A romantic comedy based around the writings of Jane Austen, dashing men and all is bound to be a success? Right? No. Wrong. Very wrong. This film was terrible. So if you were planning on seeing it, or have already seen it and enjoyed it, then please, do not read on. Because it’s about to get seriously panned.
Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a mid-thirties woman who has always dreamed about finding ‘Mr Darcy’. See, she’s an Austen fan. A massive Austen fan. She’s got the books, she’s got the crush on Colin Firth (who doesn’t?) and she memorised the first three chapters of Pride and Prejudice when she was 13. So when she has the opportunity to visit Austenland in England, she jumps at the chance.
Austenland is set in the English countryside, where young, single women pretend to be from the 18th century and find their ‘dream man’. English manor, pantaloons, bonnets and all. Only, there’s two catches. The first one is that depending on how much you spend, the better your experience, and ‘dream man’ will be. And considering Jane has the cheap option, her fairytale story isn’t going to be great. Secondly, the ‘dream men’ are actually hired actors. So they propose and they fall in love with you…but they are being paid to do so. Not all that romantic.
Luckily for Jane, she meets the lovely Martin (Bret McKenzie), a servant at Austenland and they begin a romance – a true, lovely romance that’s completely real because obviously since he isn’t wearing a dashing suit, then he can’t be her ‘dream man’. On the flip side, ‘Mr Darcy’ aka Henry Nobley, who Jane thinks is her suitor, is so amazingly perfect that it has to be a set up.
Only, wait MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT/TWIST, Martin was paid to be her lover, since she did get the cheap option and only deserves a servant as her ‘dream man’, and Henry was just there for the sake of being there – AND ACTUALLY FALLS IN LOVE WITH JANE.
That’s pretty much the entire story. I’d apologise for the spoiler alert, but honestly, it’s apparent that that’s what’s going to happen about 10 minutes into the film.
So, what was so bad about this film?
First, there was no chemistry whatsoever with any of the cast. The Martin/Jane/Henry love triangle would have been a whole lot better if any of the actors were actually attracted to each other. So that was a bust.
Second, the storyline was a shocker, even with the help of Jane Austen beyond the grave (in which I’m sure she is turning). There were perhaps two references to any of Austen’s books, and the rest of the time it was simply girls paying to do needlepoint and ogle at paid actors. They could have gotten that for a lot less by watching any film.
Third, what was with the whole ‘Mr Darcy’ thing? I’m sorry, but it just happened that Henry Nobley was playing himself, and Henry Nobley is in fact an attractive thirty-something English male who has an affinity for being aloof, dashing and standoffish at parties? I’m sorry, but even if it were meant to be comical, it’s been done before. Bridget Jones’ Diary anyone? At least in that circumstance, Helen Fielding makes it obvious that it’s a ridiculous coincidence. In Austenland, it’s all ‘isn’t this destiny’?
Fourthly, the writing is terrible. They’ve got the typical sidekick in the form of Jennifer Coolidge, who plays the same character she always plays – a loud, uncouth American who has a heart of gold, but sadly not the brains to match. And while she has lines that are obviously thrown in for comedic effect, they’re awful. I’m sorry, but putting on a shocking British accent and routinely saying ‘Tally Ho’ is not funny.
Lastly, I was disappointed that Bret McKenzie got roped into this. Seriously, you’re better than this! Not only did you create and star in Flight of the Concords, but you’ve also got an Oscar under your belt. Did you really want to star in a film where you play a character that’s playing a Kiwi actor whose playing an 19th century English servant while playing a 19th century love interest? Does that really sound like a great idea?
Also. Stephenie Meyer produced this film. I should have known better.
Where do you stand on sub-par chick flicks? Horrific? Can be made up with a good cast? To be avoided at all costs? Let me know!