|Keri Russell as Jane (image via Sony Pictures Classics)|
Austenland begins with flashbacks of a mousy young Jane, obsessed with Jane Austen and everything Pride & Prejudice. What woman who has read or seen Pride & Prejudice hasn’t fallen for the bittersweet romance between the spunky Elizabeth and quietly charming Mr. Darcy? Most of us enjoy the movie and move on. But Jane, dexterously played by Keri Russell, eats, breathes, and sleeps Jane Austen. Sounds like a fresh way to adapt Jane Austen’s catalogue of golden material. Well, almost.
Already into her thirties, nothing has managed to ground Jane, not her failed relationships or her concerned best friend. Jane continues to live in her fantasy because the promise of it is better than the reality she lives in. Countless women have passed thirty with this belief: “…don’t settle yet because my very own Mr. Darcy is right around the corner.”
|JJ Feild as Mr. Nobly, Brett McKenzie as Martin, and Keri Russell as Jane (image via Sony Pictures Classics)|
This is where the film becomes precarious. I really wanted to like it. But I was overwhelmed by Jennifer Coolidge’s “ugly American” attempts at cheeky humor. She played the well-intentioned sidekick to Jane. As the audience member next to me put it, “She’s been typecast one too many times.” One detail that baffled me was that Austenland only had three guests staying at a sprawling English manor with a complete staff catering to their every whim. How can an entire manor operate on the patronage of three women? Those ticket packages must have been EXPENSIVE.
|Austenland Manor in the English Countryside (image via Sony Pictures Classics)|
The romance between the characters was contrived, but that is what Jane is told from the beginning. A modern day woman doubtful about love who is suddenly thrown into the 1800s would most certainly be skeptical about any relationship born in this setting. As an audience member, you feel “in on it” because you know how over-the-top these actors have to be – that the romance is supposed to seem slightly fake to drive the point home of the blurred lines between love and fantasy. But it causes even the real love to seem fake, and frankly a bit cheesy.
|What to do for fun in 1800s England — The Hunting Party (image via Austenland)|
If you love a super cheesy romance, you may enjoy Austenland, which opens in St. Louis Friday, September 6th. Otherwise, rent it. Purely for its campy nature, I think it will do great business as a rental.
Starring Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, JJ Feild, Brett McKenzie, and Jane Seymour. Directed by Jerusha Hess (writer, Napoleon Dynamite). Produced by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films.
Have you seen Austenland? What did you think? Share in the comments below!
Watch the trailer: