Austenland: movie review
Jane (Keri Russell), a lifelong Pride and Prejudice fan, travels to a Jane Austen–themed English estate that guarantees period authenticity. This immersive vacation spot also promises a chaste, quasi-scripted romance with one of its actor-portrayed archetypes: a beardstrapped swashbuckler, a fey colonel (scene stealer James Callis) or the brooding, Darcy-ish Mister Nobly (JJ Feild). Disappointed by the resort’s artifice and materialism, Jane leaves these men to her vulgarian companions (Jennifer Coolidge and Georgia King) and instead goes after a flirty stable boy (Flight of the Conchords's Bret McKenzie, an adorkable peach).
When filmmaker Jerusha Hess follows Austen’s lead and treats her characters with a distant, knowing smile, she hits her rom-com marks and reality-versus-artifice themes with a satisfying squee: Throwaway quips are enhanced by timely cutaways; visual jokes—a propped-up pheasant, a litany of crinkle-faced reaction shots—land before they can wear out their welcome. But the Napoleon Dynamite cowriter-turned-director should have applied her editorial eye more consistently; Coolidge and King especially are allowed to wander into mugging far too often and for far too long. By the time we get to a painful play-within-the-cosplay-within-the-film scripted by Jane Seymour’s grande dame, a truth becomes universally acknowledged: Actors “acting badly” is rarely funny.