Jane Austen (1775-1817) would have been horrified at this insipid, inane, twenty-first century disambiguation of her classic 1813 novel, “Pride and Prejudice”. Austen, like many brilliant women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, exercised her intellectual acuity through the written word; trapped in a male- manufactured bubble of hearth and home. From these confined maidens (Charlotte Bronte, George Sand, Mary Wollstonecraft) sprang some of the finest prose ever penned to page; their minds explored, exploded untold fantasies, dreams; with ink, these thoughts flowed from imagination to magnificent manuscripts, still palpating today.
What is so prescient and captivating in this contemporary age of “instant intimacy” is seduction through dialogue; “Elizabeth Bennet” and “Mr. Darcy” are destined from their first meeting in “Pride and Prejudice” to spend a lifetime bantering with pungent, titillating, endearing barbs; keen minds, boredom anathema, relishing forever the stimulation of conversation; the circuitous route from commencement to culmination, fascinating.
“Austenland” is a present day “escape oasis” outside of London; a theme park mimicking Austen’s stymied milieu; touted by travel agents as an illusionary vacation, where, for the right price, you may purchase a happy ending. Keri Russell is “Jane” a pathetic, besotted Austen lover; indulges her addiction, empties her savings; dawns a restrictive, ridiculous costume and becomes “Elizabeth Bennet”; precipitously, the inane turns to idiocy; Austen’s succinct, lacerating wit is bastardized, brutalized by a sophomoric script, shallow interpretations, ghastly predictability.
It is inconceivable that this film (based on the novel by Shannon Hale) was ever made; Austen admirers beware, this movie diminishes all that her vivid, wizardly intellect conceived.