Austenland is a fun little book by Shannon Hale (one of my favorite authors) about a women obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, to the point that she take a trip to “Austenland,” a Regency-themed retreat at an English estate.
It was made into a movie last year, but had a limited release, so I only just saw it on DVD (my library actually has it!).
I thoroughly enjoyed it, but this is not a movie for everyone. It stays firmly in the rom com category, and the “rom” part is a little thin, while the “com” part tends to the ridiculous, over-the-top variety. I was dying through most of the movie, but my husband thought it was the kind of movie he was happy to see only once.
Austen fans will catch not only the obvious Colin Firth-as-Darcy cardboard cutout, but also the references to plot points from Persuasion (poor sailor suitor returns rich) and Mansfield Park (the play the group puts on).
Another thing I love about this movie is that it was headed by 3 women, a rarity in Hollywood: written by Shannon Hale and Jerusha Hess, directed by Hess, and produced by Stephanie Meyer, also a friend of Hale’s.
Jerusha Hess co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite with her husband, and that movie is an excellent litmus test–if you liked its absurd humor, as I did, Austenland will more likely be to your taste.
The casting is great:
- Keri Russell: Always likable. She’s a little bland here at times, but has some great moments.
- JJ Feild: Has actually played an Austen leading man–Mr. Tilney in BBC’s Northanger Abbey
- James Callis: Gaius Baltar. Enough said.
- Jennifer Coolidge: Shannon Hale had her in mind for the role of Miss Charming from the beginning. Her typical style of improv in on full display here, and she’s not even the most over-the-top in her performance.
- Jane Seymour: And her sister plays her maid!
- Rupert Vansittart: Played the wonderfully indolent Mr. Hurst in the 1995 P&P miniseries. Currently in GoT as Bronze Yohn Royce.
If Austenland doesn’t sound appealing, but your gf/wife/otherwomanyoudon’twanttooffend has you captive, I propose the Austenland Drinking Game: Take a drink for every oddly-placed taxidermied animal you spy. You will be so far from sober by the end that I’m sure the movie will be infinitely more enjoyable for you.