Oh yeah, Austenland! One of those rare cases where I, a book snob, prefer the film to the book.
Socially awkward Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is obsessed with the works of Jane Austen and fantasizes about the character of Mr. Darcy. She scrapes together as much money as she can and takes off for Austenland, a British theme resort where guests immerse themselves in a romantic fantasy worthy of Austen herself. However, because Jane’s limited funds do not allow as many privileges as other guests, her chance at a fling with her very own Mr. Darcy may be limited as well.
Sure, it’s not for everyone, but here’s a brief rundown of things I love, and why I think Austenland is a great companion to reading Austen.
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that, even if you’ve not read the books, you’re aware of certain aspects of Austen’s work as a cultural tour de force. My favourite in-jokes are the actors who’ve appeared in Austen Adaptations – notably JJ Field, fresh from a turn in Northanger Abbey, and super-excitingly, the actor who played Mr Hurst in the Colin Firth adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
The Casting is Spot On
Jennifer Coolidge is the star of everything she graces with her presence, and she has all the best one-liners here.
Keri Russell is similarly a joy (I just love her face) and JJ Field is, IMO, the best Austen hero.
The cherry on top, however, is Ricky Whittle. I love Ricky Whittle, purely because he was in Hollyoaks, which I didn’t even watch. I like seeing him do well.
It’s just Fun
From little touches like an abundance of fake animals, to an unexpected and wonderful homage to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”, Austenland is one of those delightful films which doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s escapism, pure and simple, and that’s what I love about it.
I did my dissertation on Jane Austen adaptations, (in an early example of my ability to relate anything to Jane) and came away from it pretty jaded and Austen-ed out.
I watched Austenland for the first time earlier this year. Afterwards, I remember going to sit on my back doorstep with a glass of white wine to think about it. There’s no surprise that I related very strongly to the 30-something Austenite, Jane Hayes, but it was more than that. I was feeling that joy again, that I always used to, when I watched or read an Austen. I’ve always loved romance, and I just felt… happy. So I started watching the adaptations, and re-reading all the books. And that love grew, and I wanted to share it.
So that’s the main reason I started planning Bridal Book Club. I hope that you can discover a similar joy, if you’re new to Austen, or reignite those old loves, if you’ve not revisited her for a while.
But What About the Book?
If books are more your bag and you’re looking for some easy reading to ease you in to Bridal Book Club, and give you a peek behind the Regency Romance curtain, then the book is definitely worth a read. The film made some (to me) pretty key changes in the character of Henry Nobley, which I think worked better.
Worth mentioning that Austenland in the book is a GDPR nightmare. They’re spreading personal details left, right and centre. There’s also a glaring gaffe that I, a West Yorkshirewoman, cannot get over, involving someone from Sheffield supporting Man Utd football club. I told DH about this and he was appalled.
But that said, it’s nice, and it’s a relatively quick read if you just fancy something cosy after Christmas dinner. There’s a sequel too, which is somewhat darker a la Northanger Abbey, but still worth a read.
Have you seen the film or read the book? What did you think? Which did you prefer? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.