IN the ‘hook-up’ age of Tinder and ever-expedient dating methods, it is not hard to understand why some people still yearn for the chivalrous romance found in Jane Austen’s timeless work.
Jane Hayes (played by Keri Russell), the central character in Jerusha Hess’ overwhelming 2013 film Austenland, is one of those. A 30-something singleton and Austen aficionado, Jane still clings onto the hope that a restrained Darcy type – preferably the one portrayed by Colin Firth in 1995 – will come into her life.
Under the pressure of a ticking biological clock, Jane spends her life savings to travel to the UK and take place in an immersive Jane Austen experience – Austenland. An experience she hopes will be a ‘LC’ (life changer) or else she will voluntarily pack in her Austen-crazed act.
Just as Jane finds her trip to be, Hess’ film is largely disappointing. The misses are far more regular than the hits as Jane falls into her own predictable Pride and Prejudice love triangle. Jennifer Coolidge’s character, Miss Elizabeth Charming, is typical of this tiresome approach. She never gets past her obnoxiously bad British accent and adds little else to this often deflating affair.
There are brief moments where the mix of 19th century values and modern day impatience clash in fun ways – such as Jane’s act of hip-hop defiance on the piano and a look behind the scenes at Austenland’s actors on a tea break. But this is a film even the most dedicated Austen fan will find relatively joyless.
Better to stick with more faithful adaptations such as Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship or more bold distortions of Austen’s material like Burr Steers’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
If drawling for something to watch, memo to self: steer clear of Austenland, a fruitless experience.This was review 7/30 in the Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.