Austenland is a movie whose premise holds great promise, but is ultimately disappointing.
Released in 2013, this movie is based on a novel of the same name by Shannon Hale. The film was written by Hale and director by Jerusha Hess. Sadly, both of these creators made some very serious errors in planning this movie.
I haven’t read the book, so it is impossible for me to gauge whether they screwed it up or if it is faithful and the novel simply failed on its own.
The heroine of the movie, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a disheartened Jane Austen fan. Obsessed with the writer, she looks at her own life and sees failed relationships, a dead-end job and no future, so she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to England to resort called Austenland where fans can dress like their favorite characters and act out with British actors hired to emulate such heroes as Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Even her life savings however does not qualify her for anything more than the “copper package” that gives her a tiny room and a disfavored status among the other tourists.
On the way there, she meets a rich and rather stupid American woman who introduces herself as Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and they travel together. The resort is run by a lady named Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour) who has a great disdain for those who bought the cheap plan, the only one of which on this trip is Jane.
Making friends with the groundskeeper/chauffer Martin (Bret McKenzie), she find it tough sledding with the men who play the aristocrats, notably Mr. Heny Nobly (JJ Field) and Colonel Andrews (James Callis). One can guess what happens. Most of the men fall for Jane while she is making out with Martin. There are all sorts of hijinks that are supposed to be funny and in the end, she discovers that Martin himself was only an actor, paid to have a romance with her. Both Martin and Mr. Nobly meet her at the airport on her way home and she rejects them both.
Any serious Jane Austen fan will find that this movie missed the mark in many, many ways. I really like Keri Russell and I’ve got to say she was more or less wasted in this effort. The script needed to be much more heavy on Jane Austen and less concentrated on trying to be funny. It could have incorporated a great deal from each of the books and been really funny and witty, but instead, it concentrates on the people playing the parts and one opportunity after another is passed by. I detest movies that beg for laughs and fits that category.
If you have an hour and a half to fill, this will keep you entertained, but it falls far short of its potential.