This review contains mild spoilers
So how if there’s really a place which allows you to behave and dress like Austen girls; Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price, and be engaged (even pretentiously) with every girl’s fantasy guy, Mr. Darcy?
Well … if you’re an avid reader of Jane Austen‘s works, especially Pride and Prejudice, and fans of Colin Firth‘s Mr. Darcy, the answer to such place must be definitely yes. The same thing happens to our American modern heroine here, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), who’s been immensely obsessed with Englishmen, particularly Mr. Darcy, since she could remember.
Her obsession is so contagious that her little apartment is completely decorated with Austen’s elements; teacup set, floral fabric and even a standing card board of Mr. Darcy right next to her apartment door. Lucky Jane that Austenland exists in her world thus spending all her savings just to reach the Austen-theme resort is possible to do. And although her impulsive act turns her financially broken, her strong will is unyielding.
Not much to our surprise that many girls like Jane are eager for Austenland too. But this time, she is joined by a warm but eccentric Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and a prettily awkward Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King). Which roles do they fit and will they be engaged to Mr. Darcy as promised in the program?
Arriving at Austenland
As soon as Jane arrives there, she’s so amazed with the nearly perfect resemblance of the world Austen wrote in her stories. The mansion is standing beautifully classic, welcoming Jane with vast lawn and grand staircase. The carriage and lineup of actors (yes, actors) are ready to create Jane a fictional world she’s been dreaming of, although with some little problems later.
First comes the problem Jane isn’t aware of. Apparently, all her savings go to the very basic package of Austenland, resulting her in being restricted to some privileges. Instead of staying in a well-furnished VIP room and provided with high fashion periodical costumes, Jane is spared in an isolated servant chamber and provided only moderate dresses. Shortly, the Cooper Package she pays is designed for a commoner role.
However, despite the plain dresses and plain make-ups she puts on, Jane shines the brightest among other guests, and unexpectedly attracts the charming cool Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild) from the very beginning. With her witty charm and smart tongue just like Austen girls, Jane stands out and turns her initial gloomy start into an enjoyable Austen’s experience.
Furthermore, being mistaken Mr. Nobley for an actor paid for playing the role of Mr. Darcy (well, we’re also mistaken him for Tom Hiddleston), Jane gets twisted over a romantic triangle, as she actually falls for Martin (Bret McKenzie) whom she thinks truly plays himself, a poor servant working for Austenland. And here where the hilarious misconstrued romance starts brewing.
Who’s Henry Nobley?
Although not spoken yet, Jane knows that Mr. Nobley whose real name is Henry Nobley, is Austenland’s Mr. Darcy. And lucky that although Nobley is actually not, he’s already Mr. Darcy by nature. He’s no actor but a history lecturer and also a nephew of Austenland’s owner, Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour).
Nobley simply assists her aunt and plays himself while he actually has his own interest. Once he got betrayed by his ex, Nobley expects to be part of a classic story which love isn’t so complicated. But can Jane understand his intention forsaken everything in Austenland is only a setup?
Austenland, in our opinion, is a light and witty version of Austen’s. Just if Austen had written a story with a American female lead, Jane would have fitted the requirements. And as Austen’s works are all about modern women, coherently, modern is now. Thus, a character like Jane living out her Austen dream proves that Austen is truly a visionary in literature world.
Such classic romance blended with comedic elements fits the genre, makes Austenland one of the romcom movies we easily fall for. Credit is also given for Russel (August Rush, The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Feild (Northanger Abbey, Third Star, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) for the sparking chemistry and intellectual humor they deliver throughout the movie. An Englishman with an American girl, perhaps Austen had this idea once in mind.
Director: Jerusha Hess
Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie
Duration: 97 mins