Period Film Review: Austenland (2013)

Screenshot from 2014-03-17 013606

Summary: Austenland is a romantic comedy about 30-something, single Jane Hayes, a seemingly normal young woman with a secret: her obsession with Mr. Darcy-as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice-is ruining her love life; no real man can compare. But when she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. -IMDB

To watch the Austenland trailer click here.

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***Minor Spoiler Alert***
Film Recap:
Screenshot from 2014-03-17 004907Our heroine, Jane, has been unlucky in love for many years. Searching for her happily-ever-after, she decides to blow her entire life’s savings on a trip to Austenland. At this resort, each guest is guaranteed to experience romance with one actor.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 005654On her way to the Austenland resort, Jane befriends the lady in pink: Elizabeth, an Austenland guest in her fifties, who calls Regency era empire gowns “wench gowns ”. Together, they are picked up in an automobile and driven to the resort where they’re welcomed by the hostess, Mrs. Wattlesbrook.

Through Mrs. Wattlesbrook, we learn that the Austen experience very much depends on what kind of package you buy:

The wealthy Elizabeth bought the platinum package, which offers her an elite experience in Austenland. Jane, however, could only afford the basic copper package. She is therefore offered the experience of a Regency era penniless spinster.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 005952Her wardrobe is therefore limited to a dowdy dress.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 010157Her bedchamber is located in the servant’s quarter. Unlike Elizabeth’s lavish room.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 010031She is excluded from riding inside the carriage, so rides along at the back.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 010119When Jane and Elizabeth arrive at the main house, Mrs. Wattlesbrook introduces Jane to the party as “an orphan of no fortune who we have taken in out of the goodness of our heart.” So condescending.  

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 010453We are then introduced to another Austenland guest: Lady Amelia Heartwright (she’s like…Lydia Bennet on crack).

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 010435The actor who role plays as Colonel Andrews.
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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 012934The handsome and mysterious Mr. Henry Nobley (who seems to be the resident Mr. Darcy).
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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 013148And later to the actor Captain East.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 012303However, Jane starts to crush on the rugged Martin, the “servant.” To Jane, he isn’t one of the actors scripted into the “Austen Experience” by Mrs. Wattlesbrook. He isn’t scripted to play the suitor in Jane’s fantasy. So this is exactly the reason why she digs Martin: because he isn’t acting, but actually has the hots for her.

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1Screenshot from 2014-03-17 011337Screenshot from 2014-03-17 011339But as Jane and Martin flirt while hunting for pheasants, we’re given glimpses of Henry Nobley eyeing Jane and Martin with seeming jealousy. Maybe he’s the suitor assigned for Jane?

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 011524Screenshot from 2014-03-17 011550Screenshot from 2014-03-17 011625After the hunting practice, Jane loses her way and ends up being caught in the storm. To our surprise, it isn’t Martin who comes to her rescue, but Henry Nobley.

We’re left wondering: Is he rescuing her merely because actors are paid to be valiant? Is he, as Martin later explains to Jane, working hard so that he can win the “most valiant actor award”?

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 012527Screenshot from 2014-03-17 012534Screenshot from 2014-03-17 012606In between these is-it-scripted-or-not romantic moments, the three ladies try to figure out ways to cope with the ennui of the country manor life. At one point, Elizabeth is soooo bored that she declares, “If the men don’t come back from hunting soon, I’m going to ask for a refund!”

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 013635.2When the boredom becomes unbearable, Jane slips out from the manor to spend time with Martin.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 013704But on her way she gets caught by Henry Nobley, who asks her, “Where are you going?” and accuses her of “cavorting with the stable boy” which pisses her off, more so when he warns her that “There’s something I don’t like about Martin.”

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 015122But Jane doesn’t hold a grudge against Henry Nobley for too long.

The chemistry between Jane and Henry begin to develop when they have to practice together for a play.

Jane: Let’s try not to annoy each other.
Henry: You don’t annoy me…you make me nervous.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 015619 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 015621By the evening of the play, Jane has already fallen a bit for Henry.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020017 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020339And after the play, Jane and Henry slip away, and hurry off to laugh in the privacy of Jane’s Bedchamber. There, they both remember the rules of etiquette: that being alone in a bedchamber would lead to the termination of their stay in Austenland. So Henry quits the chamber, and outside, whispers to her: “Tomorrow evening…can I reserve the first two dances with you?”

