Keri Russell-Austenland-485
Photo by Giles Keyte - Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

On paper, the idea of Austenland looks promising: a socially frustrated young American quits her dead-end job, spends all her savings and travels to a British estate that’s a Jane Austen theme park, complete with handsome men who resemble Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. With winsome Keri Russell in the leading role, how can you go wrong?

Apparently the answer is: easily.

Everything about Austenland is heavy-handed, to put it mildly…even amateurish at times, beginning with the clumsy comedy relief of Jennifer Coolidge, as one of Russell’s fluttery fellow tourists, and Jane Seymour, as the archly unromantic proprietor of the theme park. I didn’t like the way it was cast or photographed.

To be fair and honest, this movie lost me early on, while my wife enjoyed it from start to finish, as did several other women who attended the same screening. This might reflect a gender bias, or perhaps I just prefer a subtler brand of humor. I don’t know if Shannon Hale’s novel had a lighter touch, or if director and co-writer Jerusha Hess took the material in a different direction. (The film was produced by another formidable female, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.)

If Austenland amuses its intended audience, so be it. It just didn’t work for me.