Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Austenland.

I fell in love with Jane Austen's novels when I was fourteen. I read Pride and Prejudice, then watched the 2005 film (still my favorite film to this day), and then saw the 1995 mini-series. (I wrote about it all here.) Since then I've read all of her novels at least once, most of them several times, and seen countless film adaptations. I'm not a purist or the sort of fan who has Regency clothes in her closet (though I would probably dress up in them at least once in my life, given the chance :), but I love the stories and the characters and the humor, and I consider Jane Austen to be one of my favorite authors.

I read Austenland a couple of years after I became an Austen fan. I reread it in 2011 and really enjoyed it much more the second time around. I read Shannon Hale's blog, and when she first posted about Austenland becoming a film, I was really excited. My excitement only grew with all of the behind-the-scenes peeks that came later. But unfortunately the film was in limited release and the closest theater to me was about three hours away, so I didn't get to see it in theaters.

I usually don't buy new release movies that I haven't seen in theaters. They're just so expensive, and I don't want to take the chance of spending $20 on a movie that I might not like. But with Austenland, I really, really wanted to see it and didn't want to wait until I could get it through Netflix. So I bought it, wondering whether I would regret it or not.


I watched Austenland last night, and oh my goodness, I absolutely loved it. :)

I honestly think I had a goofy grin on my face the entire time I was watching this film, from the first few moments (Keri Russell as a teenage Jane, wearing braces and drinking from a teacup) to the swoon-worthy ending. Seriously, it was just so much fun. I didn't want to pause it for any reason, and I could hardly bring myself to knit during it because I didn't want to look away. And as soon as it was over, I wanted to immediately watch it again. It was late, so I didn't, but I'll admit that I'm planning on watching Austenland at least two more times this week (and because of Valentine's Day, I will feel no shame in consoling myself with homemade chocolate chip cookies and repeated viewings of this movie :).

It wasn't the most faithful book-to-film adaptation, but that didn't really bother me. The important things are still there, as is the general spirit of the book. Plus, Shannon Hale (the author) also co-wrote the screenplay and was an associate producer, so I feel like if she was okay with the changes, I can't really fuss about them too much.


The cast was really awesome. Keri Russell is such a sweet, long-suffering Jane. Even though she comes across as a bit wishy-washy at times (between the two guys she likes), she is so likable. I felt so bad for her when she was treated as inferior to the other guests because she had bought the least expensive trip package! The only thing that bugged me was that she spent her life savings on the trip to Austenland, instead of it being left to her by a great-aunt who hopes it will get the Austen obsession out of Jane's system (that's how it happened in the book). That made Jane seem a little too frivolous. Jennifer Coolidge was hilarious as Elizabeth Charming, a wealthy fellow guest who frequently shouts "Tally ho!" in an awful fake British accent, doesn't even know what Pride and Prejudice is, and who is mostly there for the attractive men. :) While she is the source of a lot of the crass humor in the film, I loved the more subtle parts. Like when she's embroidering and stitches her glove to her work, or when they're decorating hats and (I believe) the other girls are using needle and thread, but she's using a hot glue gun to attach feathers and such. :) The other guest, Lady Amelia, is played by Georgia King. Here, she is hilariously different from the other very mild roles I'd seen her in so far: in the Jane Eyre mini-series and Little Dorrit.

As for the male characters...I don't want to spoil anything. But I knew the ending and thought I would be predisposed to dislike the guy who ends up being a jerk (and let me say, he appears to be even more of a scumbag in the movie than he was in the book!), but I sort of fell for his charms just like Jane did. So I can't blame her. :) Both of the male leads are really handsome: the chauffeur/gardener/stable man/servant in general, Martin, and the Mr. Darcy type, Mr. Henry Nobley. But goodness...JJ Feild! Be still my heart! :) He has the most wonderful voice, and he did an amazing job of pulling off the seemingly arrogant and reserved, but still kind and respectful type. Now I really need to watch Northanger Abbey again (in which he plays another charming Henry: Mr. Tilney).


Austenland is so over-the-top and while it spoofs Jane Austen and the Regency era, it does so in such a loving way. You get the feeling that all of the people involved were having so much fun with it. There are beautiful settings and costumes that look familiar from other period dramas. (And with good reason. The house where it was filmed has been in quite a few period drama films and mini-series, and I think JJ Feild actually wears some of the clothes that Colin Firth wore in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.) But it's a bit brighter and cheesier and more modern, and not quite accurate, because of course the whole story is about modern people pretending to be in the Regency era.

You know how some lesser-known (should I call them independent?) movies tend to have a certain look and feel? It's hard to explain, but there's a charm about them. They're not glossy or perfect, but they feel so homey and bright and quirky. Penelope is a good example, and that's also true of this movie. I love that.


I'm not saying that this movie is going to be every Austen fan's cup of tea (if you'll pardon the pun :). It's not a gentle, authentic Regency film. It's cheesy and silly and awkward, but it's just ridiculously fun! I would have preferred for some of the humor to be wittier, but I can't deny that I laughed a lot during this movie. And for me, personally, it hit (almost) all of the right notes and became an instant favorite.

My only qualm with the film is that there are suggestive comments scattered throughout. It's rated PG-13, for "some suggestive content and innuendo." There are only two, maybe three at the most, swear words in the movie, but there are quite a few crass lines. Honestly, I think some of them went over my head (ha, I can be pretty na├»ve for a nearly twenty-three year old :), but there was still too many for my taste. Obviously it wasn't enough to overshadow my affection for the film, but the movie would have been pretty much perfect without the coarse innuendo.


