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Austenland - Review

Austenland

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THERE are some nice ideas contained within Jerusha Hess’ debut film Austenland but audiences may quickly tire of waiting to find them.

Keri Russell heads up a likeable cast and brings customary warmth and charm to proceedings but while undoubtedly amusing in places, Hess’ film also feels crass and painfully unfunny at others… and a little lazy.

The story centres around unlucky-in-love Jane Austen-lover Jane Hayes (Russell) as she decides to fulfil a lifelong fantasy and travels to England to participate in the ultimate Jane Austen experience at a Westworld-style theme park overseen by the strict Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour).

Once there, she quickly makes friends with loud American Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and then has to choose between the resident Mr Darcy, Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), and everyman farm-hand Martin (Bret McKenzie) – only one of whom has true feelings for her.

Hess, who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite, packs some nice ideas into the screenplay for Austenland but also feels caught between two minds as to whether the film should be straight-up absurd or a little sophisticated.

Hence, scenes between Russell and McKenzie work really well and lend the film some decent rom-com charm yet uncomfortably collide with more crass moments involving Coolidge’s awkward Elizabeth. Indeed, the actress herself appears to be on auto-pilot, content to trot out her more commonly known comedy schtick and thereby dragging the film down whenever she’s around.

Certain other characters also feel thinly sketched, while the film would rather poke fun at Austen and English eccentricity rather than embracing some of its finer, more subtler comedy conventions – or even tapping into the deftness of touch employed by Austen herself.

Alas, what could have been a fun and even clever comic romp turns into something tedious despite the presence of a really good twist that not all of you will see coming.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 97mins
UK Release Date: September 27, 2013