I’ve read Shannon Hale’s Austenland a few times in the past and found it to be an entertaining and lighthearted read, full of humor, fun, and likable characters. Recently, my sister and I had a great time watching the movie version, which came out back in 2013. Both the movie and the book focus on the story of Jane Hayes. In her early 30’s, Jane knows that part of the reason she is still single is because she is not-so-secretly yearning for her own Mr. Darcy. When Jane has the chance to go on a special vacation to a location that has all of its guests dress and act like they would have in the Regency era, Jane decides to get the whole Mr. Darcy business out of her system once and for all…
Like I said, it’s all in good fun. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the movie as well as the book – below are some of my thoughts on which of them told the story better… (note: there will be spoilers)
- Jane Hayes // Winner: Book – While the movie does a great job portraying Jane, the book focuses a lot of Jane’s internal dialogue and direction, and that’s hard to get to in a movie. Even though the book is in third person, we still spend a lot of time knowing what Jane is thinking and wrestling with. The actress who plays Jane in the movie, Kari Russell, does do a pretty fabulous job relaying a lot of those thoughts through Jane’s expressions and body language, but it’s pretty hard to beat having those thoughts written out in black and white.
- Miss Charming // Winner: Movie – Movie Miss Charming is so completely perfect in every way. Jennifer Coolidge nails her character, managing to make her obnoxious, ridiculous, and completely loyal and warmhearted at the same time.
Mr. Nobley // Winner: Toss-Up – I really like Nobley’s character in both the book and the movie. Honestly, the movie gets an edge, but I think it’s mostly because JJ Feild is heart-stopping handsome in this one, plus has the perfect voice. I shipped Jane and Nobley way more watching the movie than I did in the book.
- Martin // Winner: Movie – I think part of the reason that I liked the Jane/Nobley relationship better in the movie is because the movie didn’t work as hard to make Martin likable. We get some hints much earlier on that Martin may not be everything he is pretending to be. Also, the book leaves us a little ambiguous as to whether or not Martin really did like Jane on her own merits, so I couldn’t help but feel a smidge bad for him. Movie Martin is way easier to dislike in the end (but Bret McKenzie is the perfect hottie for the role!).
- Background Stuff // Winner: Movie – One of the super fun things about the movie was that we got to see behind-the-scenes with the people who were working at Austenland, which meant that we knew Nobley, Martin, and the other guys a little more. It added a fun level to the characters.
- Jane’s Mr. Darcy Obsession // Winner: Book – The movie just took it a bit over-the-top. Jane’s bedroom was completely unhealthy, and there is no way that her friends would have let her go so long without some kind of intervention. Book Jane’s character really just wanted the romance and commitment of a Mr. Darcy – Movie Jane literally wanted Mr. Darcy himself, and it was a little too weird.
- Jane’s Crazy Aunt // Winner: Book – Mainly because her crazy aunt isn’t even IN the movie! That was probably my biggest disappointment. In the book, Jane’s crazy aunt is the one who leaves Jane the trip to Austenland in her (the aunt’s) will. Even though the aunt only appears in the first chapter, I still thought she was a great character, and a perfect catalyst for Jane’s venture to England. In the movie, Jane just decides to go to Austenland on her own, and spends her life-savings to get there, all of which just added to the weird level of Darcy obsession.
- Ending/Epilogue // Winner: Movie – The ending of the movie was A+ perfect and I loved it. That like three minute ending was way better than the entirety of Midnight in Austenland. I loved the way that we got a chance to see Jane and Nobley in their “regular” clothes, we got to see what happened to Miss Charming (fabulous), and just everything about the way it ended made me happy inside.
So, in the end, I’m really not sure which I liked, which is unusual – I generally way, way prefer either the movie or the book. But in this case, I think that they both have a lot to offer. It may be because Hale helped write the screenplay, so I think that she had a lot of influence to make sure that the movie didn’t stray too far from her original story.
There were definitely parts of the movie that just went a little too far into the “completely weird” direction, which I think the book never quite did. But the casting for the movie was just completely perfect, and that, combined with a very satisfying ending, may mean that I ended up liking the movie just a little bit better…
Both are definitely recommended.