Overexposed material is fresh and fun in Austenland, an unlikely take on Jane Austen lore that sends Keri Russell to a sort of Regency Westworld, acting out romantic fantasies with fellow vacationing Brit-lit addicts. Funny, reasonably romantic and wholly commercial, Jerusha Hess’s debut should hold fans over until someone musters the nerve to do another straight-on remake of Pride and Prejudice.
Russell plays Jane Hayes, a socially awkward Austenmaniac whose sad little spinster pad is stuffed with teapots and tokens of love for Mr. Darcy. She sells her car to travel to Austenland, an English theme resort whose stuffy doyenne (Jane Seymour) promises every visitor a Persuasion-worthy romance with an actor on staff.
Some of those actors play their parts more convincingly than others — which is only fair, since some guests fall far short of PhD-level fandom: A wealthy American (Jennifer Coolidge) has never even read the books; she’s just here because she thinks she’d look great in “those wench dresses.” Producers get their money’s worth from Coolidge, who for the first half hour can’t open her mouth without bringing down the house. When she bellows “right-o” in a desperate attempt at an English accent, the final vowel becomes multiple syllables, something the word “diphthong” hardly begins to describe. (Not that the actress has to speak to steal a scene, as evinced in a hilarious needlepoint gag.) Continue reading Austenland: Sundance Review