Friday, September 20, 2013


“Austenland” is a romantic comedy written (with Shannon Hale) and directed by Jerusha Hess, one of the brilliant writers behind such comedy classics as “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre”. The story focuses on 30-something Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), who is in love with all things Jane Austen. When her last romantic relationship turns sour, in large part due to her Mr. Darcy obsession, she sets out to make her dreams a reality and, much to the dismay of her best friend, decides to spend her savings on a trip to Austenland, an immersive vacation resort in merry old England where guests step directly into the pages of Ms. Austen’s novel, complete with a beautiful manor, breathtaking gardens, opulent sitting rooms, fox hunts, afternoon embroidery and gallant suitors loyally portrayed by a varied cast of actors. There she befriends Ms. Charming (brilliantly portrayed by Jennifer Coolidge), a wealthy bachelorette there to fulfill some sexual dreams of her own. Unfortunately, Jane’s savings could only buy her the copper package, so she has to make do with a room in the servant’s quarters and a positively hideous array of governess-type gowns which transform her into Ms. Erstwhile during her stay. Of course, Austenland wouldn’t be complete without its resident Mr. Darcy, or in this case Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), the gorgeous yet aloof romantic hero capable of capturing any girl’s heart. Even the best laid plans go awry when Jane makes an instant connection with Martin (Bret McKenzie), a young footman, and gets a little more than she bargained for during her romantic adventure.

Where do I start? I loved this movie! For me, it hit all the right notes. It was sweet, funny, and most importantly romantic; the kind of deep sigh, silly grin on your face for the rest of the day kind of romantic. Keri Russell was perfect in her role. She portrayed an almost childlike hopefulness which was engaging. Jennifer Coolidge was an absolute scene stealer. Her character’s bawdy, outrageous and, at most time, inappropriate comments kept me in stitches. Last, but not least, JJ Feild was perfect as Mr. Nobley; at times aloof, annoying, charming, and vulnerable. Oh, and lest I forget, dreamy to look at too.

Granted this is not Masterpiece Theater or like any of the other countless movies which have been made to reverently bring to life Ms. Austen’s works, but I don’t think this was meant to be any of those things, a fact most critics seem to ignore. It’s a silly romantic romp meant to inspire giggles, smiles and guffaws, and of course those dreamy sighs I mentioned, as you take in this sweet confection and let yourself dream of a happily ever after of your own, with your own Mr. Darcy.