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Austenland (2013)


Austenland
(Let me give you all a fair warning; there is going to be LOTS of fangirling below.)
Comedy is never just black and white. There is a certain talent to getting it “right.” Some movies go for the classy sort and in turn, earn viewer’s gratitude. Others shoot for the wild and crazy, the sort that is lumped into the slaphappy. This Austen-inspired comedy of errors opts for the latter and the question on everyone’s mind is, does it work? 

Being a 30-something who lives a mundane existence and cannot keep herself from loving Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy is not something that endears Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) to the game of dating. Her friend is concerned Jane just wants the fantasy. But really, her love of all things Darcy isn’t that bad… okay, so it is a bit obsessive which prompts Jane to strike a bargain with Molly. First she books a trip to Austenland an all-inclusive Jane Austen experience run by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), and if, upon her return she realizes regency life is just that, a fantasy, she’ll give up her dreams of finding her own Darcy. With ticket in hand, Jane books a flight to London and lands smack dab in the middle of every girl’s dream.

Once there, Jane befriends Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and strikes up a friendship with the groundskeeper, Martin (Bret McKenzie). When she’s thrown together with the moody and arrogant, Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), Jane sees the faux in her childhood dreams. Ever since she set foot on Austenland’s grounds, everything about being the heroine in her own Austen story has been an act… or has it?  

Austenland Kiss

Right up front, let me say that I had conflicting thoughts on this book-to-screen adaptation. Only my love of all things Austen-at-the-cinema kept me glued to theater openings related to Austenland. Unfortunately, it didn’t open at the most convenient of theaters, however we made a day out of it – and oh my, what a fun adventure it was. Put thoughts of a proper, regency saga out of your mind; unlike the dialogue Jane Austen would have penned, this comedy is awkward and amusing over how funny it tries to be. Jane wove some subtle albeit wickedly good humor into her stories – satire with class, whereas this contemporary script makes many concessions to adapt to its 21st century characters. You’ve been warned. With that being said, I can in no way fault Austenland since it inserts a modern girl into a world she only thought was her “perfect” ideal.

While this was setting itself up, one of the first things that stood out was the warp speed at which the script unfolded. We were barely given time to process Jane’s addiction before she was jetting off to England. Little explanation is given as to the “why” behind neither Jane’s shy, comfortable life nor the way she immerses herself in all things 1800s. Secondly, I cannot say how impressed I was with the cast. Initially, it may line up as a mish-mash of talent – veteran actors, unknowns and British talent, it’s in the actual watching of the film that we quickly learn how well they work together. The entire cast doesn’t just create some fun chemistry none of them seem uncomfortable with the fun dialogue or acting silly to make the audience laugh with glee – something the people in the showing I saw did plenty of! This wouldn’t be a complete assessment of thoughts if I was negligent in mentioning the ending; I lovelovelove the ending (preceding the closing titles) of this film. Not because it was unique or any different than the ordinary script, but because it was sweet and the actors played it so charming, it created its own brand of special.

Austenland

Bottom lining it, Austenland is a delightful film that I look forward to re-visiting on DVD. Between some catchy, terrific music, throwbacks to well-known Austen scenes or dialogue  (like a humorous caught-in-the-rain scene) and its refreshing cast, the movie is hard not to like. It's a refreshing turn after so many end-of-the-world box office picks – its part study in a contemporary woman, part whimsical and outrageous comedy. As I’ve yet to read the novel of the same name (it has suddenly moved up on my TBR pile), I cannot say how well the screen transfer was, however I quite adored everything about the film. There is more good to it than merely feeding Austen obsessions; the story is also careful to help us realize that even the best-laid fantasy is not necessarily better than reality – and it's admirable to see Jane standing up for herself, distinguishing between fiction and fact is necessary to keep ones sanity and she does it well. When we see the change in Jane at the end – a more confident person, it makes even the silly moments worth it.  

From the crazy shenanigans to the absurd playacting and accents (courtesy of Georgia King and Jennifer Coolidge, respectively), Austenland was a joyous journey, from beginning to end!

Now, it is your turn! Any fangirl moments you want to share or chat up?

The comments are open and at your disposal.

