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Austenland to be a Film

July 8, 2011

Well, they snuck this one by us! Several Alert Janeites wrote to let us know that Shannon Hale’s book Austenland will be adapted into a film, which begins shooting this week. This is apparently not a drill. The film will be directed by Jerusha Hess (who wrote the screenplay for Napoleon Dynamite and co-wrote this screenplay with Hale) and the cast includes Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie (FIGWIT!), Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Rupert Vansittart, and James Callis. Casting demonstrates high Hottie Quotient, so should be popular with the rank and file. (AND FIGWIT!)

We know lots of people are excited about this, but we weren’t that crazy about the book and, while this certainly is better than the Zombie Apocalypse, we can think of several other Austen-related adaptations we’d rather see before this.

Much of the attention this is getting seems to be from the fact that Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight novels, is one of the producers. (Good thing JJ’s there to take care of any sparkly vampyres who might wander in. *cough*) According to IndieWire, Meyer’s blurb on the book said, “Adorable! This is the best tribute to obsessed Austen freaks (like me) that I’ve ever read.”

Um, no. It’s been a while, but one of the things that made us not like the book very much is that the so-called Austen fans in the book didn’t behave like any Austen fans we know. Hiding DVDs in the potted plants in shame? Going to an Austen theme park and flirting with actors hired to pretend to be into Jane Austen, apparently without any accompanying sense of irony? We took some abuse for it at the time (something we’re used to) but our basic opinion is still that Austenland didn’t speak to our experience as an obsessive Austen fan, and therefore was not appealing. It would have been fun to have been able to relax into laughing at ourselves and others, but the author demonstrated zero knowledge of Austen fans in our opinion. We’ll hope that we can like the film better; we’ve been surprised before!

As usual with Austen adaptations, the media starts spreading the manure right from the beginning. MTV’s article about the film says,

Meyer has been a longtime fan of Austen’s work and credited the author’s “Sense and Sensibility” character Mr. Edward Ferrars with the decision to name her leading man Edward. In addition, “Twilight” was inspired by Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” to the point that main character Bella is reading the novel during the story and often compares her relationship with Edward to Elizabeth Bennet’s relationship with Mr. Darcy.

Oh, now wait just a Ferrarsing minute. Ms. Meyer perhaps confused Jane Austen with Charlotte Brontë. She wouldn’t be the first.

Edward Cullen:

  • Manly beauty
  • Countenance compared to marble carving
  • Cold kisses
  • Creepy, controlling behavior towards woman he wants to marry

St. John Rivers (a character in Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre):

  • Manly beauty
  • Countenance compared to marble carving
  • Cold kisses
  • Creepy, controlling behavior towards woman he wants to marry

The inspiration seems pretty plain to us.

  1. Janeheiress permalink
    July 8, 2011 10:28 am

    Fantastic comparison between Edward Cullen and St. John Rivers. I can’t believe I never thought of that. The fact that Meyer sees any parallel between P&P and Twilight astounds me.

    I am excited about the Austenland film, though. I generally steer clear of any Austen-related novels that aren’t the originals, but I adore Shannon Hale’s young adult books. And JJ Feild is definitely a plus!

    • July 8, 2011 12:09 pm

      Yeah, I recently re-read JE in preparation for seeing the new movie, and was surprised that I had never really internalized how messed-up the whole St. John thing is, with him saying to Jane “God wants you to marry me and if you don’t you’re going to hell.” And having read a couple of the Twilight books in the interim, I definitely noticed the manly beauty, marble-like countenance, cold kisses references!

  2. July 8, 2011 9:53 pm

    I just re-read Jane Eyre also but, since I’ve never had anything whatsoever to do with Twilight, I don’t know anything about Edward Cullen (other than the fact that he’s played by Cedric Diggory, ooops, Robert Pattinson), so I’ll have to take your word that he’s like St John Rivers. This re-read did make me realize just how creepy St John is — but then, I came out of this re-read not liking Edward as much as I used to.

