In 2007, Shannon Hale, a successful author of young adult fiction published Austenland: A Novel. I heard the buzz about it, just like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and although I follow multiple Austen bloggers and fan sites (and would guess there are hundreds of "Fan Fiction" or Austen-inspired novels out there) I have read very little beyond the actual works of Austen.
Earlier this year, I was happy to find this book at my library in audiobook and after a season of classics like The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited, I was more than ready for something different (and fun).
Good call. Because I laughed my butt off for a week's worth of commuting. Oh my gosh, it was a hoot and I was "keen on" the news it had been made into a movie coming out in August. And here we are...
The AUSTENLAND movie trailer worried me. Would it be too different, or too slapstick? Lead character JANE's inability to have a decent relationship (which is blamed on her obsession with finding someone who can match her fantasy man, Mr. Darcy) drives her to Austenland. But if you want a movie that makes you think about relationships and find ways to improve yours, then skip Austenland. It's all about fun!
THE PREMISE: Jane is a single in her 30s with a successful career and a Darcy obsession. In the novel, she tries to hide it but a wealthy aunt bequeaths Jane a trip to Pembroke Park -an Austen immersion experience. In the movie, openly obsessed Jane is a bit crazier and books herself the vacation with the last of her savings. "Austenland" allows female guests to live a Regency life with every detail in place, including dashing heroes offering romance (chaste, of course!) right up until the last night's ball.
Rather than list all the ways the movie and novel differ, I'll just say I enjoyed the movie and it delivered just what I was expecting. Theater-goers with much less knowledge of Austen's works can still enjoy it because it is simply a romantic comedy. Yes, a little slapstick and silly, without being blatantly off-color.
The lead characters were well cast: Keri Russell as Jane Hayes/ Miss Erstwhile, J.J. Fields as Mr. Nobly, Bret MacKenzie as Martin, Jennifer Coolidge as Miss Charming, James Callis as Colonel Andrews and Ricky Whittle as Captain East.
The only thing that could have made this movie better was seeing it with friends.
While at the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, this limited-release movie was showing and I got to see it with three of the Inkies. Susie Dietze and I had talked about this movie for months; we never expected it would be showing in the middle of the country at a time we could view it together.
And for more fun... I watched it again back home with my peeps.
I expect to someday purchase this movie to add to my collection of Sunday afternoon favorites.
Does Jane find love? Well, the movie ended with some very sigh-worthy moments.
But don't stop there - the action during the credits was the icing on the cake, so don't walk out of the theater too soon.