Let's just get this out of the way first: I love the works of Jane Austen. I love the books, I love many of the adaptations (period and modern). I love the characters. I love long, rambling discussions of the books and the stories and the adaptations and the characters and whether (and what kind of) relevance Jane Austen has in the modern day. If I had my academic life to do over again (which, thank god, I do not), I might choose a different route, and perhaps devote my studies to an examination of the modern fascination with Austen.
And yet. I do not automatically love all things Austen. There's a lot of shitty Austen-inspired crap out there. The case in point being today’s two films.
Austenland, last year’s indie take on Jane Austen, is about an Austen superfan (actually, specifically, a Darcy superfan) who blows her life’s savings on what’s essentially a LARP vacation... and discovers how Austen really applies to real life. The Jane Austen Book Club is about a group of friends who decide to read all six Austen novels together… and discover how Austen applies to their real lives. Although both are (at least, on paper) reasonable efforts to look at how Austen actually translates to modern life, neither achieves much. The problem with Austenland is that it doesn’t trust Austen enough. The problem with The Jane Austen Book Club is that it trusts Austen too much. (Spoilers)