J.J. Field

Austenland

Editor’s note: Kate’s review originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-running it as the film opens in limited theatrical release this weekend. Obsession with fictional literary heroes is nothing new, but Austenland’s Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) has taken her love for Jane Austen’s (again, fictional) Mr. Darcy and the Regency-era world he (as written in a fictional novel) inhabited in Austen’s (still fictional, Jane) “Pride & Prejudice” to new lows. While the source material for Jerusha Hess’s film, Shannon Hale’s very popular novel of the same name, found its heroine focusing her attentions on a still more fake Darcy – the one played by Colin Firth in the also very popular but not entirely true to Austen’s work BBC miniseries version of “Pride & Prejudice” – Hess wisely expands Jane’s obsession to apply more thoroughly to the rest of Austen’s work and her Regency Era. It is perhaps one of the few wise choices made in service to the adaptation, as Hess’s film, though frequently funny, is almost disastrously goofy and doofy, headed up by a poorly-drawn leading lady who, had she not been played by someone as lovely as Russell, would be the target of scorn by everyone she meets. We quickly learn that Russell’s Jane has been obsessed with Mr. Darcy for most of her life, with Hess kicking off the film with an amusing sequence of flashbacks that show Jane progressing through her teen years and on into adulthood with a moony-eyed stare […]

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