So yeah, I loved Austenland so much more than I expected to. If you're an Austen fan, I recommend at least checking it out...you might be pleasantly surprised. :) It really is a hilarious romantic comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously, as well as a sweet tribute to those of us who dream of our own Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley, or whoever your favorite Austen hero is. I can't wait to watch it again.

Have you seen Austenland, or are you looking forward to seeing it? What did you think?

22 comments:

  1. Oh, my! I was wondering what you thought of this, Kristin and all I needed to read was, "I watched Austenland last night, and oh my goodness, I absolutely loved it. :)" I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie and it's silly antics - that's part of what makes it SO fun. You're right, the cast is great and I admired how the story unfolded. Like you say, it's more "loving" than anything and yes, I liked that the cast seemed to have TONS of fun with the movie. Plus, that ending!? Squee. I just loved it. We travelled further than we probably should have to see it in theaters but I'm glad we did! It was such a memorable movie. Cannot wait to snag a copy when I head out tomorrow and enjoy a re-watch. This snowy weather is perfect for such an event. ;)

    PS: Love your new blog look. :)

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    1. I don't always appreciate silly, goofy movies, but I sure did love this one. :) I watched it again last night! It makes all the difference when you can tell that the people involved are having so much fun, too! I agree...the ending was swoon-worthy. :)

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  2. Great review! This sounds like something I would totally enjoy! The whole old classic meets modern times sounds right up my alley. Just from the photos here it looks beautiful and fun. :)

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    1. It is fun. :) And the colors of the sets and costumes are gorgeous! Hope you enjoy it!

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  3. I've been wanting to see this for a long time! I'm a big fan of Shannon Hale (although I haven't read Austenland yet) and I love Jane Austen...so this just seems like a movie I would love. After reading this post, I now want to watch it even more!

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    1. I'm a big Shannon Hale fan, too...I love her Bayern series and Princess Academy books! Hope you enjoy the movie. :)

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  4. I've been wanting to see this! It wasn't playing in theaters around here either, so I resigned myself to the DVD release, and actually forgot about it until now. Your review completely renewed my excitement. I loved JJ Field as Henry Tilney, and his place in this film is what first attracted me to it - his voice is definitely up there with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston on the "swoon-inducing sound scale." :D

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    1. He does have a lovely voice, doesn't he? I'd have to add Matthew Macfadyen to that list, too. Goodness, I could listen to him read a phone book. :) Hope you enjoy the movie when you see it!

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    2. By the way, I forgot to mention that JJ Feild and Tom Hiddleston remind me of each other. Back when I had only seen them each in one film or so, I thought they were the same person. I've since realized my error, of course. I still think they look similar enough to be cousins or something, though! :)

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    3. Oh, yes. Macfadyen certainly belongs on the list! While treading the volatile waters of Darcy comparisons, there is no question that he beats Firth in the voice department. ;)

      And you're right about Field and Hiddleston! I thought that I was the only one who saw that. I've been trying to get my little sister to admit the similarities for years. :)

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  5. Wow, I've never heard of the book or movie. I am interested now, thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome! I recommend both the book and the film. :)

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  6. Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, Kristin! Hope it's a sweet day! Us single girls have to stick together.
    -Bess-

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  7. And now I want to see it! I'm really not a huge Regency fan, but for some reason I always end up watching movies about that time period. Have you ever seen "Lost in Austen?" I watched that one on Netflix Instant Watch a couple times.

    I love movies like that, where the heroine is madly in love/obsessed with the characters in her favorite books. I think I'm gonna love "Austenland," so thanks for spreading the word. I hadn't even heard of it until your post.

    Kristin

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    1. I've seen Lost in Austen once and liked it okay, but I much prefer this one. :) They feel a bit similar, though, so if you liked that one you'll probably like Austenland!

      I also love movies where a character is obsessed with fictional characters. There are so many "fandoms," and so many people who love fictional characters as if they really knew them, so it's nice to see filmmakers acknowledge that. :)

      I'm glad to spread the word about this charming movie. Hope you enjoy it!

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  8. I'm going to have to see if our local library has a copy! I enjoy Austen but I'm not a die hard fan. But I do love the film adaptations. (Unfortunately, I think the only one of her books I read was P&P.)

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    1. If you're going to read one Austen novel, I think it should be Pride and Prejudice. :) Emma and Persuasion are my other favorites of hers.

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  9. While perusing Redbox yesterday, I discovered that "Austenland" was finally out for rent. Yippee!! I promptly rented it and settled down to watch today while my poor husband was ailing from a tummy bug. I must say, it was everything I imagined it would be. Utterly delightful! I love Keri Russell and thought she was perfect as the lead character. The movie had me guessing til the end about who her Mr. Darcy was going to be. From the start, I had the stable boy pegged but then Mr. Nobley comes on the scene with a subtle interest in Jane. I confide that I was a little disappointed when I concluded that she was going to end up with stable boy and when it was revealed that he was really the one doing the acting, my heart fluttered at the fact that the charming Mr. Nobley was meant to be Jane's love. A great movie for Jane Austen lovers everywhere! By the way, have you ever checked out the site www.sensibility.com? If not, then promptly do so. You'll love it!

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    1. I'm glad you liked it! I was really impressed with Keri Russell, too. I think this was the first film I'd seen her in, and she was perfect for the role! Her Jane was so likable. :) Yes, I've seen S&S patterns! I've actually sewn two dresses from their 1940s swing dress pattern.

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  10. Oh, I hadn't heard of this movie at all, but now I am totally keen to watch it after reading your review - thank you! I shall snaffle my sister, who is also an Austen-er, and we shall watch it asap! :D

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

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    1. I hope you and your sister enjoy it! :)

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