Director/ co-writer Jerusha Hess’ romcom romp AUSTENLAND utilizes breezy pop tunes from the eighties, nineties and aughts in the most delightful of manners. After a failed go at love in the modern world, PRIDE AND PREDJUDICE obsessed Jane Hayes (played by the always pitch-perfect Keri Russell) signs up for the trip of a lifetime to Austenland – a throwback resort catering to the author’s expansive fan base in the rolling English countryside. As a juxtaposition to the prim and proper landscape of the Regency era, and to augment our heroine’s journey), three decades worth of iconic American top forty hits blend seamlessly into comedic absurdity.
Though no details of an official soundtrack have been released just yet, I think it’s only a matter of time. With these infectious tunes and a fabulously fun film to back them up, how could they not?! In the meantime, we present our makeshift mix tape to get you through. Plus, I’ve gotten to the bottom of how Hess went about creating this specific sound.
When I asked Hess at the AUSTENLAND press conference about her musical selections, she explained,
“I just wanted to be in Jane’s head. She’s got this arrested development and she’s stuck in her little girl world. It’s super pink and really poppy – so that’s where those songs came from. Also I like the idea of it being all classical and old worldly and then…”
Russell finished her sentence.
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORD’s cutie/ Oscar winner Bret McKenzie, who plays Jane’s love interest at the resort/ stable boy Martin, exercises his pipes in a few key scenes – although not very well. Sounding like a tone-deaf crooner, Martin loves him some sad sack eighties ballads from Billy Ocean (which he plays along with the saxophone), Chris DeBurgh and Roxette. Hess said,
“And then you have Bret McKenzie’s character who’s obsessed with the easy listening music… it’s just a dumb joke.”
Russell applauds this decision.
“That was my favorite. Him full blast singing with a saxophone.”
“If you have a singer, you have to make them sing.”
Even though modern music is strictly verboten during guests stay at Austenland, Jane’s able to sneak in a very contemporary/ inappropriate song during talent night at the resort. And that song would be Nelly’s “Hot in Here.” Good gracious!
Also contributing to the sound of the film is composer Ilan Eshkeri (STARDUST, THE YOUNG VICTORIA) and singer Emmy the Great. Hess told me,
“My composer Ilan Eshkeri was like, ‘I know this girl. She’s got such a great sound.’ She’s a really great lyricist – really clever and quirky. She came on board and wrote these funny, little great poppy songs that were in the same vein. It just worked out perfectly.”
Emmy the Great spoke with Interview magazine back in January when the film premiered at Sundance where she told them her favorite song was the film’s theme simply because it wasn’t supposed to happen.
“That was just me being like, ‘Guys, last night I was up all night listening to one of Ilan’s themes, and I wrote this Weezer-like song. I just think we should have it on the soundtrack. It won’t be in the movie. It’s called “Austenland.”’ And they were like, ‘Why don’t we make it the theme tune?’ And when we saw the last scene, I was like, ‘Screw Weezer—let’s make this a J-Pop crazed, too much sugar, Disney princess kind of song.’ And it was so much fun. We were watching horrible J-Pop videos together. Not horrible—wonderful—like the best videos in the world. There was another song that didn’t make it in, “Martin’s Theme,” it’s like a power ballad and it’s him singing it to Jane. We didn’t find a place for it. But I’m going to leak it. It’s so funny.”
Take a listen to her original song, “Paper Forest”
Not only does Emmy the Great (who, fun fact, sings in an all-female Ash cover band called Gash) sing the very girlie theme song, she contributes a stellar cover of Yaz’s romantic classic “Only You.” Take a listen to the original below:
You can hear a snippet of Emmy the Great’s theme song in the film’s trailer below:
PRIDE or die!
AUSTENLAND opens in limited release on August 16 in New York and Los Angeles. For a list of when you can “travel” to Austenland, go here.