It took me a long time to write my thoughts about this movie, because I went through quite a roller coaster of emotions about it that I had to process it a bit.
First of all, I was surprised to find out that this movie even existed. I only found out about it through a random Facebook post where I saw the cute face of Keri Russell (Felicity herself!) with an I Heart Darcy tote (which I totally want, by the way). The combination of Felicity and Austen was too much so I simply had to watch it. Coming into the movie with high expectations did not do me any good. First things first – Austenland is the story of thirty-something Jane (Felicity, of course), who is obsessed with all things Austen, especially Mr. Darcy (as we all are). She’s disillusioned by the men she meets (as one is) so finally she decides to indulge her fantasy and sign up for an “Austenland” holiday – one that promises the complete Regency experience, with period clothing, food, and conversation. It’s method, yo. It also stars Jennifer Coolidge , who seems to have made a career out of playing the ditzy funny blonde (and yet, her shtick is not yet annoying like, say, Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCarthy); JJ Feild (who looks like Tom Hiddleston’s less blindingly handsome brother); Brett Mackenzie (Hey, Flight of the Concordes! Or FIGWIT, depending on your preference); and Jane Seymour.
It seemed like such a good premise on paper, so the first time I watched it (that’s right, I said first time), it was a bit of a letdown. Some scenes were dragging and didn’t seem to have any point. The love story angle seemed so predictable too.
You see, in Austenland, part of your package is your very own love story – your personalized Darcy experience, if you will. Except your Mr. Darcy doesn’t always come in a Darcy package, you know what I mean? Jane (oh, I’ll stop trying and just call her Felicity)… Felicity isn’t really rich, so she can only afford the “copper” package. So Jane Seymour, who runs the place, introduces her to her fellow guests and the resident actors as Jane Erstwhile, an orphan with no family or fortune. Everyone around her treats her accordingly, including the haughty Mr. Nobley (Feild – Hiddles). However, she befriends Jennifer Coolidge, her fellow American. When things get a bit much for her, she also escapes outside her “story” and gets to know the non-actor stable boy Martin (Mackenzie).
Honestly, I thought while watching it that it truly deserved its 6.2 IMDB rating. So why am I writing about it? Because there’s a killer twist at the end! At least it was for me. That romantic ending that I thought I saw coming from a mile away (and let’s face it, we just want to see who she ends up with in the end) turned out to be a complete fake-out. I thought the movie made it pretty obvious who Felicity’s true love was supposed to be, so naturally I thought it had to be the dark horse. I was double-bluffed.
After that twist that woke me up from my stupor, I had to watch it again. This time I invited the coven, and in warning them not to expect too much, I also lowered my own expectations. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it the second time around. The coven enjoyed it from the first. What struck me is how they knew all along who the real “Darcy” and “Wickham” were. But that didn’t lessen the fun of the movie for them. And that’s the secret to enjoying “Austenland”. You just have to remember that it’s a lighthearted, silly movie, that doesn’t even attempt to take itself seriously. I mean, is there any other Austen-inspired movie that would use Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” or “Bette Davis Eyes” for a montage? No over-thinking allowed for “Austenland” – because if you stop to think about it, actors who are “scripted” to be your love interest – creepy much? But if you love Jane Austen and find yourself on a gloomy rainy day with nothing planned, just get yourself a cup of tea, curl up in your jammies and enjoy this perfect diversion.
Personally, this was a journey in more ways than one, because every so often, I watch something Austen-related that quickly triggers my yearly Austen phase. After watching “Austenland”, I suddenly had the urge to watch the BBC adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice”, and now I’m reading the book. So I think this journey doesn’t end here, and you can expect more Janeite posts in the following weeks. Forsooth!