Movie Review: Austenland. It’s a Girl Thing.

Dear Men Who Review Movies and Totally Dissed Austenland

Psh. Psh, I say.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl in possession of two X chromosomes must love the movie Austenland.  And if you didn't love it you are either not a girl, or need to have your chromes checked. Seriously. My screening of the film was filled from beginning to end with giggles and guffaws like I've heard in no other movie this summer. And furthermore, everyone I've talked to about it has had the same experience. Austenland, which is based on the book written by Shannon Hale, is an absolute gem. Whose gem-ness will likely best be understood by women who know and love the works of Jane Austen. In particular Pride and Prejudice. In more particular, Colin Firth — who is not a work of Jane Austen, but baby, who cares? 

The movie (whose screenplay was co-written by Shannon Hale and director Jerusha Hess. Both of whom possess two X's) (Chromosomes, I mean, not former significant others) tells the frothy tale of Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a thirty-something woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame. In the movie, Jane decides to do something about her passion. So she saves up her pennies and books a trip to Austenland, a Regency era CosPlay-esque theme park run by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour). At Austenland guests dress, speak, dine, dance, and romance as they might were they living in an Austen novel. The estate is replete with beautiful grounds, period accoutrements, and dashing P&P males with whom the guests are free to fall in love. And why wouldn't they? They are played by JJ Feild (bless him), Bret McKenzie (nicely scruffy and much taller than in Flight of the Conchords), James Callis (bwa!), and the shirtless Ricky Whittle (shirtless. And also shirtless.)

Things happen exactly as you might hope and expect in this film. Ms. Hayes finds out she paid for a low-end package and gets relegated to the role of heritageless-young-thing-who-must-sleep-in-the-servant's-wing. But in true heroine fashion Jane stiffens her upper lip, dives in, and proceeds to embroider, play croquet, and fall in love with the stable boy. Or maybe the Darcy-like Mr. Nobly. Or maybe the shirtless Captain East. Well, at least his chest. Jane Austen is riffed. The riffs are riffed. Romance, mini-heartbreak, and life-lessons occur. The cast is incredibly silly and great fun. Jennifer Coolidge plays her standby: a wealthy, ditzy, predatory kitten, with James Callis as the wrong-side-of-the-orientation prey. And Georgia King is a surprise as a hilariously zealous, oft-returning Austenland patron. It is quintessential Red-Vines-and-Popcorn fun.

So look, dear male reviewers (and anyone else who has stuck with me this far), is this film Les Misérables — the Big Screen Musical? No. Is it Schindler's List? Um, that would be no. Is it even a dewy, beautifully lensed remake of a Jane Austen remake? Absolutely not. And it doesn't try to be. It knows it isn't perfect. It is grateful to have snagged Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Seymour. It knows Keri Russell is so likeable the movie could float just fine on scenes of her plucking her eyebrows. And it is so happy to have JJ Field et al, that it pretty much just lets them show up, do their thing, and let our little Regency hearts flutter.

Austenland has got flaws. But we don't care. It's fun. It's fluffy. It's pretty. And it winks at the colonies' British Period Romance addiction. Chill out, dudes, and let it flow over you. You'll score a few points, and your brain cells will get a break from the flattening of metropolises by special effects machines. As Shannon Hale said in Austenland the book: "If you were a woman, all I'd have to say is 'Colin Firth in a wet shirt' and you'd say, 'Ah.'" 

That.

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About Janiel 432 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.

5 Comments

  1. As I am completely out of the Hollywood loop, I hadn't heard of it, but I can't wait to see it now.    I Love Austen.   I have a bunch of the movies and put them in while I'm in the studio just to hear the beautiful music and see Edward Ferrars smile.   Also, Mr. Tilney.   Also Captain Wentworth.  Ahhhh.

    I can't wait to see Austenland.  

    • Such a cute, silly, funny little flick. I knew of it because I am a Shannon Hale fan and had read the book. She wrote "The Princess Academy," which received a Newberry honor. 

      Have you seen the Emma with Jonny Lee Miller and Ramola Garai? I think it was a BBC mini series. Lovely, lovely, lovely. I so recommend it!


      I hope Austenland comes to a theater near you! It's got a very small release. I saw one of the premiers. It's just this week gone into 2 mainstream theaters nearby. It is slowly creeping it's way out. If it does well it should get a wider release. I do hope you can find it there near B-Town!

  2. Just finished reading Austenland the book.   Fabulous concept and I loved the end.   Can't wait to see the movie [though I know it's probably only 'loosely based on…' the book.

    • Yay! And now you need to read Midnight in Austenland. It's a great little murder mystery set at Austenland. Different characters, same setting. I liked it even better.

      As for the movie sticking to the book – It does pretty well. The screenplay was written by Shannon Hale herself, so she kept it pretty tight. There are, of course, changes the director made and things cut for tightness. But I didn't feel like I was watching a completely different story. 

      It's only out in 2 theaters near me. I hope it gets a wider release. If it doesn't, you may have to Netflix or redbox it. Or just buy it. Because I know y'all dudes will like it. Even love it, in it's silliness. 🙂

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