REVIEW: Austenland

Standard

austenland_poster We have viewed the approach of the release of Austenland with very mixed feelings. On the good side, the trailer looked like fun, and Jennifer Coolidge is usually a riot. On the other side, we read the book by Shannon Hale quite a while ago and had a hard time remembering much about it, other than we felt that for a book allegedly about an obsessed Janeite, we did not find the protagonist sympathetic or even likable. At the time we snarked about the book on the blog (quel surprise) and were scolded by Halefen, so we put the book on our towering To Be Read pile (our TBR pile, both paper and electronic, can be seen from space) with the idea that we’d give it another try, eventually. With the film coming out, that time seemed to have come; and when an opportunity arose to see a preview of the film, it seemed even more pressing. We got through the prologue and part of the first chapter when we decided we had better stop reading until after seeing the movie.

We were hoping for better things from the movie, and were determined to go into the movie with an open mind. The cast looked pretty good, and the trailer made us smile. How bad could it be? Continue reading

Austenland Trailer

Standard

We have very very very mixed feelings about Austenland, too, but we are actually looking forward to seeing this one. We just fear that some of the send-up of Austen fans might be a little eye-rollingly over-the-top. However: Jennifer Coolidge is one of the most hilarious people on the planet; JJ Feild is just adorable* (we don’t remember anyone being murdered in the book, so likely he didn’t do it); FIGWIT! FIGWIT! FIGWIT! (poor Bret, he deserves better than to have Figwit following him around for the rest of his life); we found ourself smiling at the end of the trailer: a good sign. It’s certainly a fangirl-friendly production, which is also a good thing.

*Yet, though friends sent us the link saying O HAY EDITRIX LOOK IT’S MR. TILNEY, honestly? Nothing against JJ, who is darling, but these days Tilney-in-our-head is…someone else. Continue reading

Austenland to be a Film

Standard

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.