CONTENT: There are several sexual innuendoes in the script, everything from visual [albeit clothed] references to anatomy to winking hints about “touching” inappropriately [some of which is during conversation about the 1800s manners vs. contemporary]; a brief inference is made about a man being a homosexual. Men take their shirts off, to which the ladies giggle over, and much ado is made about the male actors “romancing” the female clients – women wear low-cut gowns. A man attempts to take liberties with a woman [she pushes him away]. There may be one or two minor profanities. Austenland rates PG13.
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30 comments:

  1. I can't wait to see this. It looks like so much fun, and I like seeing all of those familiar faces. :) Unfortunately the closest theater so far is still several hours away, so I think I'll have to wait for the DVD! I've read the book twice, and I liked it, but I didn't love it. So it won't exactly bother me if the adaptation isn't that close. Plus, I know the author Shannon Hale was really involved with it (I think she wrote or co-wrote the screenplay, too), so if she approves of any changes so will I. :)

    Anyway, I know I like the plot and I think I'll enjoy the silly, spoofy humor. :)

    ~Kristin

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    1. Ooo, I hope you liked the movie, Kristin! The book has certainly moved up on my TBR list - hopefully within the next month I'll get it read. Or that's the plan.

      This didn't open at a very close theater for me either, but every once in a while, the fam takes a trip into the "big city" because we like to go to Trader Joe's (which we don't have locally), so we made a day of it and fit in Austenland. It was fun. (Even though we got lost trying to find the theater ;D Oh for the memories!)

      Cannot wait for your thoughts, girl. Make sure and share. :)

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  2. OMG I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED it. I haven't read it yet (I listened to book two) so I'm listening to it now. It was silly, over the top, and fast but I loved it. Jennifer Coolidge was brilliant!

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    1. Ditto - all of this goes x 2, Juju. Jennifer was fun (didn't expect anything less). The movie was a delight. And I now know I *need* to read the novel. :)

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  3. J.J. Field as Henry Tilney in the 2007 BBC Northanger Abbey was brilliant--I was so excited to see he was in this film. I want to watch it, but I don't know if I ever will.

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    1. JJ was great in 'Northanger' and having seen this, I've scolded myself for not watching it recently. Will have to remedy that. :)

      Have you seen him in the Sally Lockhart mysteries, Hannah? He was good in those also although the ending in the sequel may make you cry.

      Hope you enjoy if you ever do watch Austenland. :)

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    2. I haven't seen him in the Sally Lockhart mysteries. . .in fact, the only role I've ever seen him play is Henry Tilney :P But he fit that part perfectly, so it satisfies me for now :)

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    3. True that - he played Tilney well. ;)

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  4. This looks like something I really would enjoy, but the rating and the 'Parental Concerns' looks like I will not be seeing it. =)

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    1. It was WAY fun, Evelyn. So cute and happy.

      Does your family ever use ClearPlay? The DVD system that edits movies? If they do, I am quite certain once the DVD releases, they'll have a filter for this movie should you be interested.

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    2. Very true. I forgot about Clear Play. :P We do use it, and the older I get the more we do. =) Now we just have to wait for the dvd release. =D

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    3. Yay! My family doesn't use it real often (mainly for filtering graphic profanity) but when we do, we love having it. The DVD shouldn't be too long as it was limited release; I suspect before the year is out, it'll be available. :)

      Let me know what you thought!

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  5. Totally forgot about this. Looks like it's playing in my area, but I don't know if I'll go or not. Bit of a drive. Might wait and rent the DVD. :)

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    1. It was a drive for us also. But worth it. ;)

      I suspect the DVD will be out before the year's end - a DVD that will definitely find a spot on my shelf.

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  6. I loved the ending too! Seriously, this film was just so much fun and the cast was perfect. I will definitely be buying this on DVD. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Hello, hello, Silver Petticoat ladies. :)

      That ending... oh, my! It was just so sweet. Everything about it - from the camera work to the dialogue. In love. It wasn't unique but the actors have a lot of charm and that made it special. :)

      The cast was indeed perfect - and to be honest, I didn't quite expect to like this group so well.

