Creating a movie with a Jane Austen theme is always going to guarantee you an audience. Unfortunately, it won’t always guarantee approval and Austenland may be teetering on the border of love and hate for the Austen die-hards. The humour is sometimes cringe-worthy and confusing, with some blatant, “obnoxious American making fun of posh British accent” jokes and slapstick moments which are dotted throughout the film: yet, if you are anything like me, you may find yourself leaving the cinema having actually quite enjoyed yourself (but possibly a little unsure why).
Austenland focuses on Jane Hayes (Keri Russel), an Austen-obsessed, 30-something, single woman who spends her life savings on an immersive experience for the true Jane Austen fan. Her passion for Austen’s characters (mainly the dashing Mr Darcy) has hindered past romances, as no man can compare to the Austen gentlemen. Excited at the prospect of a true Austen romance, Jane eagerly packs her bags, decks herself out in a Regency- era inspired costume and flies to England. Upon arrival, Jane has discovered that she has purchased a limited package compared to the other ladies on the trip, meaning she is in the servant’s quarters. Despite this, Austenland initially seems to be everything she could have dreamed it to be – handsome men, beautiful surrounds, horses and carts- that sort of thing.
Befriending fellow American Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) who purchased a more luxurious experience, Jane soon realises that her travel package to Austenland might not be all it’s cracked up to be. In a comical moment of empowerment, she decides to take this trip into her own hands, much to the dismay of the uptight Mrs Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour). A combination of silliness and cliché rom-com gags ensue which are sometimes painful but at other times surprisingly comical, even if it is because of the complete absurdity. A highlight being Jane’s piano rendition of Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot In Here”.
The cast are a talented bunch and do play their characters well. Russel is great as Jane, managing to make her character’s determined seriousness and Austen-fixated personality endearing and you really do want her to get her happy ending. JJ Field as Henry Noble pulls off the awkward, nervous and abrupt Mr Darcy vibe which is sure to endear him in the eyes of many viewers. Flight of the Conchord’s Bret Mackenzie as Jane’s love interest Martin is sure to be a hit with Australian audiences.
All in all, I can only predict that Austenland is going to receive very mixed reactions. It really is a fun film and great if you are looking for some light hearted viewing. Those who aren’t fans of Austen may find themselves a little lost with some of the humour, but still may find they enjoy the overall romantic comedy storyline.