Jane is a huge mess
Austen is her fantasy
Life wins in the end
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD. To be completely honest, I'm not a huge fan of reading Jane Austen's books. It's not that the stories aren't amazing—it's just that the language is hard for me to get into. (This is a bit of a guilty confession for someone who was an English major, to be sure. Reading all of her novels is on my list of things to do before I die, I promise.) I have, however, long loved Austen adaptations, from the faithful—the various wonderful versions of Pride and Prejudice—to the more "inspired by"—The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lost in Austen, Clueless, Bridget Jones' Diary. There's something so timeless about Austen's heroines; with a little bit of adjustment, their stories can fit into any time period.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of Austenland, the latest Jane Austen-inspired movie (adapted from a Austen-inspired book of the same name). I'd been eagerly anticipating seeing this movie since viewing a trailer a few months ago, and the movie does not disappoint.
The basic plot is this: Jane, a Austen-obsessed fangirl, decides that she's had enough of her mundane life and decides to go on vacation to Austenland, a live-action role-playing vacation destination in England at which the guests (women) are expected to act like people would have acted in the regency era, and in turn are treated to an experience that frequently tops off with a Austen-style engagement. Through an often hilarious chain of events, Jane realizes that her fantasy world might not be all it's cracked up to be.
The characters in this movie are superb. Keri Russell plays Jane, and I love her in this kind of role: the "straight woman" who can get a little silly at times; Jennifer Coolidge is up to her typical hijinks as the dumb blonde with the heart of gold; and Jane Seymour plays, perfectly, the head of the household/owner of Austenland. The gentlemen in the movie are excellent, too: Bret McKenzie (of Flying Conchords fame) is both sweet and a little surprising; James Callis (who has experience in this sort of role, having played Bridget's gay BFF in Bridget Jones) was hilarious as a gentleman dandy; and JJ Feild does a wonderful (and attractive!) turn as the Darcy of the group.
The settings are gorgeous. The costumes are lovely. The comedy is non-stop (but, warning, can get really awkward at times). Basically, even if you're not a typical fan of Austen and her many adaptations, this movie is awesome, and you should go see it.