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Austenland

Austenland

What She said:

She

I’ve recently learned that there is a cultish group of women out there who are fanatical about Jane Austen novels.  I don’t consider myself to be one of them, although I do delight in all things Austen.  I’ve read all of the books, watched every on -screen incarnation of Pride and Prejudice known to man, and fantasized about living the life of one of Austen’s strong female heroines.  But, I’ve never let the genre dictate my life choices, despite what The He may tell you.

However, there are women out there who do eat, sleep, and breathe Jane Austen, and Austenland introduces us to one such individual, the naïve and single 30-something Jane Hayes.  She’s sweet, thoughtful, and pretty, but kind of a super nerd.  To date, she’s been unable to establish a lasting relationship with a man because 1.) she seems socially inept and 2.) there really is no man out there who lives up to the Mr. Darcy standard.  And so, when Jane hears about a Jane Austen experiential theme park of sorts called Austenland it sounds like the ideal getaway, certainly worth spending her life savings on.

Austenland

Jane pours all her finances into a week-long stay at Austenland in the hopes of finding some sense of wholeness within her life.  What she finds when she gets there is that the experience may be a little too authentic for her taste.  She only purchased the basic plan, and so she’s immediately prejudiced against.  The actors/characters she encounters at Austenland are cheesy and just an illusion, and the one person she finds solace in, servant Martin, is not as genuine as she would have hoped.  And so yeah, Austenland teaches Jane a thing or two about her expectations, and, in a roundabout way, brings her a little closer to the real world.

For the first half of this film, I really wasn’t sure how I felt.  The movie seemed pretty B-level, and wasn’t quite fun enough to make up for that.  Not that I had the greatest of expectations going in.  But somehow, this movie managed to turn itself around for me and I found myself enjoying it.  You need to take it with a grain of salt.  It’s totally fiction, it’s extremely predictable, and it’s quite low budget.  The humor is passable, but not brilliant.  And yet, the film redeems itself because Keri Russell is just so likeable as our protagonist, and once she turns on the smarts and wit, then it’s easy to get behind her character.

Austenland

I think the real downer for me at first was the realization that a place like Austenland would not be as fulfilling as one would hope.  I mean, if this themed resort really existed, I would want to go there—hands down.  But yeah, I guess it wouldn’t be as life changing as fantasy would dictate.  When Jane was altogether bummed out about Austenland, I was also a little heartbroken.  But, then she started to make the most of it and that really changed the vibes of this film. 

Of course, we have sort of a twist ending, and it’s fun and enjoyable.  Actually, the ending is what really makes this movie.  This film is kind of meta.  It’s a movie about the Jane Austen experience that also plays out like a Jane Austen novel.  Dare I say, this one boldly stands with the likes of Inception.  Ok, so maybe not.  But at 96 minutes, this movie is over in a flash, quite painless, and will leave you with a partial smile on your face.  Let’s overlook the uneven writing, low production value, and somewhat annoying peripheral characters.  It’s not THAT bad.

Thumbs half up.

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