Austenland is a 2013 American romantic comedy film, directed by Jerusha Hess. Based on the same-titled 2007 novel by Shannon Hale and produced by author Stephenie Meyer, it stars Keri Russell as a single thirtysomething obsessed with Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, who travels to a British resort called Austenland, in which the Austen era is re-created. JJ Feild, Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie and Jennifer Coolidge co-star.
Austenland was filmed in the summer of 2011 at West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire.
The film was premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013, and its distribution rights were bought by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions soon thereafter for US$4 million.
Austenland is a novel by Shannon Hale, published on May 9, 2007 by Bloomsbury. A film based on the novel was released in 2013.
Austenland tells the story of 30-something Jane Hayes, an average New York woman who secretly has an unhealthy obsession with Mr. Darcy from the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But after Jane accidentally reveals her secret to a great aunt, who shortly after dies, Jane gets the opportunity of a life time. In her great aunt's will, Jane's great aunt leaves Jane a trip to a Jane Austen-themed getaway destination where Jane hopes to meet her own real life Mr. Darcy.
While at "Austenland," Jane is plagued with self- doubt about pretending to be a woman from the Jane Austen era. However, along the journey Jane makes new friends and finds a new romantic interest.
The novel was adapted into a film scripted by Hale and Jerusha Hess. The cast includes Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King and Jane Seymour. Stephenie Meyer produced the film.
Hollywood banks on Jane Austen film to discover what women really want
The rom com Austenland is made by women for women – and the industry hopes it will herald a wave of box-office hits
Rory Carroll in Los Angeles
The Observer, Saturday 10 August 2013 / http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/aug/10/austen-film-comedy-shuns-male-audience
"One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other," sighed Jane Austen's heroine Emma. It is a lament that has resonated ever since. Entire industries – psychology, counselling, dating sites – have tried to bridge the gap. But what appeals to the opposite sex, it seems, remains a mystery.
This has long frustrated Hollywood. Directors have been hired and fired, scripts tweaked, audiences tested and endings reshot in search of a movie formula that appeals to men and women. Now comes a movie that says it is strictly a film by women, about women, for women. Men can take a hike.
"I have never in my experience come across a premiere that was women-only," said Tatiana Siegel, a film reporter with The Hollywood Reporter. "They're basically saying we don't really care if men don't see this movie. They're not even bothering to throw a bone to them."
The film, appropriately enough, is Austenland, a romantic comedy set in a fictional English theme park which recreates the writer's Regency world, replete with bonnets, carriage rides, whist and needlepoint. Based on the 2007 novel by Shannon Hale, the film stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes, a thirty-something American singleton who blows her savings to cross the Atlantic and stay at a plush country estate where she can channel her inner Austen and, perhaps, find a Darcyesque Mr Right.
The director, Jerusha Hess, made her name co-directing Napoleon Dynamite, and the producer, Stephenie Meyer, made her name and immense fortune writing the Twilight saga books. Sony Pictures Classics (SPC), the art-house division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, snapped up Austenland for a reported $4m at the Sundance festival. It premiered in Los Angeles and New York last week and is due to start a limited release in the US on .
Reviews by the website Rotten Tomatoes and the Guardian each gave it three stars out of five. "A chick flick extravaganza," declared the showbusiness news site Deadline.com. Chick flicks, however, seldom if ever go out of their way to alienate men. They throw in a subplot, or a man's man actor such as Gerard Butler, so boyfriends and husbands will accompany their partners to the film.
Not Austenland. Advance screenings and premieres were for women only. "It's not like we're going to have guards at the door throwing men out," SPC's co-president, Tom Bernard, told The Hollywood Reporter. "But I think everyone will get the message based on the invitations." The move was prompted by the response at Sundance, he said. Women loved it, male critics were vicious: "We just said, 'Fine, it's not for you. Don't see it. Can't come'."
The gender apartheid is based on the calculation – the hope – that the film will thrive at the box office without men. A new genre of women's films is creeping into the zeitgeist, said Bernard, and Hollywood can smell the money. Austenland is following in the footsteps of Bridesmaids, The Help, The Blind Side and The Heat, which earned big profits showcasing strong female characters, and taking things a step further by explicitly targeting just one gender. "This is a movie written by a woman, directed by a woman, based on a book by a woman, produced by a woman and starring a woman," said Siegel. "It's a real female-driven product. They really knew who their audience was. They were prepared to put all their eggs into that basket."
With a modest outlay of $4m, the makers do not need millions of bums on seats to make a profit, she said. "It's not The Avengers," she added. "If [enough] women show up they'll be in great shape. If this is a small breakout hit, it will grease the wheels for other campaigns to cater to exclusive audiences." In which case, Hollywood may no longer fret about half the world not understanding the pleasures of the other.
Not all welcome the prospect, however. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film, challenged the notion that men do not want to see films about women: "It makes no sense."
Marketing a film as women-only was a self-fulfilling prophecy which bolstered the idea of women comprising a niche market even though they accounted last year for 50% of US filmgoers and 52% of revenue, said Lauzen: "It reflects a world view that is very myopic."
Hit or not, Austenland does not signify female progress in Hollywood. "When we see a high-profile success like Bridesmaids or [Oscar-winning director] Kathryn Bigelow, our impulse is to say, gee, everything must be OK. But it's not."
Hype about the "Bridesmaids effect" or the "Bigelow effect" auguring breakthroughs for women in Hollywood proved hollow. According to Celluloid Ceiling, a long-running study of female employment trends in the industry, only 11% of the characters in last year's top 100 grossing films were female. A decade ago the figure was 16%.
Only 9% of directors of last year's top 250 grossing films were women, the same proportion as in 1998. The figure for other positions behind the camera, such as executives, writers and editors, rose to 18%.
Lauzen, a film professor at San Diego state university, called the numbers shockingly low: "The film industry is quite resistant to change. It's easy to be misled by a few high-profile cases and to assume that women have achieved some level of equality. That's why it's so important to count the number of female characters and women working behind the camera."
The showbusiness magazine Variety did not boost Austenland's feminist credentials by noting it was due to open in a mid-August slot that is typically reserved for chick flicks such as The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia and Eat Pray Love: "Call it the kitchen and bitchin' weekend."
Meyer, who took a break from writing to produce Austenland, acknowledged that Hollywood was proving slothful in making female-driven films, despite the success of Bridesmaids and the Twilight saga. "Change takes time," she told Yahoo! "Though it's slow, it's exciting to be able to watch that change happening, and especially to be a part of it."
wycombe park estate