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Film / Austenland

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"I knew this place would be magical! They even got us a car from the 1800s!"

"I'm going to take charge of my story."
Austenland is a 2013 film of the 2007 book of the same name by Shannon Hale. It stars Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jane Seymour, Brent McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Georgia King, Ricky Whittle, and Rupert Vansittart.

Keri Russell plays Jane Hayes, a dissatisfied 30-something American woman who is obsessed with Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995). Deciding American men simply don't live up to the standard set by Jane Austen's fictional love interests, Jane decides to spend her life savings on a trip to a British resort called Austenland, where visitors can immerse themselves in the Regency era (complete with fake names and gorgeous period dresses) and leave with a love interest at the end of their stay. Jane hopes to leave with her very own Mr. Darcy.

Jane arrives at Austenland with fellow guest Elizabeth Charming (Coolidge), a wealthy middle-aged woman who paid for the "platinum package" to meet a host of colorful characters — snooty, uptight owner Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Seymour), her bumbling husband (Vansittart), her nephew, the handsome, quiet Henry Nobley (Feild), the camp, energetic, Ambiguously Gay Colonel Andrews (Callis), the wealthy, romantic Lady Amelia Heartwright (King), and the dashing Captain East (Whittle). Also along for the ride is stableboy Martin (McKenzie), whose Fish out of Water air is something Jane finds very comforting...

Tropes present in this film include:

  • Action Dress Rip: Jane has been riding sidesaddle, but needs to ride astride to outrun a rainstorm. In this case the dress is ripped vertically. (She still has some kind of long underwear to conceal her legs.)
  • Actor Allusion: At the airport, Nobley makes a crack at Martin that the Kiwi actor couldn't get a job on The Hobbit, since it's formed in his native New Zealand. Martin's actor, Bret McKenzie, actually was in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as Lindir, as well as a background actor on two previous Lord of the Rings films.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Mr. Nobley in the book actually was an actor, though he did genuinely fall for Jane and follows her back to New York to prove it. In the film, he is a history professor who was strong-armed into helping his aunt, Mrs. Wattlebrook, and proves to be as incapable of acting as Jane is.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • In the book, Henry Jenkins was the name of the actor who played Mr. William Nobley. In the film, Henry Nobley is both his fake and real name.
    • Martin Jasper played Theodore the gardener in the book. In the film, the servant's name is Martin and his full real name is not revealed.
  • Adapted Out: Jane's great-aunt, who in the book left her the trip to Austenland in her will, is cut out of the film. 'Aunt' Saffronia is also absent from the film, though her boorish husband is not.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Played with. It's unknown if the "Colonel Andrews" persona is supposed to be gay, but the actor playing him is.
  • Anachronism Stew: In-universe, Austenland isn't quite as historically accurate as Mrs. Wattlesbrook likes to claim — some lights are electric, the toilets flush, and they are picked up from the airport in a car, albeit an old-fashioned car.
  • Ascended Fangirl: Jane is a huge fan of Jane Austen, and she sees going to Austenland and immersing herself in Jane Austen's era as this trope — however, it's not all it's cracked up to be.
  • Attempted Rape: Mr. Wattlesbrook assaults Jane during her stay. This forms the grounds of her threat to report Austenland and shut it down — apparently, she wasn't the first. In the book, the actor playing John Templeton did this, resulting in him being fired.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The characters don't even try to act Mrs. Wattlesbrook's play well, resulting in this trope.
  • Birds of a Feather: What Jane's attraction to Martin is based on — she's looked down on by Mrs. Wattlesbrook as an "orphan" (she only paid for the copper package, so she is treated worse than the other guests), while he's looked down on for being a "stable boy." Both of them decry the pomp and concept of Austenland. Subverted, Martin was paid to act like this from the beginning, and she actually has more in common with Nobley.
  • Call-Back: "Tally-ho."
  • Casting Gag:
  • Composite Character: The film delegates the Templetons' roles to the Wattlesbrooks.
  • Dances and Balls: A ball ends a guest's stay with their assigned love interest.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: All the ladies clearly enjoy admiring Captain East.
  • Expy: From Pride and Prejudice, and occasionally other Austen works.
    • Quiet, brooding Mr. Nobley is even referred to as the Mr. Darcy character.
    • Mrs. Wattlesbrook is one of Lady Catherine de Bourgh — she obsesses about class and customs, although she's pretty classless and customless herself, and looks down on people she deems unworthy (like Jane).
    • Martin is one of Mr. Wickham, the initial love interest opposed to Darcy who seems cool but turns out to be a jerk.
  • Eye Scream: Elizabeth accidentally shoots an arrow at Amelia's eye during the play. The wound is infected, and Amelia spends the rest of her stay wearing an eyepatch. She's fine by the ending, though.
  • Fake Brit: In-universe, Jane is shocked to find out Amelia is actually American, as her British mannerisms seemed so spot-on during their stay.
  • Fan of the Past: Jane is one of the Regency era.
  • Foil: Molly Andrews-Carrera, Jane's best friend in the real world, is Happily Married with kids, has a hyphenated last name, and "normal" hobbies — everything Jane isn't.
  • Gold Digger: Amelia is married to an old, rich American.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Near the end of the film, Nobley actually flies to America to return Jane's sketchbook. When she mentions that he "could have mailed it," he treats it as a rebuff.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Bret McKenzie faking bad singing "Suddenly".
  • I Have This Friend: While Jane and Nobley watch two other characters kiss in the distance, Jane and he discuss whether the other two are having a short-term fling or starting something more lasting; of course, they are really talking about themselves. Jane reuses one of the exact phrases from this dialogue later in the movie, applied to herself of course.
  • Love Triangle: In Austenland, Jane is torn between free-spirited servant Martin/Theodore and quiet, thoughtful gentleman Nobley.
  • Meaningful Name:
  • Mr. Fanservice: Captain East is one both in-universe. It's clear that Mrs. Wattlesbrook doesn't keep him around for his acting.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Miss Charming, who, in contrast to Jane, is clearly just out to have a good time.
  • Radish Cure: Jane spends her life's savings to go to the Austenland resort to live out her Jane Austen fantasies, but after a miserable time due to being harassed by Mr. Wattlebrook, and being led on by Nobley, she decides to put away her Jane Austen memorabilia when she returns home.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Elizabeth Charming is very rich, but she's not quite all there.
  • Satellite Character: Jane's best friend is just around to commentate on her obsession and persuade her to lead a normal life.
  • Secret Relationship: Amelia's relationship with East is portrayed as this in Austenland, although Jane wonders if the people playing them are also in love outside of it. The ending implies as much.
  • Shameless Fanservice Guy: Captain East needs little provocation to rip off his shirt.
  • Stylistic Suck: Mrs. Wattlesbrook's play — tacky props and costumes, Bad "Bad Acting", hammy script, the works. The film also portrays East's shows as this.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Martin and Captain East.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film has one, set one year after the end of Jane's stay at Austenland: Elizabeth has bought Austenland and turned it into a theme park, along with co-host Andrews. Captain East works as a performer there. Among the guests are Amelia and her old husband (whom she ditches to fangirl over East), and Jane and Nobley, now a happy couple. Mr. Wattlesbrook works as a garbage picker.