  3. Emily Michelle permalink
    July 11, 2011 4:01 pm

    Love your comparison between St. John and Edward; St. John really is a creeper, isn’t he? One of my complaints about most movie adaptations is that they make him a really nice guy, and he’s not. he’s manipulative and scary. And how can anyone possible compare Bella and Edward to Elizabeth and Darcy? Darcy likes that Elizabeth doesn’t fawn on him (or so Elizabeth says; Darcy just says he likes her “liveliness of mind”); Bella does nothing but fawn on Edward.

    And I don’t much like Austenland, either; it paints Austen fans as man-crazy nuts who’ll throw themselves at guys who are paid to pretend to like them. Plus the book made no sense. However, I’ll overlook a lot of flaws if JJ Feild is involved; his presence may save the movie for me.

  4. Enid Wilson permalink
    July 12, 2011 5:21 am

    I don’t like Bridget Jones Diary and by your review of Austenland, I don’t think I like it either. Some people told me Clueless is quite a good adaptation of JA’s work. I’ve to get my hand on the DVD.

    And Bella and Edward ~ Lizzy and Darcy, I’m rolling on my floor about this.

    Chemical Fusion

  5. welltrainedmom permalink
    July 14, 2011 10:58 am

    I had to read the first Twilight for a book club, but disliked it so much I never read the others. It bugs me when people compare it (favorably) to classic lit. Austen and Bronte are on a completely different level in every way. Slight similarity with any character doesn’t bring the rest of the book up to par.
    I’ve read very very little Austen-related fiction (I can blame the book club for that one, too) though I love Austen-related non-fiction. It just seems like after the real thing (I mean Austen’s own books) any fiction trying to piggy back would end up a dissappointment. Am I allowed to judge books by a collective cover? :)

  6. July 16, 2011 3:04 pm

    You are so right! I hope it’s a funny movie, funny in Jane Austen’s style, not romcom that we suffer now. Anyway, we can always appreciate JJ Feild’s work.
    And yes, Edward Cullen IS SAINT JOHN!!!! :)

  7. Jane permalink
    July 16, 2011 7:34 pm

    I felt like Austenland was more about fans of the BBC Pride and Prejudice (who then sometimes go on to read the book) than about Austen fans in general. In that light, I found it to be a rather accurate caricature of several friends I know who are kind of obsessed with Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy. I liked Hale’s version of dipping her toe into Austen-related fiction because she didn’t try to add on to Austen’s world (which doesn’t usually go very well), just make a fanciful parody of girls who get a tad too enamored of Colin Firth.

    • July 17, 2011 6:07 pm

      Well, as I said about Lost in Austen, if they’re going to film fan fiction, I wish they would film GOOD fan fiction.

      The thing is, the Great Unwashed is insufficiently knowledgeable about Jane Austen to see the subtle difference, which isn’t in the book, either, about the difference between Austen fans and overenthusiastic Colin Firth fangirls. (Austen fans who also are enthusiastic Colin Firth fans are, in my experience, not ashamed of their fandom, and tend to share it with their fellows.) If the book had a sharper sense of irony, if the humor was a little broader, I dare say I’d like it better, but it just left me flat–Hale didn’t seem to know anything about the Austen fandom, and from one involved in it, the book seemed all wrong to me. Perhaps this will be fixed with the movie, which will be a good thing.

      That being said, there is no distributor associated with this production yet. It might end up being a straight-to-DVD thing. Thus, the Great Unwashed, by and large, will never see it.

      • July 22, 2011 3:36 am

        Oh, well said! And how many Twilight fans are ashamed of their Edward-crushes? Or Bella-crushes? (I refer to an exclusively female fan base, naturally)

  8. July 21, 2011 2:02 pm

    I’m attempting to read an ARC of the second book “Midnight in Austenland” (the book comes out in January 2012) but it’s just reminding me why I didn’t like “Austenland.” A friend got it for me at the American Library Association conference in June so I feel obligated to read it since it was a gift.

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