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Austenland Review: Q&A Time with One of the Dumbest Movies of the Year

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film Reviews | September 3, 2013 | Comments ()


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What’s the plot of Austenland?

Keri Russell idolizes Mr. Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice” above all and wants to live in the Regency era. She spends her life savings on an immersive Jane Austen experience, run by the strict Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), and meets a surly Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild) and a charming stable boy (Bret McKenzie). She kind of likes them, but why they would like her is beyond me. She’s a blank slate with a pretty face. Along for the immersive experience are two well-to-do ladies (Georgia King and Jennifer Coolidge).

Why does she love Jane Austen so much?

Because it’s romantic? Maybe? You never really find out. Also, she doesn’t even love Jane Austen, she loves Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.”

This was a Sundance movie? The prestigious independent festival?

Yes, yes it was.

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Get some.

Did you naively go into this movie thinking it could be totally rad?

Yes! I did! Because the idea of a live-action Austen re-enactment seemed really fun, and then also Keri Russell is genuinely lovely and I thought it’d be sort of light and fun. Instead, it was just a sordid reminder that no matter how much we might romanticize the past, people seem best suited for the age they live in.

Is this based on that terrible, stupid book, “Austenland”?

Yes.

Hey! I liked that book!

Then you might like this movie.

Does this movie treat everyone who likes Jane Austen as a kind of half-brained moron who lives in a fantasy world and probably is kind of b*tch?

Yes. Yes, it does. Jane (Keri Russell) creepily eschews real relationships because no one is Colin Firth “Pride and Prejudice.” That’s some nonsense that most of us kids gave up aaaages ago. (Ain’t no one comin’ up outta no ponds for your ass, that’s for damn sure.) Jennifer Coolidge’s character is wealthy and doesn’t even really like Austen. She just like dressing up. Everyone else is there for dumb reasons, too. Rich people being dumb. Great.

What’s the worst part of this movie?

Gee, that’s really hard to pick. It might be the stilted and confusing plot line, the awkward and strained conversations held throughout, the utter and abysmal lack of humor and the high creepy factor as various men flirt and fawn over these women like male escorts at a bachelorette party. I think the worst part is that Russell’s character doesn’t even get to be the star of her own story. She’s relegated to background noise and we leave the film without knowing anything about her at all. Weak treatment of women. Weak understanding of filmmaking. Weak.

Does the plot mirror some kind of Jane Austen novel?

In the same way eating a candy bar you buy at a drug store is similar to baking an award winning cake recipe from scratch.

Well, who is to blame? I want answers!

Director Jerusha Hess. I think the fault lies squarely with her. A female director, with a handful of talented actresses and a story that could celebrate Austen and the people who love her works, should be able to put forth a fantastic film. Instead, it’s weak-willed nonsense all the way through. Shame on you, Jerusha Hess. Making terrible movies shouldn’t be a habit.

Why did the filmmakers squander an opportunity to tell an interesting story with a somewhat romantic through-line?

Beats me. Seems like they could have made something beautiful but instead settled for awkward jokes, a heavy reliance on situational humor and what inevitably felt like too many characters. Not sure how many ways I can say this movie is a dud.

But I like Jane Seymour/Keri Russell/Bret McKenzie! Should I still see it?

I can never decide. Do you want them to be in better movies? Maybe don’t go see the bad ones they do. But if you don’t see the bad ones, maybe they won’t get a chance to make better ones.

Tell me something weird about this movie.

Stephenie Meyer of “Twilight” notoriety produced it. So, judge accordingly.

Is Jennifer Coolidge the funniest thing in this movie?

Sadly yes. You know when you find yourself simultaneously disgusted by her and longing for her when she’s off screen, that you’re in a bad place.

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Tell me more about Keri Russell.

She has pretty hair and acts incredibly mannered throughout the entire production. Sort of an outside observer rather than active participant. She allows herself to be swept up in nonsense. You want to like her and root for her, but she does everything in her power to ensure that you just can’t.

Does the plot of this movie surprise or delight at any point?

No. It’s kind of fun to see Regency garb and imagine your own delighted chance at such a vacation. Sometimes you’re glad to be away from the cocky nonsense of the frippery of Austenian life, seeing how the servants at this place actually live. But mostly, no, there are no surprises. If you’ve ever seen a movie then you can guess all that happens.