      Me, too - soon as that DVD is out, I am SO getting a copy.

      Thanks for stopping by with a comment - appreciate it!

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  7. I'm glad to see you liked it -- I think I saw a few Austen bloggers give it lower ratings, due in part to questionable content. However, it doesn't look like there's nearly as much of that as there could be, so...I expect I'll see this one on DVD. :) Glad you reviewed it!

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    1. For a chick flick, the content is actually "mild" but I do understand why some reviewer's would urge caution - this isn't appropriate for young viewer's (and really, it's not probably something they'd love), but for older Austen aficionados, it's adorable. Jennifer Coolidge has some of the "questionable" lines much like she did in Legally Blonde, however nothing "ruined" the movie.

      I really hope you enjoy it, Charity - I would advise anyone who is about to see it - and excepts it to be "just like Austen" to throw that out the door. Just enjoy and don't take it too seriously. Or that'd be my "two cents." :)

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    2. Ah yes...not taking it too seriously. Good to remember! I'll plan on seeing this one someday. :) Thanks for the review/recommendation!

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    3. CANNOT wait until you do - I will enjoy getting your perspective, girl. As always, love our crazy chats. :)

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  8. Lucky!! There's no theaters near me that are playing it!! Sooooo sad!

    I mean....JJ Fields?? Must.See.This.Movie.

    ;)

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    1. That IS indeed sad, Kellie. Wishing for a speedy DVD release; yours is an opinion I'd love to read. :)

      Please, do share once you see it, girl!

      PS: JJ = awesome as Henry Nobley. Just sayin'.

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    2. So, finally got to see this movie...and frankly, I was disappointed! I LOVE the look of it and the story idea...but felt it lacking.

      I think one of the biggest things that I didn't enjoy about it was the sexual innuendo, which is somewhat surprising, since judging by the shows I watch, I'm no purist when it comes to content. After thinking about it, though, I've realized that the brand of innuendo portrayed in Austenland was more of the "crude" variety. I've never had any tolerance for crudity, whether the stupid jr high variety or the sexual kind, Just my own little movie-watching quirk, haha. So, since Austenland's sexual content was more along those lines, I just wasn't thrilled.

      And I like totally engaging with characters in movies, being able to emotionally empathize with the hero and heroine. But as you pointed out in your review, it moved so fast that you really weren't given any chance to lock onto the character and personalities of Jane or even Nobly. And frankly...my respect for Jane herself was non-existent, since she seemed so ready and willing to just THROW herself at first Martin, then Nobly, then Martin again, back to Nobly, etc. I like a girl with a wee bit more class or a least more self-respect.

      But I LOVED the costuming and the casting was remarkable! JJ was swooney, as always. And my sister and friend and I came away with some great quote-ables!

      So, whereas overall I was left slightly disappointed, I did still enjoy the movie quite a lot and want to give the book a try. :)

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    3. Aw, bummer! I'm so sorry this wasn't a great movie for you, Kellie. Hope all the gushing didn't set you up for major disappoint. :)

      I get what you're saying in regards to the innuendo - I've been there before and once I finally watch this again, I may have a similar thought though at the time, I was just thrilled with this movie! It was creative and that comedy seemed to be more "lovingly" poking fun at Austen than cruel, plus the cast seemed to have SUCH fun with their roles that I couldn't help but get caught up in the pretty fun - and in that way, it completely engaged me despite the swiftness of the movie.

      As to your second point, I get it too. I think it worked just because the film was more comedic than anything and I suspect that the ending was really just the beginning of Nobly and Jane's romance - she needed to "see" for herself what a jerk Martin was and *fingers crossed* she finally did.

      Whoop! Score for the charming of JJ. He was a dream, right!? I adored his character and all the fun scenes between them.

      Yay for some likes then! That's always a plus even if the majority disappoints - I want to read the book too. Just now, I don't see it happening though here's hoping for the summer months. ;)

      Glad you shared, Kellie - I completely understand where you are coming from.

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  9. I've been waiting FOREVER for this film since I first read the book, heard about the movie adaptation, and saw the trailer! Sadly, I will probably have to wait awhile before seeing it; I doubt they'll be showing it here.

