Based on the popular novel by Shannon Hale, Austenland (12A) follows in the footsteps of Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary to show classic Jane Austen in a humorous new light. It was a hit at Sundance, but can it impress audiences beyond the festival circuit?
What’s it about? Keri Russell stars as Jane Hayes, a woman who’s lived her life completely obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. After her latest break-up, she makes the snap decision to spend all her savings on a trip to Austenland, an English mansion that offers women an authentic Austen experience, ending in an engagement for one lucky lady!
When she arrives, she meets fellow Austen fans who’ve also paid for the experience (Jennifer Coolidge and Georgina King). But soon it’s very clear that Austenland’s owner (Jane Seymour) isn’t too fond of her new guest, and finding her Mr Darcy might not be as easy as it seems.
Verdict: The films starts off mocking the kind of fan-girl attitude we associate with the likes of One Direction and Justin Bieber, but the difference is that our heroine represents women who’ve bought into a certain idea of romance.
We whizz through moments in Jane’s life that reveal her Austen fanaticism, though the reason for her obsession isn’t really explained. Then we swiftly move on to a scene where she’s just been dumped because of her fixation and, on a whim, flies to Austenland to be surrounded by fellow lovers of all things Austen.
From this point, the film finds it feet thanks to the introduction of the always-comical Jennifer Coolidge, who plays a crass American who’s only on the trip to bonk some British hotties.
The rest of the film jumps from one hilarious scene to another with conversations and scenarios at times so over-the-top you can’t help but laugh. The fresh, off-beat humour is exactly what you’d expect from Napoleon Dynamite co-writer Jerusha Hess.
Georgia King is simply brilliant as Lady Heartwright and, while she’s essentially the film’s joint villian with Jane Seymour, you’ll love every minute she’s on screen.
The film’s male cast also do well, with JJ Feild stepping into his Mr Darcy-esque role with ease, while Ricky Whittle stands out in his small role as the sexy Captain George East.
There’s something telling about the fact Austenland is co-produced by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Considering how her vampire saga appealed to the masses, her involvement is a sign this film will do the same.
Make sure you stay for the ends credits for some extra special laughs!
Final Words: A hugely enjoyable parody of rom-coms, with lots of laughs, a perfectly unrealistic love story and the most impressive use of Nelly’s hit Hot In Herre EVER. If you want a fun watch, this film is the perfect choice.
Austenland is in UK cinemas from 27 September