The novel Austenland came out in 2007, and I didn't initially recognize the connection to the new movie coming to theaters with the same title. I had the privilege of being able to go to a very early screening of the film when I was at the BlogHer conference in Chicago in July, and although we viewed the movie on a tiny screen in a room at the Sheraton (the host hotel), it didn't matter, because the movie was so funny that it had us all cracking up throughout its entire runtime.
Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is obsessed with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. More than obsessed, really - she has Darcy trinkets and knickknacks all throughout her house, and even a life-size cardboard cutout of him in her bedroom, which one of her boyfriends angrily punches as he leaves her house after she ignores him one night. Jane decides to pool her life savings and reserve a spot for herself at Austenland, a Jane Austen camp of sorts where the participants immerse themselves in the Regency era, from dress to the mansion they stay in to the men they meet. Its proprietor, Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), is adamant that they eschew all modern technology, including phones, and Jane soon finds she bought the "Copper" rather than "Platinum" package, which means she gets plainer dresses and a smaller room than the other guests. Jane soon strikes up a friendship with the "help," Martin (Bret McKinzie), but must decide what's more real: what she has with Martin or with Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild), Austenland's resident "Mr. Darcy," who appears to just be playing a part like all of the other actors in the house.
First off, Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Miss Elizabeth Charming, absolutely steals the show. Keri Russell is great as Jane, as well, but it's Coolidge that will have you in stitches the entire movie, starting fast and furious from the opening scenes. She goes to Austenland because she thinks she will look great in the period-era clothes, and she affects a hoity-toity British accent because she thinks that is how people talked then. The film was also interesting in that it showed the men actors during their free time, and so we got to see them break character during those times; Mrs. Wattlesbrook guaranteed all of her guests a romance, but she never guaranteed a real one, and the job of these men is to entertain and romance the guests.
Yes, see this film. The laughs do slow down a little bit near the end, but there's enough material here to keep you entertained for a long time. I've seen many Jane Austen novels brought to the big screen, but this book - written by Shannon Hale, who also co-wrote the screenplay - puts a fresh spin on the Austen "experience." Parts of the movie are predictable, because it does follow the Austen "formula," but there's a semi-big twist that I didn't see coming until the very end, too. Austenland may be one of the most quirky films I've seen lately, but it also delivers, and anyone who is a fan of "chick flicks" or even a good story should go see this movie.
Austenland is in theaters today, August 16th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 97 minutes. 4 stars out of 5.
I'm not quite willing to part with my "I ♥ Mr. Darcy" bag that I received at BlogHer, but I do have a giveaway for an Austenland 2013-14 calendar - it would make a great gift, or you can keep it for yourself!
Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Contest ends on Friday, September 20th, at 11:59pm EST and winner will be notified on September 21st and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S. addresses only, please.
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