Austenland Blu-ray Review
I recently had the pleasure of watching PRIDE AND PREJUDICE the miniseries for the first time. The literary novel from Jane Austen is a classic but that has transcended to the made for TV movie version as well. The love story is truly one of the greats and I realized just how crazy infatuated some followers of Austen’s stories truly are. AUSTENLAND cleverly explores this obsession in a comical yet endearing way that appreciates and understands the fan while still poking a little fun.
Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) has lived her life expecting love in the form of Mr. Darcy. To say her obsession with ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is an unhealthy one would be an understatement. Now in her 30’s, Jane decides to spend her savings on an interactive vacation experience that will allow one the life and love Jane Austen has put on her pages. With a staff dressed fashionably in authentic clothing from the period and sleeping quarters that match the rooms perfectly from the BBC series (ignoring the flat screen TV’s placed in the bigger suites), stuffy Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour) runs her themed resort extremely seriously. Blurring the lines between reality and role play, Jane will have to choose between Mr. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild) and the stable boy Martin (Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords).
AUSTENLAND works best because it identifies with the target audience. I’d venture to say that director Jerusha Hess and author Shannon Hale are fans themselves as they seem to write the character with understanding and respect, yet fully aware that their love for Jane Austen’s world might be a bit unhealthy. The true disappointment from one’s imagination mixed with our current day sensibilities is where most of the humor lies when entering AUSTENLAND. Sitting around, embroidering, waiting for a gentlemen caller who is not permitted to be alone with you, might look respectful and enticing within the confines of make believe love story, but in reality, the moment is far truer when fellow guest, Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) screeches in poorly spoken Old English, “I’M BORED.”
Unfortunately, the great idea of AUSTENLAND is never explored to its fullest potential. The story feels a bit scattered and there were some missed opportunities to really hit a homerun. Some of the jokes seemed repetitive in a generic way while the twist of the story doesn’t have the bang that it should. The love portion isn’t built strongly enough and the final romantic conclusion would have been more affective with a grander moment. Visually the ending feels a little rushed and flat, not following though for an audience that is hoping for the big sweeping proclamation with grand musical cues.
With that said, AUSTENLAND does work, providing some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Jennifer Coolidge is more than sufficient as the comedic go-to-girl and Keri Russell is perfect as the wide-eyed romance heroine with enough sensibility to take control of her own adventure. Anyone who is a fan of the romance officianado will surely relate to Jane’s desire to find love through Austen’s literary tale.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p 2.40:1) The picture highlights the colorful costumes and sets beautifully.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) An efficient sound throughout.
Commentary with Jerusha Hess and Stephenie Meyer: Yes, you read that correctly, TWILIGHT author Stephenie Meyer is one of the producers of Austenland and joins director Jerusha Hess for a casual light-hearted commentary where the two joke and talk about the film like old friends.
Q&A with Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, JJ Feild, Ricky Whittle and James Callis (32:45): The whole group is on stage answering questions. The sound isn’t the best and the group seem to find themselves funnier than what they are actually saying. It’s kind of excruciating but Jennifer Coolidge saves the day. If you are a big fan of the movie, I think you might find this fun to get a little insight from the actors.