Austenland (2013)

Director: Jerusha Hess
Writer: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale
Based on: Shannon Hale‘s novel
Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Georgia King, Rupert Vansittart, Ricky Whittle, Jane Seymour
Seen on: 2.10.2022

Content Note: sexualized assault

Jane (Keri Russell) has always been a fan of Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice, to be exact. Mr. Darcy, especially in the Colin Firth version, to be absolutely precise. But her own romantic life is rather non-existent. So she decides to give herself one big chance in Austenland, a Regency role play estate built on the works of Jane Austen. Maybe she will find her Mr. Darcy there, despite having only booked the standard package? Things don’t start very Austen-like though, when the first man who catches her eye is the stableboy/gardener/groundskeeper Martin (Bret McKenzie). He may not be in the role-playing spirit, but at least he puts her at ease.

Austenland is a sweet and funny hommage to Jane Austen and Regency romances that actually fooled me for a bit, as if I didn’t know Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed it a lot.

The film poster showing Jane (Keri Russell) holding a canvas bag with I heart Mr Darcy printed on it.

When the movie started I was taken a little aback because Jane’s fandom was portrayed so excessively. It seemed to make fun of people who enjoy Austen’s work instead of delighting in the fact that 200 years later, people still love it. Fortunately, the film manages to turn away from that and once we are in Austenland (in itself a wonderfully weird idea), it is pretty smooth comedic and romantic sailing that actually does find the rightly loving tone for Austen’s work, I thought.

Russell herself was fantastic as usual, and always retains dignity in her role, while not taking things too seriously. Coolidge, Seymour and King are great additions to the cast that bring a lot of the fun, and I loved that Russell’s Jane was surrounded by so many women, and not just men. That they all have different approaches to Austenland (and probably Austen) was also quite fun, I thought.

Jane (Keri Russell) dancing with Mr Nobley (JJ Feild).

Nevertheless, the film does revolve very centrally around the romance, and the film did manage what no RomCom has managed (in a very long time at least, but maybe even never): it honestly tricked me about who the romantic endgame was. I am not even sure that it attempted to do that, but I nevertheless thought things would end differently. That doesn’t mean that how they ended didn’t work, not at all. Just that I was more surprised by what should have been pretty obvious in hindsight.

Tricks or no tricks, I had a good time with the film for sure, and maybe it’s time to read some Austen again. Or at least watch a version of Pride and Prejudice. It’s been a while.

Jane (Keri Russell) and Martin (Bret McKenzie) sitting in the grass together.

Summarizing: highly entertaining.

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