In Austenland, Keri Russell has had her life essentially ruled by the world of Jane Austen. Since high school, shown in a hilarious flashback, Russell’s Jane (ironic name, no?) has adored and treasured every word in the iconic British author’s books. As seen in the Austenland trailer, she even has a life size cardboard cutout of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
Although her best friend since high school is supportive, she finds Jane’s bedroom -- which is decked out in all things Austen -- a bit much. She honestly believes her BFF needs to lose a bit of the Austen love and try to live in the now. When Jane hears of an establishment in England that allows tourists to live as a Jane Austen heroine for a week, she leaps at the chance. Her friend actually doesn’t try to talk her out of it, thinking the week living as one would in the 1800's could finally break the spell the UK literary icon has over her.
Russell’s Jane heads to the UK, yes, in full garb of the era. Waiting for their “carriage” at the London airport, she meets Jennifer Coolidge’s Miss Elizabeth Charming (that’s her Austenland name). Coolidge immediately establishes that she will be the scene stealer in this film, as she honestly is every time out. Watching her trying to speak with a British accent using colloquialisms of the day is utter hilarity.
Austenland is meant to be a comedy and uses Coolidge wisely. But, it also has a stellar star in Russell. She is game to lose herself in the role of a woman longing for another time, who simply is -- if she’s being honest with herself -- just lost in her own skin and it has nothing to do with era.
Once at Austenland, there are all sorts of characters that entertain. Jane Seymour has a ball portraying the woman who runs the facility who has a passion for Austen, but is more likely a capitalist at heart more than an Austen-ite. And then there’s the man who is supposed to be the Mr. Darcy of “Camp Austen.” J.J. Feild is Mr. Henry Nobley. He’s an actor who would rather be anywhere but in Austenland. But, he nails the Darcy characteristics impeccably.
But the star of Austenland has to be Flight of the Concords veteran and Oscar-winning songwriter for The Muppets, Bret McKenzie. His stable boy is the one who Jane finds herself drawn to. Wait! She’s supposed to be there to find her Mr. Darcy… after all, Seymour’s character has guaranteed her guests will find love by the time of the huge ball that closes out their week of Austen enchantment.
Our Austenland review finds that the film is funny, charming, but mostly geared towards fans who themselves would like to visit an Austenland should it exist. There are a lot of inside jokes geared towards the pages of the famed author and fans most likely are the only ones who will get them.
It’s a fun journey through time and the pages of a great writer, but in the end, only those who treasure the famed author’s prose will treasure it. Then again, that is exactly what director Jerusha Hess most likely had in mind.