Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a Jane Austen obsessed, unlucky in love American, who decides to travel to Austenland – a British Austen-themed resort, where clients can totally immerse themselves in the Regency period, and find romance. However, when she gets there, nothing is quite what she expects.
Based on Shannon Hale’s book of the same name, and with a similar theme to the 2008 mini-series Lost In Austen, this film is a lot of fun, and you don’t need to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy it. It’s definitely played for laughs, and it’s fair to say that some of the characters are completely over-the-top (Jennifer Coolidge as a fellow holidaymaker is ridiculously funny). I can see how it would polarise audiences – reviews were very mixed, with many Austen fans hating it – but I thought it was a perfect way to spend an hour and a half, if you are able to switch your brain off and just enjoy the ride.
Russell was sweet and very likeable as the heroine of the story, and the aforementioned Coolidge provided much of the humour. Jane Seymour was suitably acidic as Mrs Wattlesbrook, the manager of the resort, who treats Jane like a second class citizen, because Jane has not paid for the most expensive package available. James Callis and Ricky Whittle, as two of the actors employed to play Regency gentlemen to the female guests were also enjoyable.
Jane finds herself torn between two men while staying at the resort – Martin the groom, played by Bret McKenzie, and Henry Nobley, with definite shades of Mr Darcy (he is offhand and cool at first, but soon finds himself becoming fascinated by Jane), played by JJ Feild. They were both ideal for their parts, with neither Jane nor the viewers sure whether they are being themselves, or playing a role which they were hired for.
The ending is perhaps a little bit predictable, but the same goes for most rom-coms, and in any event, it was nicely done. If you like romantic comedies, and don’t want to take the plot seriously, this is a very enjoyable film.
Year of release: 2013
Director: Jerusha Hess
Producers: Robert Fernandez, Dan Levinson, Meghan Hibbett, Stephanie Meyer, Gina Mingacci, Jared Hess, Jane Hooks
Writers: Shannon Hale (novel), Jerusha Hess
Main cast: Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, James Callis, Ricky Whittle, Georgia King, Jane Seymour