Are the clothes pretty?

Yes. They are very pretty. They are the only half-way decent thing in the movie.

Amanda Mae Meyncke would totally go to an immersive Jane Austen experience. And an immersive Flannery O’Connor experience. And an immersive Shirley Jackson experience.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • chatnoir

    I thought I was insane for absolutely despising that Lost in Austen wreck. Everyone and their mother gushed about how it was the most amazing, most romantic, most perfectest thing ever. The series was insulting and the protagonist was beyond any hope of salvation. But it had a Colin Firth 2.0 getting out of a pound, so it was obviously as close to canon as possible.

  • chatnoir

    damn, meant to reply to bonnie.

  • bonnie

    Ha, it's okay! You're so right.

  • Devin McMusters

    I'll wait until it arrives on some distant cable channel, then FF through the non-Jane Seymour scenes.

  • Cherith Quewtstorrie

    i'm pretty sure those guys in that photo of kerry russell are literally smuggling plums (especially the one on the far right).

  • Tinkerville

    "That’s some nonsense that most of us kids gave up aaaages ago."

    Of...of course we did! Absolutely! That'd just be silly, keeping up those fantasies. Ain't no way I still just want to find a Knightley or Wentworth, no siree! Nothing to see here. Hahahahahahaha.. *sob*

  • PDamian

    A Wentworth, for sure. A Knightley ... hmmmm. I guess, if Wentworth never showed up. But really, can "I could not think about you so much without doating on you, faults and all" really compete with, "Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant ... For you alone I think and plan"? That there's some passion.

  • Tinkerville

    No argument here. I think it's the "badly done, Emma" that gets me... cutting honesty that comes out of a knowledge that she's truly better than that, right when she needs to hear it the most.

  • foolsage

    I love that scene. I'll even confess that the Paltrow version of that scene is my favorite, though to be fair, that's only because "Clueless" left Mrs. Bates out entirely.

  • VonnegutSlut

    I, for one, would give up a significant portion of my life savings to go to an immersive Neil Gaiman experience. Imagine the possibilities...
    (I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't freely admit I would go to an immersive Kurt Vonnegut experience as well...namesake, after all...)

  • Tinkerville

    That's one of those things that sounds amazing in theory but in execution would probably be traumatizing. It'd be a serious cause of PTSD once you factor in the button eyes, vagina dentata goddesses, and zombie ex-wives. If it were strictly a Neverwhere and Stardust experience, count me in.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I'd just like to read the waiver for the Neil Gaiman experience.

  • foolsage

    Said waiver is a hodgepodge of Latin, Aramaic, and forgotten glyphs from long-dead civilizations that worshiped terrible and eldritch gods. Signatures are to be in blue ink; a very specific ink, in fact, whose provenance would shake the sternest soul with unutterable fear. It's best not to mention in any detail the... substance... on which the waiver is inscribed.

  • bonnie

    This movie sounds like a quasi-remake of Lost in Austen, which I also hated. I hate that female readers of Austen's works are treated as giggly, moony schoolgirls who never grew up or bitchy shrews who will settle for nothing but Darcy. Some of us are grownups who like awesome writing and one-liners and we happily married someone-who-is-not-Mr. Darcy. Gah.

  • Berry

    The premise of Lost in Austen was so dump and offensive to me that I couldn't even hate watch it for more than five minutes.

  • kinoumenthe

    I saw that. I can't remember anything about it though… Wasn't she giving a lot of advice and stuff ?… Also being a lot in servant's quarters ?… I have some images from it, but nothing stuck from the plot. I'm not even sure I watched all of it.

  • Berry

    I really can't answer your questions. The first few minutes with the "being woman in the 21st century is so hard, who wouldn't want to trade voting and education and stuff for some chivalrous guy who thinks you're not fit to own property" whine-fest made me lose it. And at that point the TV went soaring trough the window, and my husband was treated to a nice long rant about the stupidity of it all.

    Good times.

    Oh, and by the way, I obviously meant to write dumb in my earlier post, but dump works too, somehow.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Thank you for saving me from this movie, because I loved the idea of a Jane Austen resort. Now that I know the characters are the exact type that I loathe, I'll skip.

