If they ever make a sequel, they better insert some damn zombies!
Jane (Keri Russell) is a lonely gal who, stuck in her mid-thrities, can’t find the right guy in her life. It’s not because every dude she meets is a total ass-bag, but more because she’s obsessed with Jane Austen novels and holds every dude up to the standard of Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, ultimately allowing them to fail without her ever giving them a chance. It’s just the way she is, she can’t help it and it’s very obvious that not a lot of people feel her obsession is a normal one to have so late in your life. However, Jane throws all of those nay-sayers to the side and books a flight to London where she can stay a whole week at a lovely, lavish re-imagining of Austen’s most famous novel; a vacation resort called Austenland. Here, she lives the beautiful dream that she’s always wanted to, and also runs into the possibility of a new love. Or hell, maybe even two new loves in her life. But is it all real, or just plain fantasy inside of sweet Jane’s head?
Never, ever was there another film that I had been least looking forward to this year than Austenland, and with that in mind, you should be surprised to see the type of rating I have down below. Some will probably consider that to be “low”, or “bad”, but hey, you need to know where I was coming from before going into this movie. I never really cared for Jane Austen novels all that much, never got the appeal to them and the adaptations themselves never did anything for me either, despite some of them being Oscar winners/nominees. Then again, I know how amateurish it must be of me to hold gripes with a movie way before I’ve seen it, especially one that features subject-material I honestly don’t give two hoots about, but that’s what happens when you see a movie like this.
Sometimes, only sometimes, will you ever fully get a surprise that makes you a bit happy. Nothing more than just “happy”, and that’s all there is to it.
But it should be known that this movie is nowhere near being perfect; in fact, the farthest thing from. With a promising-premise such as this, you’d expect the writers and directors to fully capitalize on the idea of how some women hold men to these fanatical, high-standards that may never be met, no matter how hard they keep on searching for that Mr. Charming. But somehow, this movie trades in those interesting ideas and points about the female-psyche, for a bunch of a slap-stick jokes and Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” done on the piano. No joke on that last one either; it really DOES happen and it’s as forced as you’re ever going to see that song used in a movie ever.
However, I can’t hate on all films that don’t hold-up to their initial-promise of being something smarter, more thought-provoking and interesting; I just have to accept it for what it is and base it on it’s own merits, which in this movie’s case, is pretty easy because it’s charming for what it is. I don’t really know if a place like Austenland could ever exist and get away with half of the stuff they allow to happen (legally speaking), but it’s a nice touch on the rom-com genre and it gives this movie plenty of chances to relish in the material of some of Austen’s most famous material. Even if I didn’t care much for the material, it still made me feel as if I was watching an film-adaptation, except one that was a bit more knowing and self-parodying than most other Austen adaptations we see out there.
Though words like “knowing” and “self-parody” may make you think this movie is a satire of an Austen novel/movie; it really is not. Instead, it’s more of just a rom-com, mixed with that Regency era, and a little bit of the 21st Century to where we can see how all of the worlds come together in a slightly charming, if passable piece of entertainment. Say what you will: Maybe I’m giving it too much credit or not looking close enough at all of the conventions, clichés and obvious-routes the movie takes with its story, but so be it! I was a tad bit charmed, I found myself grinning more than a few times, and if a group of older people (say, 40-60 age-range) came up to me and asked “What’s a reasonably appropriate/acceptable for me and my fellow, older people to see?” I’d probably respond with naming this movie, as safe and as hokey of a choice it is. However, those are only problems that bother me. I’m a d-bag, a movie critic, and a guy who thinks too much. The normal, average, everyday film-goer isn’t, and god bless ’em for that!
Although mostly everybody here feels wasted, I never really hated anybody; in fact, I’d say that the cast is mostly what saves this movie from being total, utter dribble. Keri Russell, is lovely and charming in everything she does, and that does not fly away here with her performance as Jane, the Austen-obsessive. Russell never really goes any deeper than the material asks of her to be, but she’s still a likable gal to watch, and actually care about once the idea of who she’s going to end up with, and who’s playing her, starts to show up and makes itself clear enough to pay attention to. Her character wasn’t all that believable as an Austen-nut (mainly because she’s way, way too bummed as soon as the first night is up), but Russell’s a welcome-presence and she allows this to be an easier pill to swallow then say if someone like Katherine Heigl was in this lead role.
Playing the two dudes that are fending for her heart are both Bret McKenzie and JJ Feild (yes, correct-spelling), and they seem to enjoy this material and understand what it is that they’re working with here; mainly Feild who feels like the perfect sex-symbol for any stay-at-home housewife. And god love her, Jennifer Coolidge had me laughing my shorts off with just about everything she said or did as the fellow visitor of Austenland. Granted, her character has one joke throughout the whole movie and barely ever lets go of it, but being the trained and impressive comedienne that she is, Coolidge milks it for all that she’s got, and actually had me laughing more than a couple of times. Better than anybody else did, that’s for sure, so it’s obvious that she deserves the most credit, among everybody else.
Consensus: Despite a cast that obviously seems to be trying with all of the talents they have, Austenland still seems like a bit of a dry-attempt at capturing what it was like to live in the Regency era, but with modern-day jokes, humor and slapstick gags that don’t always work, but also bring some much needed pleasure to the whole proceedings.
5 / 10 = Rental!!