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020544 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020613 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020630Tomorrow evening arrives. Martin is also there at the ball, and confesses to Jane, “I’m really into you…d’you wanna get out of here?” But before she can answer, Henry steps into the scene. He doesn’t look too pleased. Soon, he whisks her away to the ballroom.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020719 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020726 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 020804While dancing, Jane is clearly distracted, perhaps wondering: Were the moments I spent with Henry real? Martin, at least, is real.

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 021031 Screenshot from 2014-03-17 021134And something real is what Jane wants…

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 021344But then…there’s Henry’s love-lorn gaze. It looks so sincere…

But then he’s an actor… Everything could be scripted.

Or maybe not?

And so the film plays around with us: What is real and what is scripted? Who is the “real” man and who is the actor?

Oh, the hazards of love…

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Screenshot from 2014-03-17 014321Review: While Austenland is, by no means, a “good” film – I still enjoyed it. But it doesn’t seem like my sentiment is shared by the many, as this film has received more negative reviews than positive. CarrieS on Smart Bitches Trashy Books gives a list of reasons as to why this film is offensive. I do see where the blogger is coming from, but I watched Austenland with my brain turned off.

The comedy was definitely over-the-top on many occasions, the dialogue between characters often flopped, but there were some heart-warming, heart-fluttery moments that redeemed this film for me.

Ok, I confess, if it wasn’t for JJ Field (Mr. Henry Nobley) I may not have enjoyed the film AS much. I just really, really adore JJ Field so watching Austenland was like… indulging in a box of cheap but tasty chocolates.

On a side note, I fell for the actor JJ  Field in Northanger Abbey and I’ve always been wishing to see more of him in period dramas since….

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Period Film Review: Austenland (2013)

  1. I’m sorry to hear the film wasn’t very good. I will check it out anyway. Cheap tasty chocolates are chocolate, nonetheless. I heard good things about the book. Did you read it, June?

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  2. I loved the movie. Do you do you remember the movie Napoleon dynamite? It was directed by Jared Hess. His wife directed Austinland. Some will notice that the quirkiness is a lot like Napoleon dynamite quirkiness. Knowing that little bit of background helped a lot with my perspective of the film. It’s not intended to be taken seriously.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not read so many of the negative reviews before watching it…

      I haven’t watched Napoleon Dynamite but have heard of it and its quirkiness. And I totally agree with you. Austenland is a film not meant to be taken seriously.

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  3. Grace

    I liked Austenland. it was ridiculous and fluff-filled. I agree, the highlight was definitely JJ Feild. He was the perfect teasing Mr. Tilney and now the brooding Mr. Nobley. So dreamy in any role.

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  4. ProofMeWrong

    I loved the movie, I think in a way I always watch movies with an open mind, in a sense that I never take it seriously, even though we all want to fall into the movie want that feeling of how real it is… *sounds weird* but anyway…. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve learned that even when I have read a book and watch a movie based on it, I never compare the two, it’s never the same, and I think because of that I can always enjoy the movie as much as the book…. It their own little way at least. :)

    Like the movie “The Wedding Date” that was based on the book “Asking for Trouble” This movie reminded me of that movie, it was cute and fun to watch but not a serious film…. and the book is WAY different but also nice to read…..

    And of course JJ Field *sigh*

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    • That’s a very admirable way to approach any work – with an open mind. And I agree with you – with some movies, it’s wise just not to take it too seriously. And Austenland definitely was one of those films that asks to be simply enjoyed.

      Ohh! The wedding date. I remember seeing that when I was young and enjoying it. Such an interesting concept, because usually it’s the other way around – the female as the escort. I also remember trying to get my hands on the book it was based on but couldn’t find it anywhere back then.

      Sometimes I actually appreciate the fact that the movie isn’t exactly the same as the book. What works in writing sometimes doesn’t work well on screen.

      Yes, JJ Field, we need more of him *swoons*

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