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Austenland (2013)


Peter T Chattaway
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Link to our thread on Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), which also concerned someone who was obsessed with the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

The story below doesn't mention it, but all three of the women behind this film -- novelist Hale, director Hess and producer Meyer -- are Mormon, for whatever that's worth.

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Jerusha Hess to Direct Romantic Comedy with 'Twilight' Author Stephenie Meyer Producing (Exclusive)
Keri Russell, JJ Feild and Bret McKenzie will star in Austenland, an indie romantic comedy that is serving as the directorial debut of Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre with her husband, helmer Jared Hess.
In a twist, the movie is also serving as the producing debut of Stephenie Meyer, author of the best-selling vampire books The Twilight Saga. Meyer has acted as a producer on the Twilight adaptations but this will be her first time working on non-authored fare. . . .
Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Rupert Vansittart and James Callis make up the supporting cast of the rom-com, which centers on a single, thirtysomething woman with a secret obsession with Mr. Darcy -- as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The obsession is ruining her love life because no real man can compare.
When she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Jane Austen-crazed women, the woman's fantasy of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman becomes more real than she could have imagined.
Feild is playing a Mr. Darcy actor at Austenland who develops true feelings for the American woman. Coolidge is playing a vain and crude vacationer.
Shannon Hale wrote the book on which the movie is based and co-wrote the script with Hess. . . .
Hollywood Reporter, July 5

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

This film might be fun. I acknowledge this.

That said, here's Ron Rosenbaum's latest excellent essay in Slate:

... But it’s begun to seem like she’s now assumed the role of the designated highbrow writer for light readers. It’s not that she’s overrated. It’s that she’s in dire jeopardy of being overhyped—and dumbed down in the process.

I know that sounds elitist, and I hasten to assert that my admiration for her fiction is deep, sincere, undiminished. But I’ve begun to feel—in the midst of the tsunami of schlocky, rapturous, over-the-top, wall-to-wall multiplatform celebration of the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice - that it’s all a bit too much. Something quiet and true about Austen is being lost in the trumpet blasts and the spin-offs ...

Most dispiriting of all, though was the recent attempt by a distinguished literary critic to repurpose Jane Austen for a faux-naive self-help book. I’ll get to that in a moment—I missed the book when it was first published last year, but coming upon it just out in paperback was the straw that broke the back of the needle in the haystack—no, seriously, a moment of stunning disillusion about a critic whose work I’d admired, who now seems to have entered the Austen cash-in craze in a particularly reductive, anti-literary, Dr. Phil-level way ...

Anyway, until I read Deresiewicz’s book, I always had respected and admired his intelligent literary criticism and I still can’t quite believe he committed this gimmicky dumbing down of serious literature into insipid self-help. In the book, he portrays himself as basically someone raised by wolves, an oafish fellow with no social skills or interpersonal sensitivity until—sacre bleu!—he “discovers” Jane Austen and learns by reading her that he has been a jerk all his life, and that she has Important Things to teach him about life and love that transform him into a civilized sensitive human being.

A transformation brought about by a series of lessons which he then turns around and—treating the reader like a third grader raised by the same wolves—painstakingly teaches us. Mainly how to be nice. Not just nice, but nicey-nice nice. In doing so he manages to get just about everything about Jane Austen and her novels wrong. For one thing, she is not “nice" ...

This essay may or may not be relevant for this film. I hope it isn't.

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I don't mind the proliferation of gimmicks (many a good thing has been latched onto by marketers and used stupidly, and Austen herself can't do anything about it now) as much as the penchant for Austen readers and readers in general to persistently misunderstand the text itself, independently of meta-literature. Or meta-stuff; I hesitate to call it literature. The image of her as a prim, asexual parlor-dweller who only cares about tea and weddings is something I encounter all the time. Sheltered Christian girls love her because the romances seem chaste, and many don't like her because they find the marriage plots boring. As if that was all there was to her novels! I swear, colleges need to teach Austen courses themed "Jane's Dirty Jokes: A Compendium of Austen's Sexual Politics" or something, because so many people miss so much subtext.

That said, I have been enjoying (with some reservations) the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and will be standing in line for any midnight showing of Austenland I can find, so...perhaps I am the problem. blush.png

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My wife's favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice. And she's always maintained that it's a romantic comedy, and not a romantic drama, so this will be fun. We liked Becoming Jane, and she lives by the BBC Pride and Prejudice and dislikes the Keira Knightley one.

I think she'd enjoy this one so I'll mention it to her.

Edited by Justin Hanvey

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Confession: I read this novel. It was a piece of mediocre fluff. Lost in Austen is more fun. However, a good cast, script, & director might improve on the novel. Keri Russell has given some remarkable performances recently--Waitress, her current stint on The Americans. We'll see.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 4 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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If the movie fails to amuse, we can try for next year's Jane Austen summer camp in Chapel Hill. Account of this summer's frolics by "Mr. Darcy."

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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  • 2 months later...

Saw Austenland this weekend, with my sister. We laughed throughout--more than anyone else in the theater, making us wonder if we were the only ones who realized it was a satire--not of Jane Austen, but of fandom, romance novel cliches, and TV/film fantasy versions of Austen. Critics aren't liking it, and doubtless it's not as highly crafted as The World's End, but it is funny, without being mean.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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it is funny, without being mean.

That really gave me pause, Beth -- in a good way. I admit to being put off by the film's subject matter and negative reviews, but I hadn't considered that the film might be ... well, is it sweet? You don't come right out and say that, and the fact that it's not mean doesn't mean it's the opposite (the opposite would technically be nice, but you get my drift).

 

Is it gentle? I've found that I have a growing fondness for gentle comedies in an Apatow age -- atlhough comedies that are too gentle can be downright boring. It's a fine line.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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it is funny, without being mean.

That really gave me pause, Beth -- in a good way. I admit to being put off by the film's subject matter and negative reviews, but I hadn't considered that the film might be ... well, is it sweet? You don't come right out and say that, and the fact that it's not mean doesn't mean it's the opposite (the opposite would technically be nice, but you get my drift).

 

Is it gentle? I've found that I have a growing fondness for gentle comedies in an Apatow age -- atlhough comedies that are too gentle can be downright boring. It's a fine line.

 

I was not bored. Did you ever get to see Pitch Perfect? It's kind of like that. I notice the review you cited linked Pitch Perfect with Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress, which I also liked (not everyone did). Combine PP with DiD, add some empire-waisted gowns, bonnets, boot, a healthy sense of the ridiculous without losing a belief in truth and love, and you'd get Austenland ;)

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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No, Sarah saw Pitch Perfect, but I never did (she liked it). However, I happen to have Damsels in Distress on checkout from the library for this weekend, so your comments are well timed.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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