© Sony Pictures Releasing GmbH

U.K./U.S.A. 2013

Opening 17 Oct 2013

Directed by: Jerusha Hess
Writing credits: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale
Principal actors: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King

Zounds, but this is a gloriously silly movie which methinks thee may enjoy.

Modern Miss Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) uses up all her savings to visit a Jane Austen theme park somewhere in England. At the airport in London she meets delightfully vulgar Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Collidge) and together they are driven in a vintage car to a cottage which looks very like Jane Austen’s own home in Chawton, Hampshire. At the cottage they are welcomed by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), who owns the theme park and who explains the rules of their visit to her guests before they are taken to the main house.

In Austenland everyone pretends to live in Regency times, and they are immersed in the life and customs of Jane Austen’s day. Money and class distinction play their parts, so wealthy Miss Charming is a “platinum” guest with the appropriate trappings of very elaborate costumes to wear and a splendid bedroom to sleep in. Jane, who unwittingly paid less, is a “copper” guest and must make do with a servant’s bedroom and plain-Jane dresses.

Both women meet glamourpuss Lady Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King) at dinner on their first night. They are also introduced to Mr. Wattlesbrook (Robert Vansittart), Mr. Henry Nobley (J.J. Field) and Colonel Andrews (James Callis). Later in the week exotic Captain George East (Ricky Whittle) arrives, fresh from his adventures in the West Indies.

Jane and Henry’s first meeting is full of misunderstandings and they part on bad terms, just as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy do in Pride and Prejudice. Jane finds solace in talking to Martin (Bret McKenzie), who soon wins her confidence. All is not as it seems because the men are actors at the theme park and are paid to play their parts for the guests. Despite this, Jane soon finds herself falling for…guess who?

Jane Austen fans will enjoy the references to her characters and plot in the film. The writer and director both know Miss Austen’s work, and together they have carefully brought to life the essence of her novels and the time in which she lived. The plot, humour and music, however, are decidedly twenty-first century, and the contrast between the times enhances the movie and stops it from being a costume drama. It also means that that it can be enjoyed and appreciated by an audience of today.

So, dear Ladies, prithee request forthwith that your Beaux harness the horses, drive around the carriages and gallop to the nearest movie palace so that you may delight in this amusing romp. Remember to loosen your stays before settling in your seats in order to facilitate all the laughing which will occur as you partake of this delightful nonsense. (Jenny Mather)

Second Opinion

A Sundance film that is really funny! Austenland is a film for the girls. A breath of fresh air from the typical heavy thematic genre associated with the Independent film scene. Delightfully comedic! Hilariously daring!

Based on the novel by Shannon Hale (who also co-wrote the script), the film was written and directed by Jerusha Hess (writer, Napoleon Dynamite) and produced by Stephenie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films. Bonnets off to the filmmakers for going after this story from Hale. Their “girlishly” film celebrates fun with literature when the imagination is put to the test. What more could an all-star cast want or need to add to their filmography recognition? The film features actors Keri Russell, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, Jane Seymour, JJ Field and Jennifer Coolidge.

The adorably sweet, thirty-something, young professional Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) consumes her extra-curricular activities with an obsession of all things Jane Austen. Her life-size poster of Mr. Darcy greets her each day in her apartment that she has decorated in the era only the characters in Jane Austen’s novels would have lived. Mr. Darcy’s silent presence is her hope that even in the modern world she will find the man of her dreams who also holds to everything good about the English and their old world customs--especially the romantics of true love.

Hayes decides to take a trip to England for the vacation of her dreams. Hayes’ friends work hard to keep her in a reality-check but this time they are worried. To pacify their concerns of her eccentricity, Hayes convinces them that a trip to the English countryside will cure her obsession. Her friends are thrilled until they find out she is spending her life savings on the trip to this English country-side resort that caters to women who fantasize about being one of Jane Austen’s female heroines. Warned that her idea is a disaster waiting to happen, but unheeded by Hayes in her naivety, off she goes to be immersed into a life of old-world charm for a solid week that includes appropriate costuming and accommodations.

Hayes is picked up at the train station in full turn-of-the century fashion -- a horse drawn carriage. Her first stop is to meet with the proprietor of the British Estate, Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour) before Hayes’ extended stay begins with Mr. Henry Nobley (JJ Field), Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge), Martin (Bret McKenzie), Lady Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King), and Colonel Andrews (James Callis).

Saddened by the news that her life savings does not buy her status of what she had dreamed in the world of Jane Austen, Hayes relinquishes her dreams and expectations to take her place among a more lowly social standing. But, not without a fight and Austenland comes alive! Let the comedy of errors begin!

Words from the director Jersuha Hess, "Austenland was as girlishly indulgent to make as I hope it is for you to watch. Enjoy." Plan for a girls-night-out! You will not be disappointed. (Karen Pecota)

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