Watching this comedy you can see what co-writer/director Jerusha Hess (first film as director by was a writer on Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre) was going for. She wanted to take what can be described as an obsessional devotion to English writer Jane Austen and poke some fun at those who go a little overboard. This was never meant to be a film for the masses. Hess was aiming at a particular sector of the movie going population. Those that appreciate silliness done in an intelligent way.
For generations now most of the English world has been in love with author Jane Austen. She died in 1817 and yet millions still read her books, belong to book clubs devoted to her novels and films are still being made based on her novels. Jane Austen is still the queen of romantic comedy. Austenland recreates an off-kilter Jane Austen like world for modern day audiences to immerse themselves into.
The aptly named thirty-something Jane Hayes (Keri Russell – from television’s The Americans) is obsessed with all things Jane Austen. From watching films based on her novels while on dates to memorizing parts of novels at a young age to even making her bedroom into an Austen museum she has it bad. As her love life is not going well because in her mind no man compares to Austen’s Mr. Darcy, Jane makes the decision to spend her entire life savings on a trip to Austenland.
Austenland is run by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour – Live and Let Die, Wedding Crashers) and is a (semi) authentic recreation of the world of Jane Austen. Mrs. Wattlesbrook has hired actors to provide the women coming to the Regency-era Austenland some gentlemen to create romantic liaisons with. Jane and her new friend Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge – American Pie, Legally Blonde) both dream of meeting Mr. Right, or in Jane’s case, Mr. Darcy.
The quirky awkward charm of the film is totally Jerusha Hess. That is, if you take into account her previous films. Despite the fact that it is not an original romantic comedy idea the cast and director still make it work by totally committing. Speaking of totally committing, how about that Jennifer Coolidge?!? The woman has no fear apparently. Whatever role she takes she jumps both feet into it. More often than not she is successful and makes whatever character she is portraying hilariously funny.
Campy silliness abounds with Keri Russell in the middle of it all playing her usual girl next door. Over the top and outrageous is the way to describe most of the humour in Austenland. In no way is this supposed to be believable. This is all just for entertainment value rather than creating reality. As a viewer you have to suspend your grasp on reality and almost become like another guest at Austenland.
-Previews of Sony Blu-ray Disc, In a World…, Inside Llewyn Davis, Blue Jasmine, I’m So Excited!, Pride and Prejudice
-Q+A With Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, JJ Field, Ricky Whittle and James Callis