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‘Austenland’ is criminally underrated

5/5 Stars

With the recent release of season two of Netflix’s popular show “Bridgerton,” fans have been left craving romance from the regency era. Look no further, as “Austenland,” which is available on Hulu, is the romantic comedy for you. 

“Austenland” follows Jane Hayes, played by Keri Russell, a thirty-something-year-old woman living in the United States who is completely unsatisfied with her life — her love life in particular. Hayes is obsessed with “Pride and Prejudice,” so on a whim, she uses all of her life savings and schedules an immersive Regency-era experience at a theme park called Austenland and flies to England.

When Hayes arrives at Austenland, she’s attracted to the costumes and activities she gets to partake in. Throughout her time there, she gets to play croquet, practices clay shooting and even participates in a play written by the owner of Austenland, Mrs. Wattlesbrooke. However, the big event is the ball at the end of the guests’ stay, with a guaranteed proposal from one of the male cast members at the end.

Hayes can only afford the copper package, which is the most affordable plan a guest can be on. At the airport, she meets fellow guest Elizabeth Charming, played by Jennifer Coolidge, who is extravagant in the way only Coolidge can do.

There are male cast members who serve as characters the guests can interact with, and they are, of course, incredibly attractive. The balance between Regency-era and modernity is constantly tested, with incredibly tan servants working out while watching daytime television, but guests can’t use their cellphones. Quite possibly the most entertaining part of the movie is when Hayes is asked to play the piano, as a lady would be back in the day, but she only knows one song: “Hot in Herre.” 

At the large house they stay at, Hayes meets Mr. Henry Nobley, played by JJ Feild. Mr. Nobley is meant to be the Mr. Darcy of the trip, but he and Hayes butt heads almost from the beginning. It mirrors a similar argument between Mr. Darcy and Ms. Elizabeth Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice.” Mr. Nobley clearly doesn’t want to be there, but the spark between the two of them is there. However, Hayes begins to develop feelings and a friendship with Martin, a groundskeeper who also happens to deliver foals on the weekends, building the film’s love triangle.

However, the lines between fantasy and reality start to become blurred for Hayes. The other attractive male cast members assigned to the other guests are keeping the lines clearly drawn, but Hayes begins to develop feelings for both Nobley and Martin. She believes Nobley is just acting and her relationship with Martin is genuine. However, she and Nobley start to grow closer and somehow continue to be pushed together, just like in an Austen novel.

Hayes struggles with the idea of reality versus fiction, something her friend from back home hoped Austenland would help clear up. She is determined to find her Mr. Darcy, but will she be able to in the midst of shenanigans and scandal? And if she even meets somebody, how will she know it’s real?

I would give “Austenland” 5/5 stars. It has the makings of a classic romantic comedy you can watch over and over again. The romance is sweet, and the comedy is well executed. .

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