    From your review, I think the film sure looks like a load full of cuteness and fun. I've never been a complete Austen purist, so the modernization and spoofs won't be a problem. Which is why I like shows such as the Lizzie Bennet Diaries...and hopefully, Emma Approved, when it comes out. But I digress. Anyway, it was nice reading your thoughts on this. I'm doing all I can to refrain myself from asking you how the ending went! :D

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    1. Know that feeling, Jemimah; I've had to forgo seeing something many times because it didn't open close enough! I had resigned myself to not seeing this one either but it worked out and was a fun experience. Hope the DVD comes quickly so that you can check into it. :)

      I think fans of 'Lizzie Bennet' will enjoy this - the humor is sometimes absurd but it doesn't really matter because the cast makes it so engaging. That is where it really shines. Ooo, yes! I've been reading about 'Emma,' hope it's good, too... isn't there a web series about Sandition also?

      LOL, well, if you want to know about the ending, I'm happy to share. It's not unique, but golly, the acting made it sweet and special and charming - and... just, JJ Field! ;)

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  10. I just got the opportunity to watch this! Ah, it was so good! J.J. Feild is the best. He's definitely in my top four favorite actors. (Which are all British. Haha.)

    I have to praise the screenwriters. spoiler alert Because of the "acting of Austenland" and my own personal intuition, I was left pretty confused about whether Jane was going to end up with Henry or Martin. I didn't really like Martin that much toward the end, and I was totally rooting for Henry, but he was such a Mr. Darcy character that it completely made sense for him to be acting out his proposal to Jane at the ball! Then when they both went to the airport and I knew that Martin had been set up for Jane by Mrs. Waddlesbrook, I was afraid they were both acting and that the ending would merely be Jane renouncing her obsession with Fitzwilliam Darcy (which wouldn't have been bad--just unsatisfactory). So, yeah, great job on the part of the writers. end of spoiler

    Admittedly, there's some innuendo that could have been cut. However--not that it really deserves justification--much of it was to develop Mr. Nobley's character (or however you spell his name), so in filtering out those scenes we would have lost our sense of his good Austenland acting. :)

    walking in the air.

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    1. Hannah, I'm super glad you saw and enjoyed this - all of these new comments (which I love) are making me all the more aware that I *need* to have a rewatch. Maybe tomorrow night I will. ;)

      Spoiler Conversations; I think like Nobley was meant to depict Darcy, Martin was the equivalent of a Wickham-like character so he wasn't meant to be likable in my perspective. Glad you felt like the writer's handled the whole ending well - they sure did, it was lovely. I thought the ending was spot-on perfect and while the airport scene did get somewhat silly, it was also really fun. END

      Yes, some of the innuendo wasn't always necessary though the movie made up for its lack of propriety in spades with tis charm and characters - like you, I really liked JJ Field in the role and wish he'd have more films! :)

      Glad you shared your thoughts; appreciate you taking the time to do so. :)

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  11. I MUST FIND THIS BOOK.
    I just bought the movie yesterday...watched it last night...and can't stop thinking about it today. So I came to your blog and wanted to see if you had done a review on it or not. I was not disappointed. I am seriously fangirling so hard over this movie right now. JJ Feild is a dear dear favorite of mine. He plays Mr. Tilney (my favorite Jane Austen hero)...AND he shares my birthday (which is rare)... And he's so lovely and gentlemanly and amazing. <3 Okay, I'm done now.

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    1. Yay! Hope you can find the book, Raquel. It's really very short, so it'd be an easy read. (I own a copy, but haven't read it.)

      This is definitely a movie that stays with you! Not because it's the most emotional film out there, just because... it's SO witty. In fact, some Twitter friends and I have been talking about watching it again. I've not seen my DVD copy because I loaned it out and when it came back, I was distracted by other films/TV shows. But I do want to watch it again.

      As for JJ... well, what can be said about him!? He's one of the best heroes I've run across. I adored Henry and yes, do love him in Northanger Abbey, too. Which now you mention it is another film I should watch again.

      Fan-girling is required for this one. Feel free to fan-girl over it anytime - it's worth it. ;)

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