    I used to love the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, but now I kind of hate it, because it has born an entire generation of people who think that the miniseries is the book.

    They don't love Darcy, they love wet Colin Firth (which, you know, I get). Then they go on and on about how they love Jane Austen, but they've never actually read one of her books. If you're lucky, they'll have seen Emma too, or maybe the Jane Austen Book Club.
    It's fine to love the movies, but it doesn't make you cool and literary to like men in breeches. You're not the only special snowflake that watched PBS instead of going out on Saturday.

  • PaddyDog

    it has born an entire generation of people who think that the miniseries is the book>/i>
    This.
    Those people and the ones who actually think Bridget Jones' Diary is a passable modernization of P&P are the ones who are first in line for the firing squad come the revolution.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    When the revolution comes, I think we should just dunk them in a lake over and over again, until they agree to read the book.

  • PaddyDog

    Apologies for messing up the HTML: jetlag is a bitch

  • PDamian

    No apologies needed for such an excellent and sound opinion.

  • PDamian

    Ain’t no one comin’ up outta no ponds for your ass, that’s for damn sure.

    Dammit, you made me laugh out loud, and now my coworkers know I read Pajiba at work. (And the above statement is lamentably true for me. Not even puddles.)

  • How many books about stupid bimbos obsessing over Mr Darcy are there?

    He's not even all that. Give me a Captain Wentworth any damn day of the week. At least he has a job.

  • Linda Lupos

    Eh, TILNEY? Has a job, his father lives in a freaking abbey, and most importantly he's an unashamed *geek*! I wouldn't mind wandering around Pemberley or exchaging letters with Wentworth or making music with Brandon or picking strawberries with Knightley or... staying far the hell away from Edmund Bertram (snore) (also why did those first activities all end up sounding rather dirty?), that'd be fun for a while, but I seriously think I could spend the rest of my life snarking about Udolpho and other books like that with Henry Tilney! He reads novels and loves them, he has a great relationship with his sister, he's just plain fun to spend time with and he doesn't mind telling his father what's what when his father is being an arse.

    Also HE UNDERSTANDS MUSLIN! What's not to love?

  • bonnie

    Ooooh. Good one. I adore Henry. And naïve as Catherine is, she is a delight. Northanger was my MA thesis, so I clearly have a great fondness for it.

  • I did NOT like Northanger Abbey. At all.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I remember enjoying Northanger Abbey, but I've never reread it. Maybe it's time.

  • kinoumenthe

    That's the only Austen I've NEVER re-read. But apparently, we're not alone. I read somewhere it was the least favourite of Austen readers everywhere.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I humbly enter Colonel Brandon into the running. Tragic past, wonderful man, patient and kind. Way better than snobby Darcy any day.

  • I'll just leave this here.

  • Yes! He steps aside to let her be happy with stupid Willoughby! UGH.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Brandon was great, but I'll always feel he deserves more than dizzy Marianne.

  • Was I the only one that shipped Brandon and Elinor? They at least spoke to each other like people and seemed like genuine friends.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I liked them more as friends, but Brandon and Elinor would have been excellent life partners too. Mostly because Edward and Marianne are both just kind of yucky in my mind. One is too mild and timid, the other just a fruitcake.

  • PaddyDog

    The problem of course is that Brandon is in love with the idea of Marianne, not with Marianne. I suppose in theory the marriage could work if she decides to play that role until he dies and then she just gets to roll around in all of his dosh for the rest of her life. But I always felt she would eventually tire of playing Brandon's "Marianne" and end up having multiple affairs. And I like to think Austen would not object to this since she was very much a realist at heart.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    THIS. The problem with Brandon is that he'll never really live up to what Marianne wants. Because Marianne is basically a Regency-era Twihard. He's just not sparkly enough to hold her attention forever.

  • PaddyDog

    Well, ZbornakSyndrom!!! Are you really Klingonfree in disguise or have KF and I discovered yet another person with whom we appear to share the same brain?

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I am in fact a singular person and not an alias, that I know of. I just got tired of lurking on these forums and decided to join the fun!
    As far as brain sharing, I don't know, but it has seemed a little crowded in my head lately.

  • PDamian

    So true. Brandon is an awesome character, but it's a bit of a letdown to see so sterling and honorable a man be consumed with overemotional, overwrought women, be she his ward or Marianne.

