What would you do if presented with a completely immersive experience where you could lose yourself in your favorite fictional works? Jane Hayes spent her entire life savings to take a trip to Austenland, the vacation getaway where she can step inside the works of Jane Austen, since what girl didn’t grow up loving Mr. Darcy? I know I would throw my money at whoever could set up an immersive journey into the Grid or let me step inside the TARDIS and out onto Skaro or Gallifrey, though an estate in Britain seems much more feasible than my obsessions.
Austenland isn’t just about a fan immersing herself in Pride and Prejudice and finding her own gentleman who will sweep her off her feet, it’s about finding your fantasy, staring it straight in the face, and choosing it or reality. While a good portion of you may have stopped reading after the words Jane Austen, there is plenty to enjoy about Austenland regardless of whether you have ever read one of her books or have seen any of the versions of Pride and Prejudice. Just because it’s set in an Austen fan’s wet dream doesn’t mean that’s the point.
Romantic comedies certainly have been suffering in the past few years. We keep seeing the same plots rehashed without a single shred of creativity. While I can recommend Austenland, it too falls prey to the shortcomings of sloppy writing that romantic comedies have come to be known for. It flirts with being more than that so often that I can’t help but wonder if there was some studio editing or if it was just a lazy script writer falling back on the tropes that, I guess, bring in the audiences and stagnate everything.
There is a clear attempt to go slightly deeper into the characters than what you would expect. Yes, there are the obviously one-dimensional characters that remind you of what you’re watching, but there is also effort to make Jane and her romantic interests well rounded characters. It’s almost as if so much effort was put into one group that the others became the genre tropes that try and suck the life from Austenland. While it may fall prey to them in the end, the movie spends most of its first and second acts poking fun at the tired cliches.
The single saving grace that stops Austenland from becoming yet another forgettable romcom is the excellent cast. Besides having Felicty (Keri Russell) as Jane, the rest of the cast is packed with people that my fellow geeks know and love. Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Concords plays one of Jane’s romantic interests. James Callis, who was Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica, is an actor at Austenland. Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mom) is one of the other guests. Not only are they all here, but they all give fantastic performances.
While I, and I bet 99% of Geekenstein’s audience, cannot relate to the intense love of Jane Austen that Jane has, I know for a fact that we can relate to the type of obsession she has. If we haven’t been obsessed, then we have the obsessed friend. What made Austenland so interesting is the direct confrontation Jane had to make between fantasy and reality, and the difficulties not only choosing, but realizing which is which. It may have been a movie I only saw to finally take my girlfriend to something she would enjoy more than me, but I ended up having a great time as well. Whether it’s for date night or you just want to see a good movie, Austenland won’t disappoint.
If you do see Austenland, be sure to stay through the credits for the funniest, yet pointless scene.
In Theaters: September 13, 2013
Runtime: 97 min
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and innuendo
Director: Jerusha Hess
Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Field, Jennifer Coolidge, Brett McKenzie, James Callis
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Distributor: Sony Classics
Official Site: http://sonyclassics.com/austenland/