Being obsessed with the works of Jane Austen has led to Jane Hayes (Keri Russell – Felicity) being unlucky in love. No man could possibly match up to her ideal suitor, Mr. Darcy. Against her best friends advice, Jane decides to put all of her life savings into a holiday retreat for uber-fans of Jane Austen. Flying out to England, she starts a role-playing vacation where she gets to live in the fantasy world of her Austen-fuelled dreams. But what she doesn’t bank on is finding romance along the way. But is this real or just part of the holiday experience?
Austenland is a delight from start to finish. Adapted from the popular book by Shannon Hale, Austenland is a perfect nod to the works of the great author and particularly, her creation Mr. Darcy. Who can forget the now infamous moment Colin Firth stepped out of the lake in the BBC adaptation a few years back? That image alone has stuck with women the world over, so Austenland playfully pokes fun at this obsession whilst fully acknowledging just how synonymous the character has become with the notion of romantic chivalry.
It’s so good to see Keri Russell back on our screens. She nails the character of Jane, giving her a relatable charm and grace that makes for a great romantic heroine. She handles the comedy, the romance and the drama with equal measure and is a joy to watch from start to finish.
J.J Field and Bret McKenzie do a great job vying for the affections of Keri Russell with Field, in particular, proving to be a very dashing romantic lead. Both share a wonderful dynamic with Russell and easily sell the comedy at hand. McKenzie plays the stable hand with suitable aplomb while Field embodies the essence of Darcy to startling effect.
Legally Blonde favourite Jennifer Coolidge delivers yet another scene-stealing turn as Miss Elizabeth Charming, a loud American who befriends Jane whilst on vacation. Her larger-than-life exuberance is a joy to watch and is only matched by James Callis as her camp suitor. He will make you cry with laughter with his antics, especially when he’s trying to avoid kissing her.
Perhaps the best kept secret of the film is Gorgia King as Lady Amelia Heartwright. She is amazing, both in the romantic and comedic departments whilst proving that she’ll be a name we can all trust in the future. Elsewhere, there are hilarious supporting turns from the ageless Jane Seymour as the head of this holiday experience and Ricky Whittle as an exotic pirate sent in to wow the ladies.
What Austenland achieves so well is its attention to detail. Fans of Mr. Darcy and the works of Janes Austen will certainly identify with the predicament of our heroine. Throw in some stand-out comedy performances and dress it up with the picturesque English countryside and you have a rom-com that hits all of its marks. The location shoots are beautiful and really give the film that classic love story feel, but with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour. The Austen references are well conceived and executed too, especially when all of the holiday makers are given their fictional names and back stories.
Austenland is so absurd you can’t help but fall in love with it. It has all the elements of a perfect romantic comedy with great performances, hilarious circumstance and a great soundtrack to boot. Fans of Austen will reveal at the details, newcomers like myself will be enamoured by its sweet and humorous love story. Austenland guarantees you a brilliant night out and pays due homage to the literary works that have bewitched fans for years.