October 1, 2014

Austenland (2013)

Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, the guy from Flight of the Conchords, and the gay friend from Bridget Jones' Diary


In order to explain why this movie was made, I first need to try and explain the female population's obsession with Jane Austen. Like millions of other women, my favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, and has been since the first time I read it. I've watched the Keira Knightly movie so many times my husband can quote along with it.

To put it simply: Jane Austen understands women. She writes with a woman's voice, from a woman's perspective, and shows the men from a woman's point of view. She makes each heroine an individual who women can both relate to and aspire to be at the same time. And the leading men are representations of either the cads women actually meet, or the ideal man women dream of meeting. And Mr. Darcy is the perfect man because he is intelligent, handsome, honest, can admit when he is wrong, and just a bit mysterious.

And so, slews of movies based on/around Jane Austen's books - and Austen herself - have been made. And I watch them all. Clueless? Check. Jane Austen Book Club? Check. Becoming Jane? Check. Bridget Jones' Diary? I even sat through the sequel. And I'll probably watch the third, if it ever gets made. I can't help it. I love Jane Austen. And Mr. Darcy. Even if the movies inspired by her work are tragically bad, I still watch them. If Austenland were a real place, it would be my dream to go. Think of it as the female version of a man's dream to have an "immersive experience" in the Playboy mansion.

The movie itself, however, is not quite as brilliant as the concept. It's still a romantic comedy, after all, which means there are predictability issues and more than one scene of squeamish cheesiness. But there are some positives, like:

1. It embraces Jane Austen's feminist theme. Sure, the heroines of her books mostly just talk about whom to marry, but in their time of limited options, they are so bold as to wish for love (instead of  only security) and exhibit personalities contrary to what is always acceptable and "amiable." They take charge of their own lives, which is also what Keri Russell's character does in the movie.

2. There are some decent looking people in this movie. Granted, they really only look attractive in their 19th century wardrobe, but I'm now a believer that Brett McKenzie should just continuously bale hay in a loose shirt and some trousers. These guys are what make this story believable, because honestly, who would spend their life savings to be wooed by unattractive men? It's a fantasy, people!

3. Um, well, that's it. I'm pretty sure the director intended for Jennifer Coolidge (aka Stifler's mom) to be the comic relief, but considering she plays the exact same person in every single movie, it's sort of like ehhhhhh...

At the end of the day, I can recognize it's not a very good movie. But did that stop me from enjoying it? Not any more than when I watched Letters to Juliet.

Final word: Totally fun to watch. Just do it alone, and don't tell anyone about it.

P.S. I could never actually go to Austenland because I wouldn't be able to resist trying to use a British accent the whole time, which would be unbelievably obnoxious.

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