Synopsis: Austenland is a romantic comedy about 30-something, single Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a seemingly normal young woman with a secret: her obsession with all things Jane Austen. But when she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined.
Release Date: August 16, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Romance
If you’ve ever read Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” you know the feeling that comes at the end, when you turn the last page, read the final sentence, and then sigh with pleasure as you engage in a daydream where you and Mr. Darcy are caught in the rain. What if you could have your very own Austen-inspired vacation, complete with a Mr. Darcy, or similar fellow that will strike your fancy, and live in the Regency-era for a spell, corsets and all. Austenland is that story, where Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a woman with an unhealthy obsession with Jane Austen novels, and especially Mr. Darcy, uses all of her savings to book a vacation at Austenland. It is here she believes she will finally discover the life she was meant to lead, or that it is nothing like she imagined and she can return to modern-day reality capable of existing outside Austen’s world. Austenland is a romance, a comedy, a drama, and most of all a sweet and sentimental movie that will charm you from the very beginning, especially if you’re a fan of Jane Austen.
Adapted from the novel “Austenland” by Shannon Hale, Austenland is Jane’s story, told with a romantic quirky flare and lightheartedness by director Jerusha Hess. Jane’s not pathetic, nor disenchanted by real life, she is merely caught up in a world not her own. Her reality is steeped in Austen’s world, and it has hindered her from having long-lasting relationships with men and caused alarm with her home decorating choices. Above Jane’s bed are bold-colored letters spelling out “Darcy Was Here” and she even has a life-size cardboard cutout of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy from the worshipped by many BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice.” Its difficult to not see Jane as a pitiable heroine; it is the wonderment in her eyes and clear hope that her Mr. Darcy exists that makes you adore her instead of loathe her choices. Much of this can be attributed to Keri Russell’s performance as Jane; she is starry eyed and excitable over the near possibility of visiting Austenland and you want her to go, even if it is all a fairytale.
Upon Jane’s arrival in Austenland it does not take long for Austenland to establish that it will reflect the Regency culture, including the well-established class system. Jane could only afford the copper package, while the very wealthy Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) has the platinum. The difference is striking, starting with the means of transportation…Miss Charming gets to sit in the fine carriage while Jane is seated outside with the luggage. The clothes comes next as Jane gets the plain, brown commoner dresses, while Charming is draped in lace and satin, her bosom on full display to add the temptation of sex, that which is forbidden. Their rooms are the most drastically different, as Jane is in what might be considered the dungeon of the house–or the maid’s quarters, depending on how you want to look at it. She does at least have use of a real bathroom; chamber pots are one thing that Austenland does not require as an authentic display of the era. As Jane settles in everything is set-up for her to be the odd-one-out, the ugly duckling, the girl who everyone pities for her station in life. Austenland creates a perfect Austen-like heroine in Jane, and as a viewer you cannot help but settle in and enjoy the twists that will abound for Jane as her story in Austenland unfolds. One that will include a stable boy suitor, Martin (Bret McKenzie), and a Mr. Darcy-esque man by the name of Mr. Henry Nobley. The love-triangle that develops is steeped in fiction, while bordering on reality leaving one to ponder whether everything that is happening at Austenland for Jane is merely part of the experience created by the woman in charge, Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), or if real love is actually on the horizon.
Austenland is a playful romp of a movie. It has the romance you crave, with plenty of twists along the way to keep you guessing as to where Jane’s fateful vacation is going to take her when she returns to reality. The movie has heartbreak and melodrama, while maintaining its quirky humor throughout. Jane is a character you enjoy taking this journey with, and its great to see her break out of her fantasy by the end to “write her own story.” You do not have to know all about Jane Austen’s novels to enjoy Austenland, nor do you have to be a fan. The great thing about Austenland is how it is a genuinely likeable and strangely relatable romantic comedy that merely uses Austen’s world as a backdrop to create a whimsical comedic romance that will have you feeling light and airy when Jane’s story concludes.
After seeing James Callis in “Battlestar Galactica” as the detestable Gaius Baltar it is hard to imagine him in full time-period regalia, playing a possible homosexual while wooing women with charm and grace, and supplying ample amounts of humor. Callis does all of the aforementioned, and he does it with perfect comedic timing, especially when you find him lounging in the staff quarters playing against-type to his Austenland character Colonel Andrews. The real scene stealer, and this is common in every movie or T.V. show she appears in, is Jennifer Coolidge as Miss Elizabeth Charming (forever ‘Stifler’s Mom’ from American Pie). As the wealthy American who booked the platinum package, Coolidge creates a character in Miss Charming that is outrageously funny, mostly due to her lack of propriety. She says whatever comes to her mind, and most is inappropriate for the time period–thus breaking the rules. She complains about the boring ways they are told to pass the day, but does it with a sharp tongue and quick wit. Then there is the fake English accent that is funny no matter what nonsense she is spewing. It is because of Coolidge that Austenland has plenty of laughter sprinkled throughout, and without her the tone of the film would not be as mischievous and full of fun as it becomes.
Keri Russell’s Jane may be the lead in this romantic comedy but she is left to having the joke be on her more than she is given the time to shine as a comedic character. There are instances, like when she must ride a horse as a man would and has her dress and bloomers caught in a twist, so to speak. Jane is more charming and forlorn than funny, its her endearing qualities that make you like her, not her ability to make you laugh. The supporting cast manages to keep the humor flowing so Jane can have her story told in a more proper fashion, as the time permits. But do not believe everything is proper in Austenland; it never really was during Austen’s time and it certainly is not in the reproduction. That is all part of the fun.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jerusha Hess
- Screenwriter(s): Jerusha HessShannon Hale
- Cast: Keri Russell (Jane Hayes)JJ Feild (Mr. Henry Nobley)Jennifer Coolidge (Miss Elizabeth Charming) Bret McKenzie (Martin)Georgia King (Lady Amelia Heartwright)James Callis (Colonel Andrews)Jane Seymour (Mrs. Wattlesbrook)Ricky Whittle (Captain George West)
- Cinematographer: Larry Smith
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Ilan Eshkeri
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA