Austenland full movie review - Austen-themed Fancy Dress party, and a bathtub of ridiculous fun.
It is a truth universally acknowledged (yes, I must, and I shall) that when one calls a duck a pig, one tends to be left disappointed. Such is the case with the phenomenon Austenland.
There are some truths that should be made clear before the finer dissections of all that is or should be or is not really wrong with this film. It is, above all, very much the chick lit based movie you are expecting, and as such, is primarily a chick kingdom. We can, of course, make the case that all Austen is more often than not the imaginary dominion of women, but I am not here to do this. There are rumours of men liking Austen, which delights me.
This is not, however, the case with Austenland. It is for women, simple as this. It spells HOT male lead, fumbling female we can all relate to, a platter of guys everywhere, healthy dose of gossip, proposals, sugar-sweet happy ending, the works. If a movie goes wonderfully with a box of chocolate-covered chocolate and your comfiest PJs, you should get an idea of it.
The second point I must accent is that the movie, as well as the book, do not make the claim of being life-changing, and do not have the ambition to be left in history as classics. The author, much like her characters, does not take herself overly seriously, and the film/book is not meant to be, as well. Should be fairly obvious, given the name, but it seems to elude some viewers.
Lastly, it is not Austenish. There is very little that connects it to the books on an intellectual level. There are the props, the sloppy quoting, the disposition of the main character (though that one is VERY debatable). If you approach this movie hoping for a modern ping of Regency romance, turn away, or approach with free-minded caution.
Now that this is covered, onwards.
The film overall, even more so than the book, has a decided air of ridiculousness. And the type that is always, pointedly, over the top. This is why some ardent, pedantic Austen fans might dislike this movie. It is as ridiculous and excessive as Jane Austen's novels are subtle and somewhat caustic. The fact that Jennifer Coolidge is in it should be hint enough as to its atmosphere and tone.
Visually, it is average, but then again, it never made the claim of excelling in that department. It is pleasant, there are no irking sights and details that ruin the experience.
Onto the cast.
The two main characters, to me, had passable chemistry. They are both likable, clumsily honest (a trait better seen in Jane than in Henry), and innocently lost. Keri Russel somehow always strikes me as playing herself ? cute, smiling, with a bit of a fiery temper at times, and always wide-eyed and curious. I must say, though, that in a world of irritating heroines, she is pleasant to look at.
I am very partial to JJ Feild, ever since Third Star. I must mention, therefore, that he possesses a certain degree of gravity, of security that seems somehow out of place in the film. It is present in the book character, though, and he portrays faithfully. This being his second Austen appearance besides Northanger Abbey (if we do consider this one Austen, if tentatively), he pertains the characteristics of the classical Austen man, but adds a touch of comedy and innocence that go a long way. He is the height of the film for me, by far.
The rest of the cast are pleasant, and excelling in their ridiculousness. I must say that all of them did a good job portraying their literary characters, which is really what the point of a book film is. Jennifer Coolidge does her thing, yes, you know the one, that one that she does everywhere. If you're a fan, you'd enjoy her in a new setting. A pleasant surprise came from James Kallis as the dubiously gay Colonel. I must say he entertained me far more than Coolidge, and in some cases, more than Russel. Jane Seymour did what was expected, but wasn't spectacular, to me. The rival, Martin, played by Bret McKenzie, was staggeringly faithful to the book image, even more so than the others. Cute, a bit awkward, he does make you like him all the way until the very end, where he, faithfully again, acts like the douche he's meant to be.
There is an easter egg of sorts in this movie, in the face of Rupert Vansittart. I am sure most of you who watched this film, have rewatched BBC's Pride and Prejudice on numerous occasions, and recognized him immediately as the drunken, disinterested and uncivilized Mr. Hurst. Vansittart plays the exact same role ? a fact that, I am sure, is intended by both writer and director. I was pleasantly surprised.
Finally, I want to urge those of you who find this movie pleasant, to read the book. It is quite short, easy to read, more Austeny than the movie ("If you're listening, Big Brother, I refuse to be Fanny Price.") and, to my taste, with prettier words all around.
Conclusion? If you're expecting a modern Austen romance, rewatch the BBC P&P (you know it gets better every time). For a bit of hilarious, utterly unhinged girly fun, dip right in this one.