Popcorn Bowl 17 – Austenland

I’ve recently missed Jane Austen’s novels in my life and the gorgeous Regency fashion, so I was happy to be told there’s a really funny modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Somehow I completely missed it. When it was recommended to me by a fellow classmate as a way of unwinding before exams, I had to see it myself.

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)

The movie is hilarious, especially the idea of willingly inflicting the more unpleasant elements of the era upon the guests. No electronics, no modern conveniences, old cuisine with somewhat exotic animal organs on the menu, and a strict social hierarchy dividing the more affluent guests from the less fortunate ones. Jane soon tires of this and decides to forget about the rules. That is when she became my favourite character. And the characters are the strength and the downfall of the movie. I guess the novel gives them more time to be fully developed, here we only skim the surface, but it works as a comedy.

Miss Elizabeth Charming was a really dim character in some aspects, but honest about her desires. I liked her for being nice to Jane. Still, the things that came out of her mouth would leave me in a constant state of mortification. Maybe I’m a bit of a prude with no alcohol involved.

I loved the slowly developing romance between Jane Hayes and Henry Nobley. We can easily see the spark between them and the similarities between the relationship Darcy and Elizabeth had at the start. It is hilarious how blind Jane is to the truth and how easily she falls in with Martin, the rebellious handy-man. Fantasy certainly doesn’t live up to reality but in this case the lines get so blurred that nobody knows who is acting and who isn’t.

I developed a small crush on Mr.Nobley played by JJ Field. I have a weakness for gorgeous voices and his looks certainly only enhance his appeal. I guess he’s the perfect cast for the role of a modern Darcy, only he’s even more sympathetic for being roped into the charade of his aunt and having to deal with the actors seducing the guests.

Captain East was a hilarious character, so self-centred and vain, ready to take of his clothes at a moment’s notice… OMG, I was laughing and cringing on the inside because it was totally what some fanfic writers would come up to ‘spice up’ their stories. I was slightly embarrassed for the character and gleefully enjoying the show at the same time. I’m sorry for the Austen purists though, this movie is certainly ripping apart the finer aspects of the age and the fantasy.

While I’d never get so obsessed over a book to decorate my entire room with a disturbing amount of memorabilia as Jane did, I can appreciate the old-fashioned furniture and patterns – the room certainly looks very cosy and feminine at the end of the movie. I also wouldn’t mind slipping into an old frock to visit a mansion for a week or two and enjoy the finer points of the era. I’m a history nut like that; I am not prepared to say goodbye to modern cuisine, plumbing, and electronics though. 😀

The scenes of the (predominantly male) servants lounging at the pool and relaxing out of the costumes and the demands of the role they were given were fantastic, so glaringly honest about the fantasies of the resort’s owner Mrs. Wattlesbrook and her female guests. Jane Seymour was charmingly condescending as a rich lady in love with the period and her own ‘genius’. I couldn’t help but laugh at her narcissism and snobbishness.

This movie is for all Jane Austen fans and perfect for a day hen you need an emotional pick-up. It works great as stress relief, but don’t look too closely for deep and meaningful stuff.




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