Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Monday: Austenland

Before I get started this morning, I want to congratulate Jenna Evans on winning a copy of Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan! 

On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

So, last week I told you all about my Austenland experience. The book was pure chick lit - a little saccharine for my taste, but not bad. I never would have picked it up to begin with were it not for the movie.

I really wanted to see the movie.

The movie, starring the delightful Keri Russell as Jane, carries quite a bit more snark and sarcasm, exactly the quality for which the book left me wanting. My heart may be softening, but I just cannot swallow a sugary sweet happily ever after without something to offset the fantasy.

The movie, unlike its inspiration, hit just the right balance for me.

The movie made quite a few deviations from the novel.  Jane is a complete Austen nerd right from the start. In the book, her obsession is something she is mildly ashamed of, keeping it hidden from all but her closest compatriots. In the movie, however, she is a total fanatic with over the top apartment decor and no shame. She pays for the trip herself, rather than having it gifted to her by a late aunt.

The casting for this movie is wonderful. Jennifer Coolidge is absolutely delightful and exactly how I imagined Miss Charming. I did imagine Martin to be more of a magnetic stud. In the movie, Jane seems to connect more with his personality, rather than the intense physical attraction Hale writes. Of course, one simply cannot complain about Bret McKenzie, who did a superb job with the character. It seems unfair to say he was not hot enough when he did such a lovely job.

The movie does not utilize Hale's flashbacks to Jane's love life history. Those snapshots of her past relationships were one of my favorite parts of the book, so I was disappointed not to see them. They added so much character information and development. It really was a shame not to see them, but I understand why they got cut.

On that same vein, I wish we had seen more of Nobley's background in the movie. The book does a great job of giving him a backstory and making him a fully developed person, not just a caricature for whom Jane falls. Knowing about his divorce and own messy romantic history makes him a better and more realistic fit for real life Jane, rather than just a chance encounter turned real life love for Jane Ertswhile. 

I did like that, in the movie, Jane's attempt to take charge of her own Austenland experience was much more intentional. In the book, it seems almost a half-hearted resignation that she may as well make the best of things. In the movie, Jane and Miss Charming determine to change her Austenland fate and then take major action. I loved that the whole segment was much more empowering for Jane.

The movie changed the end a bit, but I actually really like the direction it was taken. Nobley does not simply hop on the plane with Jane, although that would have been much more of a movie moment. Instead, she returns to New York and has a chance, albeit brief, to invest in herself. She clears out her apartment of the Darcy paraphernalia and seems perfectly ready to move on. Only then does Nobley appear on the scene and declare his love. This sequence of events seems a shade closer to a possible reality for me. Still, though, it's a romance. They have to get together in the end somehow!

There is a delightful bonus scene at the end where Miss Charming has bought Austenland and turned it into a crazy amusement park type attraction. Jane and Nobley walk around in normal clothes and enjoy it together. Each character has their own momentary epilogue in which to shine and the whole thing is wrapped up nicely. Nice touch, Hollywood.

All in all, the movie is much more comedic than the book. It still has the same basic premise - lonely woman goes looking for love and finds it unexpectedly. Charm and snark coexist happily here, making me a satisfied viewer.

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