prejudice" against him. Over time, both experience personal growth and learn to see each other in a different light. They overcome their contempt toward one another and fall in love.


Hallmark captures the same romantic progression perfectly in Paging Mr. Darcy. Eloise Cavendish (Mallory Jansen) finds Sam Lee (Will Kemp) quite off-putting. Although she's a professor who specializes in Austen's literature, she doesn't like playing "dress-up" or being the center of attention. Sam, on the other hand, relishes his role as Mr. Darcy for the annual Austen conference and loves performing in front of his adoring audience.



Just like Austen's original characters, things aren't quite how they appear. Eloise avoids dressing in period costumes, not because she's a stuffed shirt, but because she is scarred from wearing a Regency-era costume to homecoming and having everyone make fun of her. Similarly, Sam is quite introverted, but in costume, he becomes a different person--one who is charming and outgoing. When a former associate of Sam's sees him on the golf course as Mr. Darcy, he belittles Sam, which makes him not so different from Eloise after all.


Eloise is clamoring for a professorship at Princeton, and she must impress Dr. Victoria Jennings, Sam's aunt. Sam agrees to help Eloise score points with his aunt, but he has an ulterior motive--an unsavory man is vying for the same position, and Sam worries he's emotionally manipulating Victoria to gain an advantage. Sam ends up misreading the situation and nearly separates his aunt from her one, true love. The relational drama is SO Austen!


Kemp more than does justice to the character of Mr. Darcy. He's suave, charming, and a wonderful dancer in the movie.



Paging Mr. Darcy Includes Plenty of Emotional Drama


Typical of an Austen story, there is plenty of romantic drama to go around. In addition to the budding feelings between Eloise and Sam and the unexpected romance between Victoria and Crispin, Mia, Eloise's sister, is a constant source of emotional upheaval. When her boyfriend, Rob, doesn't propose the way she expects, she ends the relationship and joins Eloise at the conference where she swings from crying buckets of tears to flirting playfully with Sam. It's only when Rob performs a grand gesture that he's able to win Mia back. Paging Mr. Darcy is scripted in Austen-style to poke fun of the shallow drama surrounding romantic relationships.


Are Jane Austen Conferences a Real Thing?

Eloise is the keynote speaker at the Jane Austen League of America Conference. Does such an annual conference exist? It does! It's called JASNA--an acronym for Jane Austen Society of North America. JASNA was formed in 1979, and its membership has grown from 100 members to 5,000. Each year, the JASNA non-profit hosts a 3-day conference where scholars lecture on Austen. The event includes workshops, exhibits, and entertainment as well as a banquet and Regency ball. Hallmark does an excellent job incorporating all of these details into Paging Mr. Darcy.


JASNA has also branched into 81 regional groups for those who need more frequent doses of activities built around their favorite author. JASNA produces a publication that is mailed to members quarterly as well as a monthly email bulletin. The organization also sponsors contests and other activities that keep the appreciation of Austen alive.



Fun Moments in Paging Mr. Darcy


Austen is known for her comic genius, and Hallmark incorporates some of their own into Paging Mr. Darcy.


First, the Regency treats are given special names, like Mansfield Chunk and Praline & Prejudice.


As Mia lays in the hotel room bed lamenting her failed relationship, viewers spy the TV playing in the room, and on the screen is Hallmark's Unleashing Mr. Darcy.


Hallmark is famous for including cameos in their newer movies, and fans are treated to a brief glance of Benjamin Ayres, who is driving the golf cart. Ayres isn't a random choice--he stars in Love & Jane during the same Loveuary event celebrating Austen.


Was Jane Austen a Romantic?


Despite the constant critique and dissection of Austen's works, it's been difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to her own romantic alliances. It appears Austen believed one should only marry if they were in love. She has been linked to Tom LeFroy, but no one knows if this was a small flirtation or a deeper love. It's rumored that Austen was in love with a clergyman named Samual Blackall whom she met on vacation. One researcher theorizes that vying for Blackall's love created a rift between her and her sister. Austen also accepted a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, but she broke off the engagement the very next day. Austen never married.


Austen died at the young age of 41, but the cause is uncertain. Some believe it was a result of Addison's Disease, while others suggest it was from tuberculosis, cancer, or cataracts caused by arsenic poisoning. We many never know.



Maybe Eloise Cavendish's quote in Paging Mr. Darcy is the most accurate interpretation of Austen's stance on romance. When a fellow passenger on the plane assumes Eloise is a romantic for reading an Austen novel, Eloise states that Austen was not a romance author, but a "comic genius, social realist, a pro assassin taking down the powerful and infatuous with a well-aimed dagger of a sentence."


If you are new to Austen, you can order all of here works below:



Is Paging Mr. Darcy Worth Watching?


While there are some Hallmark fans who simply don't enjoy Austen's works or watching period movies, the majority of viewers expressing their opinions on social media about Paging Mr. Darcy are enchanted by a movie that is authentically Austen.


Image of Jane Austen

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Guest
Feb 16

I don't usually care for Mallory Jansen, but she was pretty good in this one.

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