Someone recently asked me to write a post about Austenland, and I was almost too happy to oblige. I'll take any opportunity I get to gush over JJ Feild.
Anyways, here are few things that I think Austenland is trying to tell us, but also things that the movie then contradicts.
- It has always seemed to me that the moral of Austenland's story is to not live in a fictional reality. (Little late for that advice, don't you think?)
I think it's pretty safe to say this is the overarching theme of the entire book/movie. And the irony is, Jane does find her Mr. Darcy in real life, the lovely Mr. Nobley played by the dashing JJ Feild. I'd be lying if I said I don't resonate with the character of Jane Hayes--even Shannon Hale, Austenland's author, sympathized with Jane's plight: "I want to be happy. I used to want Mr. Darcy, laugh at me if you want, or the idea of him. Someone who made me feel all the time like I felt when I watched those movies."
So, the moral is certainly not to waste your life pining for Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen (whichever way you swing--no judgement). The moral of Austenland is to go out and become the heroine of your own novel (AKA your own life). That is what Jane says after all, isn't it? She takes charge of her own story, and that's something we should all being doing. As Nora Ephron once said, "Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim."
Sure. Throughout Jane's stay at Austenland, her feelings were conflicting and confusing, and she could've retreated home as the victim whose money was wasted and who returned back to her period-themed apartment with nothing to show for her dip back into Austen's time. But she didn't. She chose to make the most of her experience. She got herself a new dress, a new do, and did something about her situation. At least she tried to fight against the reality of her dating life to find someone she could be happy with. That makes Jane a not only courageous, but fierce and formidable character. (Pardon me, I just finished binge watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. Neil Patrick Harris totally steals the show.)
- Jane Hayes forces her dates to watch Pride & Prejudice BBC.
Okay. To me this seems like a totally okay thing to do with a guy. (Sorry to any guys out there who think this is a particularly unusual and cruel punishment. I know, I know. All you do is love us and we torture you with Regency era costumes and conversation.) But when you think about it, it's really a fool-proof screening process to weed out the undesirables. Guys, I'm not saying you have to like or even enjoy the movie/mini-series. But if you want to keep seeing this clearly amazing girl (because hello, she likes Jane Austen and, more importantly, you), you need to take an interest in her interests. In short? Pride & Prejudice stays.
- Jane's best friend tells her not to spend all her money on an "Austen experience," because she'll come back to nothing except an empty bank account.
I am all for rational friends. I aspire to be one myself, but sometimes sharing the worst case scenario to frighten someone out of a decision isn't always the best course of action. Or course, I could argue both sides. On the one hand, Jane was spending almost all of her savings to go to Austenland and partake in--yes--an Austen experience, which may seem a little Crazy for Coco Puffs to outsiders.
But look at Jane's life at that point. She works in a little cubicle surrounded by "I HEART DARCY" all day. She lives in an apartment with a cardboard cut-out of Colin Firth. And it's clear the surrounding dating pool is pretty limited. Eventually, Jane's friend comes around, because she realizes the best thing for Jane is to just get it all out of her system. Until Jane fulfills her fantasy, she'll never be able to be happy living in her reality. The two just needed to collide for everything to fall into place.
- The fantasy can never live up to the reality.
One of my favorite parts of Austenland is the ending, mostly because we get to see a glimpse of Jane and Henry's relationship after the big romantic declaration of love. In the book, Henry follows Jane onto her plane home and leaves to start a new life with her. In the movie, Henry returns her sketchbook and explains that he was never acting; in fact, he confesses his true profession--a History professor. Hot. (They couldn't have picked a better profession for the film version of Henry Nobley. So much better than him being an actor.)
So few movies show us what happens after the big moment, where the music swells and the couple we've watched miss each other the entire movie finally kisses and all is right with the world. I love that Austenland shows us that good things do come to those who wait--as cliché as it is to say.
There's a lot we can learn from a character like Jane who knows what she wants and goes for it. If there was a real-life Austenland, I'd absolutely be there. (Okay, and I would totally try to work there, too.) And though I realize it's unrealistic for me to pine for that day, I can still always live vicariously through Jane Hayes and her adventures in Austenland--much like she did through P&P. (I think we might've just come full circle, don't you?)