My teenaged daughters and a friend and I went to see the movie Austenland (2013 PG-13). It is a modern romantic comedy of a woman who goes to an immersion Jane Austen resort in England, and must dress and behave as a proper lady of an English manor of 1810. At the theater, the manager mentioned that for the previous night, people in the audience came in Regency costumes! I’m sorry I missed seeing that!
Jane (Keri Russell) is a 30-somthing fan of Jane Austen’s books, and the movies that have been made from them. Think Sense and Sensability. Think BBC. She has idealized romance and proper behavior to the extent that she can not be happy dating any man who doesn’t live up to Austen’s early 19th century standards. Especially as portrayed by Colin Firth‘s Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995). The back story of her obsession is a little awkward, as it is difficult to tell what era and age Jane is being portrayed in (college in the 1990’s? a travel agent from the 1980’s?). But once she gets to England the story really takes off.
Jane Seymour is perfect as uptight Austenland hostess Mrs. Wattlesbrook, who strives for a romantic pairing for each of her guests. Jennifer Coolidge is silly in her dress and her manners, as an American having fun trying to be proper and British. Georgia King is the third guest hilariously over-acting her part as a wealthy young English aristocrat. The sets are great in that they show how touches of the modern sneak in, and how the actors relax when not playing house maid or dashing romantic man. Fun movie!
My husband knew this movie was not for him. Our audience of women laughed and sighed and appreciated the film. That’s likely because women made it.
Austenland is based on the novel by Shannon Hale, who co-wrote the screenplay with another woman, Jerusha Hess (writer of Nacho Libre and Napoleon Dynamite). Hess also directed (her first time). Of the seven producer-type people, four are female, including Stephanie Meyer (Twilight author).
I met Shannon Hale at a book signing (I forget my camera), and have enjoyed following her blog. I caught her cameo in the movie! She is passionate about the need for more women-made films. “Please, go see Austenland. Vote with your wallet…Encourage those skeptics in Hollywood. Convince them that backing something with a few women in it and written by women isn’t such a huge risk. People do want variety. They do want to hear women’s voices. They do want to see actual real women on the screen doing things besides just getting saved in the end and kissing the male star.”
I like Austenland the book and Austenland the film. You should try both!
- Guest Blogger: Author Shannon Hale on “Austenland” (kindlepost.com)
- Shannon Hale: Austenland (2007) (beautyisasleepingcat.wordpress.com)
- Keri Russell and Producer Stephenie Meyer Talk AUSTENLAND and the Lasting Appeal of Jane Austen Stories (collider.com)
- Movie Review: ‘Austenland’ (reellifewithjane.com)