I have met people who are a fan of the brilliant literature produced by Jane Austen, but never anyone who would take that fandom to the extreme we see in the romantic-comedy “Austenland.” Here we are presented with a young woman, Jane (Keri Russell), who adores Austen’s work so much that it has taken over a large part of her life (and her apartment). When she hears of a travel package that allows her to experience the life of one of Austen’s heroines by being immersed in the Regency era, complete with the proper setting and costumes, and even actors to play the parts of the love interests, she can’t resist. Having paid for the basic package, she doesn’t get to experience everything, but that doesn’t stop her from exploring her potential lovers, which include Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild), Colonel Andrews (James Callis), and Captain East (Ricky Whittle). Despite this intriguing selection, she soon finds herself more attracted to one of the servants, Martin (Bret McKenzie), who also takes a liking to her. However, this being a romantic-comedy, things aren’t going to be quite as easy as all that.
“Austenland” does have an intriguing premise, but as I said, it is a romantic-comedy, and because of that, it’s going to be subject to the same pitfalls as any other film of the genre. Unfortunately screenwriters Jerusha Hess and Shannon Hale fall into a great number of them. They shake things up a little by introducing a twist in the final act, and despite it being one that was easily predictable, at least they try to do something a little different. The issue is that right after the twist, it ends exactly as any other film like it does. This includes the questionable event that makes the audience think the couple won’t end up together, followed by the obvious conclusion of them doing just that. There’s also the meandering nature of the film to consider. Just as Jane spends most of her time wandering around the house and grounds, the film feels the same way as it lingers on and on until we finally get to the third act. Overall, “Austenland” is a pretty film to look at, but underneath its look, there’s just not much there.
“Austenland” is presented in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of moderate quality. This is another release that has a slight fuzziness to the picture, but again, it’s not enough to hinder the viewing experience. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little on the soft side, so you’ll probably have to turn it up a little louder than usual, but otherwise, it’s crystal clear with all sounds being satisfactorily audible.
Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jerusha Hess and Producer Stephenie Meyer: Sadly, this track shows that these two don’t really have much of anything interesting to say about the making of the film. It doesn’t really go into any depth, and instead has them joking around quite a bit and commenting on the actors.
Q&A with the Cast of Austenland: This is a decent Q&A with the cast from Sundance that goes in-depth about topics such as how they got their roles and their previous experience with Austen’s work. Worth watching if you’re looking to learn more about the film.
Unfortunately, “Austenland” is just another romantic-comedy like so many others before it. It may be dressed up and flashier than most, but it still follows the same formula that has brought down a great multitude of films in the genre. Again, they try to be a little different by switching things up at the end, but it’s not nearly enough to overcome the mountain of clichés and overall languid pace of the film, making this a trip not worth taking.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.