By Hannah Vincent
Word Count: 833
Summary: A review and discussion of the movie and the Regency loving Main Character
What is it about men who wear breeches, billowy white shirts, velvet waistcoats, and top hats? Is it the knee-high boots that make the ensemble or the way they tip their hat as a woman passes by? For Regency era-loving Jane Hayes in the film Austenland, it’s simply because the men are living in the ideal yesteryear of Jane Austen’s world. From a young age, Jane Hayes has been completely absorbed and fascinated by all things Austen. At first, her admiration appears to be a hobby but becomes an almost addictive pastime as she matures into adulthood.
Jane Hayes lives a quiet life working a desk job, enjoying the company of the occasional boyfriend who fails to live up to her expectations of a Regency gentleman. After one too many disappointments mixed with sheer frustration, Jane decides to pay a visit to Austenland, an immersive vacation destination she is sure will heal her wounded heart.
At first, Austenland lives up to Jane’s expectations…mostly. There is a snobby owner, Mrs Wattlesbrook, pretentious Lady Amelia Heartwright, and prideful Mr. Henry Nobley. These three characters seem to be the only thorn in Jane’s side at Austenland. She quickly forms a friendship with the other guest, Ms. Elizabeth Charming, Captain George East, and Colonel Andrews, while starting a romantic fling with Martin, the stable hand. All is right in Jane’s world as she lives her fantasy and enjoys the brief respite from modern society.
Due to her low “status” in Austenland, Jane is treated unjustly by Mrs. Wattlesbrook and snubbed by the other actors, as well. Her naturally timid and naïve nature almost force her to stay in her designated place, but Jane becomes fed up with the prejudice she’s receiving from others. Quickly taking charge of her story, Jane transforms herself into the ideal guest and woman of the early 19th century. She soon garners respect from the actors as she puts aside her shy nature and increased boredom for the role of an Austen woman.
Despite the fact that Jane’s ego is bruised from being the recipient of prejudice from the actors, she conveniently closes her eyes to the fact she treats Mr. Nobley with prejudice throughout the majority of the film. Yes, he may be a man of few words and dour expressions, but the words he chooses to speak are full of wisdom and honesty. Under the façade of his monotonous personality, Mr. Nobley harbors an equally wounded heart. Jane focuses solely on his outward mannerisms and passes judgement on surface impressions. The viewer cannot help but wonder why Jane chooses to focus on Mr. Nobley’s crusty exterior and not on his chivalrous displays, such as rescuing her from being stranded in a forest or genuine concern for her welfare after an assault.
As the film continues, secrets are spilled and identities uncovered (much like Mr. Nobley’s) to reveal true natures. Jane discerns that her “hobby” has become an obsession, trapping her inside a world that no longer exists. Although Austen fans wish for the Regency era to come around again, its time is over and done. While still an ardent lover of all things Austen, Jane comes to the conclusion that Austen’s books can provide a brief respite to another period, but she is meant to stay in the modern age.
(Spoiler alert) The 21st century can provide long lasting love just the same as the early 19th century, and Jane uncovers this truth when Mr. Nobley admits his love for her. Still sore over the staged romance with an actor from Austenland, Jane is hesitant to believe a kind, honorable, and honest man could be real. Mr. Nobley completely offers himself to her in hopes Jane will open her heart to him and let him love her. He admires her quirks, stubbornness, and innocence. Mr. Nobley, or Henry as it is revealed, pursues Jane after the stay at Austenland. Jane is doubtful at first, believing the scenario too good to be true. She says her fantasy is simply that – a fantasy. Nobley corrects her and professes she is his fantasy, quickly quieting all arguments from her. In that simple statement, he says reality is better than the pipe dream because it is real. As the credits roll, viewers’ hearts are satisfied with the classic ending of true love conquering all.
While happy endings are the ideal situation, oftentimes the path leading there is bumpy. Many times a fantasy is better than a reality and it can be tempting to live in a make-believe world, but life’s winding roads and experiences make us unique individuals. Having a grateful heart is what opens up the door to blessings. Austenland teaches the lesson of gratitude and shows us the folly of overly-swift judgments. Happiness and true love are possible in this world – we don’t need to live in a fantasy in order to see it all around us.