  • Tinkerville

    Marianne's such a drip.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    "Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant." To me, Captain Wentworth is just so much better than drippy Darcy. Dude's a sea captain that earned his fortune in Naval Battle, for god's sake! Also, I think Persuasion is just fathoms better than Pride and Prejudice, it's a love story for grown ups.

  • kinoumenthe

    Persuasion will always be my fave.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    There's a "Searching for Captain Wentworth" book out there too. It's awful - time travel, drippy chick stuff, etc. Anne and the Captain deserve much better than that.

  • bonnie

    THAT LETTER. "You pierce my soul" makes me weep every.damn.time.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    aw...y'all might be interested in this piece of jewelry: http://www.etsy.com/listing/92...

  • You just have to be careful with the sizes on these, I bought two for friends last year (Thanks Mrs.J!) and one fit great, the other was a bit small.

  • Mrs. Julien

    JoRo has the earrings. One says "half agony" the other "half hope".

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I thought you were the one who first posted the link to that site! I haven't bought anything yet, but it'll probably be from the Shakespeare collection...

  • "I am half agony, half hope."

    I DIE. It may be one of my favorite quotes of all time.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I remember reading it the first time and running to my mom, who had given me me the book. The conversation went like this:

    Me: THE LETTER!!!!
    Mom: I KNOW!!!!

  • PDamian

    Captain Wentworth! Now there's a hero. And you have to love the fact that he earned his money instead of inheriting.

  • BlackRabbit

    Pfft. Inheriting. I inherit all the time. I inherited $5 walking down the street yesterday.

  • LexieW

    I actually read this book based on a positive review HERE. It was, without question, the worst piece of writing I've ever seen. Worse than Twilight.

  • bonnie

    I never finished that damn book. It was stupid and made me angry.

  • bastich

    How is an immersive Shirley Jackson experience and an immersive Michael Jackson experience the same? Either way, you're gonna get stoned.

  • firedmyass

    "Stephenie Meyer of “Twilight” notoriety produced it."

    ...aaaaaand *fffrrrrttt* goes the dynamite.

  • Samantha Klein

    Did this film make you want to punch James Callis in the face more or less than his role in Battlestar Galactica?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    ps: If you're a Shirley Jackson fan, you will be happy to learn that her estate found a previously unpublished story of hers titled "Paranoia." The New Yorker ran it a few issues ago - I've heard it's quite good.

  • ViciousTrollop

    I had the chance to read it. It's fantastic.

  • kinoumenthe

    Uh.
    I have to step up and concur. I read it last month and was ready to abandon it at the first inkling I was reading a published bad fanfic, but I was happily surprised to find a decent book, which premises are nothing like the one in the movie, apparently, or rather, the movie's seems to have taken out the bits that made it a lot more thoughtful and even sometimes bleak.

    At the very least, it wasn't a comedy, so making it one seems the first of many mistakes in adapting the book.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    The movie of that story just came out, with Liam Hemsworth! It was great.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    bwahahaha. You scared me there for a minute. (the movie is actually based on a novel, scarily enough.)

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I don't doubt a director can polish a turd, but if the script and source material are offensively dumb, is it really her fault?

    Also, I'm sorry, are all of those valets suffering from elephantiasis of the balls? What the hell is going on in those breeches?

  • BWeaves

    I was wondering about the servants breeches, too.

    "Stephenie Meyer of “Twilight” notoriety produced it. " I kinda wanted to see this, and was willing to forgive almost everything, and then I hit that sentence. Now I want nothing to do with it.

    Also, I get why the women might sign up for this vacation, but why they hell would the men? Unless they are hired by Jane Seymour's character.

  • DominaNefret

    Umm, because of the women?

  • BWeaves

    If I was a guy, I'm not sure I'd want to role play with a bunch of women with moist lions for Colin Firth knowing that I could never live up to his moist reputation.

  • Or alternatively, study the hell out of Firth and be able to pull off a spot-on doppleganger performance.

  • pumpkin

    Red Dwarf already did it. And it was awesome!

  • catherine751

    what Frederick answered I didn't know that some one can get paid $7001 in 4 weeks on the computer. try this website w­w­w.J­A­M­20.c­o­m

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