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Austenland (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 8, 2014 by  



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“Austenland” is a solid directorial debut for Jerusha Hess and a romantic comedy that is a lot of fun and features a solid cast, but for story, it’s average at best.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Fickle Fish Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Austenland

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 94 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:40:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: Engish, English, SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Some Suggestive Content and Innuendo)

RELEASE DATE: February 11, 2014

Directed by Jerusha Hess

Based on the novel by Shannon Hale

Written by Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale

Producer: Stephanie Meyer, Gina Mingacci

Executive Producer: Robert Fernandez, Dan Levinson

Associate Producer: Jared Hess, Meghan Hibbett

Co-Producer: Jane Hooks

Cinematography by Larry Smith

Music by Ilan Eshkeri

Edited by Nick Fenton

Casting by Nicole Daniels, Michelle Guish, Courtney Sheinin

Production Design by James Merifield

Art Direction by Patrick Rolfe

Set Decoration by Jacqueline Abrahams

Costume Design by Annie Hardinge

Starring:

Keri Russell  as Jane Hayes

JJ Feild as Mr. Henry Nobley

Bret McKenzie as Martin

Jennifer Coolidge Miss Elizabeth Charming

James Callis as Colonel Andrews

Georgia King as Lady Amelia Heartwright

Rupert Vansittart as Mr. Wattlesbrook

Ricky Whittle as Captain East

Jane Seymour as Mrs. Wattlesbrook

Ayda Field as Molly

Ruben Crow as Chad

Demetri Goritsas as Jimmy

Jane Hayes’s (Keri Russell) adoration of all things Jane Austen is complicating her love life. Determined to be the heroine of her own story, Jane spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, an eccentric resort where guests experience complete immersion in the Regency era. Armed with her bonnet, corset and needlepoint, Jane strives to avoid spinsterhood … but has a difficult time determining where fantasy ends and real life—and maybe even love—begins. Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde) and Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers) also star in this charming romantic comedy.

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From Jerusha Hess, the writer and producer of the comedies “Napoleon Dynamite”, “Gentlemen Broncos” and “Nacho Libre”, comes her directorial debut, “Austenland”.

The film based on Shannon Hale’s novel of the same title, is a British-American romantic comedy produced by “Twilight” writer Stephanie Meyer and stars Keri Russell (“Felicity”, “Mission: Impossible III”), JJ Feild (“Captain America”, “Centurion”), Bret McKenzie (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”, “The Muppets”), Jennifer Coolidge (“American Pie”, “Legally Blonde”), James Callis (“Battlestar Galactica”), “Bridget Jones” films), Jane Seymour (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”, “Wedding Crashers”, “Live and Let Die”), Georgia King (“The Duchess”, “One Day”), Ricky Whittle (“Single Ladies”, “Hollyoaks”) and Rupert Vansittart (“Braveheart”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”).

The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and had a limited screening around the United States.  And now, “Austenland” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Austenland” is a film that revolves around Jane Hayes (portrayed by Keri Russell), a 30-year-old woman who has been obsessed with “Pride & Prejudice” and Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy.  Wanting an English man, in hopes of finding her Mr. Darcy, she decides to spend her entire savings on a trip to the Jane Austen-themed resort in England known as “Austenland”.

Ran by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (portrayed by Jane Seymour), Jane meets others who are fans such as the man-hunting Elizabeth Charming (portrayed by Jennifer Coolidge), the suave Mr.Henry Nobley (portrayed by JJ Feild), the servant and bad singing Martin (portrayed by Bret McKenzie), the cold Englishwoman Lady Amelia Heartwright (portrayed by Georgia King) and the often shirtless Captain George East (portrayed by Ricky Whittle).

And as everyone at Austenland tries to live their life as it was back in the early 1800’s, as depicted in Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice”, will life for Jane Hayes be as she imagined and will she meet her Mr. Darcy at Austenland?

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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Austenland” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) and English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, you will want to go for the Blu-ray version of the film.

Picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD, the film is pretty much dialogue driven but there is a lot of ’80s music that is played throughout the movie, but for the most part, dialogue and music is clear through the front and center channel.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Austenland” features the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerusha Hess and Stephanie Meyer.
  • Q&A – (32:44) Q&A with Keri Russell, Jennifer coolidge, Janey Seymour, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, JJ Feild, Ricky Whittle and James Callis.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:07) Theatrical trailer for “Austenland”.

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I have to admit that I am a fan of Jerusha Hess films.

The films that she has written are quirky, humorous and just a lot of fun!

So, as a person familiar with Jane Austen novels, let alone knowing people who are fans of her novels and finding out that Jerusha Hess was directing the film adaptation of Sarah Hale’s “Austenland”, suffice to say, I have been looking forward to this film.

First, let’s start off with the positives and what I enjoyed about this film.

It’s great to see Kerri Russell again and to see her playing the role of a Jane Austen fan girl in search of her Mr. Darcy, at first, it may seem too farfetched, but once you see actress Jennifer Coolidge in her role as the typical ditzy, sexy bombshell of a woman that she has played in other films, you know that you are in for a treat!

The idea of a Jane Austen resort is quite fascinating and to see people who want to take part in that world by given the chance to dress like one would in the early 1800’s is rather fascinating.  And I suppose, there was a part of me that wanted to see the quirkiness and the humor that Hess put into her films such as “Nacho Libre” or “Napoleon Dynamite” to also be in “Austenland” but as it turns out, we have a film about three women and four men interacting in the resort.

Jennifer Coolidge’s Elizabeth Charming resembles the style and humor of her character of “Legally Blonde” and if anything, you feel you want to see more of Elizabeth, as Jane is often trying to find her Mr. Darcy with a bad singing Martin (portrayed by Bret McKenzie), the very English Mr. Henry Nobley (portrayed by JJ Feild) and as for the sexually ambiguous Colonel Andrews (portrayed by James Callis), he appears to be more eye candy for Elizabeth Charming’s character.

Meanwhile, Georgia King’s character of Lady Amelia Heartwright seems to be an awkward role that is seen going crazy for the often shirtless Captain George East (portrayed by Ricky Whittle).

While I did enjoy the characters, I was taken aback by the whole romance plot.  It was less of a love triangle and more of a hodgepodge of men that Jane may seem interested in.

And while most of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s will be familiar with the music featured in the film, they often seem out of place because the characters are trying to live in a faux early-1800’s setting.

So, I found the storyline to have a few problems with Jane’s association with various men, I did like the premise of the story because it is unique, crazy and something that is somewhat way out there.  Maybe not as a fun as “Nacho Libre” of socially awkward as “Napoleon Dynamite” but fun in its own way.  Jane Austen die-hards may find the film too over-the-top but I felt this romantic comedy does have it’s share of hilarious moments from beginning to end, especially the Nelly “Hot in Herre” music video by the cast during the ending credits.

As for the DVD, picture quality and audio quality is good on DVD but one may want to look towards the Blu-ray release for even better picture quality and lossless audio.  The special features are very fascinating as the audio commentary features both Jerusha Hess and producer Stephanie Meyer, while the Q&A with the cast is one of the most hilarious Q&A’s post-screening panels I have seen.  Once again, Jennifer Coolidge wins the audience with her humor!

Overall, “Austenland” is a solid directorial debut for Jerusha Hess and a romantic comedy that is a lot of fun and features a solid cast, but for story, it’s average at best.

 






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