Friday, September 27, 2013

Austenland: Movie Review


The good and bad of a Jane Austen theme park with clever romance and cute comedy.
Austenland is a Jane Austen theme park designed for Jane Austen fans to live the life of their favourite heroines. I was really hoping that this was a real place or at least could have been a real place because the idea of it is a lot of fun. But for the sake of the delusional fans, it’s probably best that this is not real. Jane (Keri Russell) is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, and in doing something about it, she spends her life savings on a trip to England to Austenland. 2013

Directed by: Jerusha Hess

Screenplay by: Jerusha Hess and Shannon Hale

Starring: Keri Russell

Left to right: Keri Russell as Jane Hayes and JJ Feild as Mr. Henry Nobley
Photo by Giles Keyte, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
What I didn’t like about the film was the “theme park” itself. The first part was just a room decorated in tacky figurines with people insulting their customers if they didn’t perfectly fit in the 1800s. Others in the theatre laughed, so I suppose that was supposed to be funny. But it came across as very stupid and mean and not enjoyable the way light-hearted comedies are supposed to be. The whole thing played out as if it was designed to make fun of people that were big fans but not “perfect” fans of Jane Austen. Seeing as there are only so many perfect Jane Austen fans who could watch this movie, the comedy misses the mark of its real audience. Our heroine, who wasn’t perfect enough nor rich enough, finally got to experience the rest of this theme park.

They eventually get to go to an 1800s-styled mansion on a large country lot, exactly as Jane Austen’s heroines lived. The theme park experience involves falling in love with a Jane Austen-styled hero – actors hired to play the part. This part works because it was all very funny. Watching Jane try to live the life but still being treated like a servant, but always remains determined to make the most of her stay here. This comedy makes up for the unfortunate comedy at the beginning. And here we also get into the romantic comedy. There are two possible love interests for Jane, both of whom fit the Jane Austen love interest part very well.

“Austenland” is of course a romantic comedy with Mr. Darcy-type characters all around ready to sweep her off her feet. It was also cleverly done since we know her love story is written for her as part of the theme park experience, Jane knows this but could easily forget it, but we (and Jane) also don’t know what exactly was written and what exactly she’s creating for herself. For fans of romantic comedies, it’s not too hard to guess who she'll end up with, but separating her reality from her fiction is part of the fun. Once the comedy kicks in, the romance comes to, and we get a very enjoyable romantic comedy.