Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Trailer For 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Brings Two Comic Book Legends Together Watch: First Trailer For 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Brings Two Comic Book Legends Together Martin Scorsese's List Of 85 Must-See Films Martin Scorsese's List Of 85 Must-See Films The 10 Best & 5 Worst Cannes Film Festival Openers Ever The 10 Best & 5 Worst Cannes Film Festival Openers Ever The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: 'Austenland' Starring Keri Russell, Bret McKenzie & Jennifer Coolidge

Photo of Cory Everett By Cory Everett | @modage August 12, 2013 at 12:01PM

Jane Austen has provided as fertile a ground for adaptation as nearly any author in the last century. From her most beloved works (“Pride & Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility") to more modern interpretations (“Clueless,” “Bridget Jones's Diary”), her work has inspired countless filmmakers to try their hand at bringing her stories to life. Between romantic literature courses, reruns of the BBC production of “Pride & Prejudice” and pop culture riffs like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," new fans are still being made every day. In Sundance premiere “Austenland,” Keri Russell plays one such fan, Jane Hayes, a 30-something woman who has become so obsessed with finding a Mr. Darcy of her own, she’s inadvertently closed herself off to real relationships that fail to measure up with her fantasies.
1
Austenland Keri Russell Bret McKenzie Jennifer Coolidge

The following is a reprint of our review from the Sundance Film Festival. "Austenland" opens in theaters on Friday.

Jane Austen has provided as fertile a ground for adaptation as nearly any author in the last century. From her most beloved works (“Pride & Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility") to more modern interpretations (“Clueless,” “Bridget Jones's Diary”), her work has inspired countless filmmakers to try their hand at bringing her stories to life. Between romantic literature courses, reruns of the BBC production of “Pride & Prejudice” and pop culture riffs like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," new fans are still being made every day. In Sundance premiere “Austenland,” Keri Russell plays one such fan, Jane Hayes, a 30-something woman who has become so obsessed with finding a Mr. Darcy of her own, she’s inadvertently closed herself off to real relationships that fail to measure up with her fantasies. Her room is covered in Austen memorabilia with a particular fixation on Mr. Darcy of whom she has a life-size cardboard cutout. “I am single because the only good men are fictional,” she says hopelessly.

Not long after Jane strikes out with a potential beau, she finds the perfect getaway for herself: a trip to Austenland, a sort of theme park located at a manor in the English countryside that allows guests to roleplay the faux romance of their dream, complete with new British sounding monikers, corsets and actors filling out the various roles. So after an extremely brief setup, Jane is off to England where she meets fellow guests “Elizabeth Charming” (Jennifer Coolidge), a loutish American, and the bouncy but refined “Lady Amelia Hartwright” (Georgia King), who seems to have a much better handle on staying in character. At the estate she’s greeted by the cast of characters, including owner Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour) as well as her potential suitors: the giggly preening Colonel Andrews (James Callis), beefcake pirate Captain George East (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Darcy-ish Henry Nobley (J.J. Feild).

Austenland Keri Russell JJ Feild

After their arrival, the trio of women are courted night and day by these men, playing cards, going horseback riding and being generally entertained. But despite how much she’s dreamed of this, Jane has trouble fully giving into the roleplay and strikes up a friendship with the servant Martin (“Flight of the Conchords” star Bret McKenzie), who also drops character around her. After a few afternoons sneaking around it seems pretty clear that Jane is supposed to give up the fantasy (Mr. Darcy/Henry Nobley) and realize that real relationships are ultimately more satisfying when they don’t have to live up to an impossible expectation of romance. Russell is an actress who has always been a joy to watch onscreen, no matter how briefly she shows up (“Mission: Impossible 3” for example), but she’s definitely underutilized here.

Jane is just too underdeveloped and is forced to take a backseat through the first third of the film or so while Christopher Guest veteran Coolidge improvises up a storm. Coolidge’s one-liners usually land but her comedy chops tend to overshadow the rest of the cast. And not that a comedy should necessarily be held to a standard of realism, but it’s kind of preposterous that this entire operation is keeping its doors open with just three guests at a time for what seems like a week+ long stay. But regardless, it seems like another missed opportunity to make Austenland kind of a crappy place, instead it’s actually pretty great. The film’s biggest issue is that along the way it becomes impossible to track who’s pretending and who’s not.

Austenland Keri Russell Bret McKenzie

Nobley protests at the thought of participating in a play but it’s unclear if its really him who doesn’t want to act (which seems strange since his entire role is an actor) or if his character that doesn’t want to participate. Likewise Jane seems only to connect with Martin, telling him “I want something real” but a few short scenes later it appears her affections may lie elsewhere. Some of this gets sorted out by the time the third act rolls around but it’s still difficult to stay invested in the middle of the film when you’re not sure if Jane has real feelings for either of them.

The film is the directorial debut of Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote along with her husband Jared “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Nacho Libre” and “Gentlemen Broncos.” The filmmaker has said that after the very dude-centric trio of films she was looking for something with more of a female perspective and instantly connected with the novel by Shannon Hale’s with whom she co-wrote the screenplay. Hess’ directorial style isn’t nearly as fussy as her husband’s (despite an opening scene that fits very much into that universe) though it's just as playful. The film has some great comic performances (James Callis and Georgia King are probably the MVP’s) and the soundtrack is full of '80s soft rock gems like “Lady In Red,” “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Only You” (though it's never clear why exactly), but it doesn’t all come together. There's no doubt Austen fans will find things to admire, but like the protagonist, you can’t help but leave “Austenland” feeling a bit unfulfilled. [C]

This article is related to: Austenland, Jerusha Hess, Emmy The Great, Keri Russell, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, JJ Feild


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates