When you hear that there’s going to be a romantic comedy from the writer of the inherently weird Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, your mind automatically wanders into the potential oddness that is going to be on display. Unfortunately, writer/director Jerusha Hess brought very little of that freakiness to Austenland, and what we end up with is all too forgettable.
aving endured one too many bad relationships, Jane (Keri Russell) quits her job and spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland; a kind of submersive, interactive Jane Austen theme park where each customer is given the full Austen novel rollercoaster of meeting, falling into, then out of, then into love again with the perfectly suited gentleman. So Jane and fellow Austen fan Miss Elizabeth Charming (not her real name, played by Jennifer Coolidge) are introduced to the prissy Colonel Andrews (James Callis), the exotic Captain East (Ricky Whittle), the dour Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild) and the poor stable-boy Martin (Brett McKenzie). Over the next few days, we find that love is in the air, but is it fiction or real, and are they in love with these people, or just the people they're playing?
here is some fun and tension within the 'will they won’t they' relationships on display, but by following the Jane Austen Rulebook so fastidiously, there is very little room for originality. Yes, she may have been the inspiration for every rom-com you've ever seen, but to anyone not in the know, Austenland just comes across as an odd rip-off of Bridget Jones’ Diary and the likes. There was a massive opportunity here to be subversive, one that is sadly not utilized.
ussell is once again too adorable for words, and deserves to be a bigger star than she is right now, whereas there is a lot of laughs to be had at the over-acting by the men on show, not to mention Coolidge's absolute annihilation of the English language (which, to be fair, isn't a million miles away from her guest appearance in Friends).
here is just enough here to keep your attention for its running time, just don't go expecting to fall in love with it.
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