We have a new modern Pride and Prejudice/Jane Austen film hitting our screens this year. Think ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ film mixed with ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, throw in some Regency costuming, and I think we’re getting close.
For Twihards, Stephanie Mayor is actually producing this flick, and called it: “Adorable! The best tribute to obsessed Austen freaks (like me) that I’ve ever read.” The film was shot last year in the UK and both Meyer and Hale appear to have been friends for quite along time. You can read plenty of coverage about the different filming here (and there are some costume pictures). At the Breaking Dawn premiere she had a bit to say about it too:
Essentially, Austenland is alike to a theme park for Janeites. I never thought I’d say those words in the same sentence, but a Jane Austen theme park could be the height of amazing in real life (if done tastefully and there’s no Jane Austen/Luna Park open mouth entrance style thing going on).
The main character, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell – Bedtime Stories), in a nutshell is as in love with Colin Firth and Mr Darcy/BBC Pride and Prejudice as much as we are. Having set her standards against this, and finding that no man can compare she heads to an English resort for Janeites where her “fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined” (ImDb). Mr Henry Nobley (who I am guessing is the love interest) is played by JJ Field (Northanger Abbey, Centurion). Notable cast members also include Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, A Cinderella Story, Epic Movie) as Miss Elizabeth Charming, Bret McKenzie (The Flight of the Conchords), James Callis (who plays the gay friend in Bridget Jones’ Diary), Georgia King (The Duchess, Little Dorrit, Jane Eyre) and Jane Seymour (James Bond, Wedding Crashers) who performs as the resort hostess. I think with this kind of a cast we can expect a chick-flick style rom-com. This is also suggested by the chosen director; Jerusha Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame is both directing and writing.
The film is based off of the 2007 book of the same name by Shannon Hale. I haven’t read it yet, as a friend of mine told me it was pretty weak – so it has fallen to the bottom of my list, but I will definitely have a read before the film release. Information from reviews of the book suggests that at the resort, the tourists are expected to be in full Regency garb. However, are the gardeners and gentlemen there just acting as is their job, or is there more to it? Is any of it real? These are the things that Jane must explore. Also, I don’t think the term ‘Austenland’ necessarily appears in the book as it was initially going to be called ‘Ostensibly Jane’.
Interestingly, the team putting the film together (including both of the producers and much of the crew) is mainly made up of women. I think this is illustrative of the type of movie, and hopefully it means that it will connect more with Janeites. Unfortunately, I have some hesitant feelings towards this film, as I think it’s going to be far too pink and over the top, and not at all elegant. I also think that Janeites may find the whole thing a little offensive, as while the idea of an Austenland would be amazing… somehow the reality might not stack up to it and might be too much.
Pembroke Park, the name of Austenland resort, is filmed at the National Trust’s West Wycombe Manor. It has been previously filmed for Gaskell’s Cranford, Downton Abbey, Little Dorrit and The Duchess. It is currently home to the Dashwood family (which I think is a nice unintentional head-nod to Austen). And while the official website for the movie is still coming soon, there have been mentions on Stephanie Meyer’s blog- although it says that it’s still going to be a while until it comes to theatres.
The film cost an estimated 4.9 million pounds (Around (AU)$7.23 million), and filming was in July last year. So we can definitely be sure that this one will be coming and that this is no false alarm (Pride and Prej and Zombies anyone?). Fickle Fish Films (Meyer’s company) and Moxie Pictures are producing it. Currently, it seems as though the main fears of fans around cyberspace is that Meyer will attempt some sort of a Twilight in-joke that will fall flat on an Austen audience.
The sequel to the novel, Midnight in Austenland, was recently published.