[Five Things About Austenland]

The first feature from Napoleon Dynamite cowriter Jerusha Hess, Austenland is the story of Jane (Keri Russell), a 30-something Jane Austen obsessive who spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland. It’s a fully immersive Jane Austen experience, and perhaps it doesn’t go exactly as she had intended.

1) The film is pointedly awkward, as you’d expect from part of the Dynamite team, but it’s affectionately and not painfully so. I spent some time wincing, but none hiding behind my scarf. In a lot of ways it’s a fantasy summer camp film, & thus goes weirdly well with this throwback coming of age film summer we’re having. Jane is basically in a state of arrested development.

2) I definitely spent a lot of time gasping “WAIT WHAT” & having check-in glances with the fine ladies I attended with. Protip: see this movie with fun ladies. First because it is a fun lady movie to see with your favorite fun ladies, but also because it is so weirdly over-the-top you’ll need to make sure you didn’t hallucinate any of it.

3) The soundtrack is practically pure 80s mixtape, which works and which is also hilarious.

4) The production value is appropriately awful. By which I mean, Austenland would obviously have a low budget, so there are awful fake animals everywhere & they clearly bought some of the statuary in bulk. Seriously, there could be a drinking game around the one holding a teacup.

5) The cast is ridiculous. Austenland is run by Dr Quinn Medicine Woman, & the other campers include Jennifer Coolidge is doing her new money American bit & having more fun than anyone else. Plus Bret McKenzie as the dreamboat farmhand, former Howling Commando [1] JJ Feild as the Darcy stand-in [2], & Gaius Baltar as the military man.

(I just looked up the proprietor’s husband — hey-it’s-that-guy Rupert Vansittart — because I could not place him, but I could absolutely hear him delivering the line “damn fine filly”. And I was right — he was in Four Weddings & a Funeral. Playing in many ways the same lecherous fellow.)

So, is it good? No, not really. But it is a damned entertaining summer camp popcorn movie for Austenites, deconstructing the fantasy & revelling in it at the same time.

::

[1] He’s the second Howling Commando I’ve seen Russell work with this year, as I just plowed through “The Americans”.

[2] As a side note, I would be delighted if someday this modernizing Austen spirit delivered me some Persuasion. I see your Mr Darcy, guys, but Captain Wentworth forever, is what I am saying.

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