Countless romantic comedies have looked to the novels of Jane Austen for inspiration, but you’d be hard pressed to find one so at odds with the author’s spirit than the coarse, slapdash and painfully witless Austenland.
The film’s heroine, Keri Russell’s meek thirtysomething singleton Jane, is an Austen obsessive (she even has a cutout of Colin Firth’s Darcy in her apartment) and she blows her life savings to take a holiday at an English theme park that promises total immersion in the novelist’s world.
Having opted for the budget stay, Jane gets assigned to play the role of ‘Jane Erstwhile, an orphan of no fortune’, mingling with fellow guests Jennifer Coolidge (‘Miss Elizabeth Charming’) and Georgia King (‘Lady Amelia Heartwright’) and with actors playing assorted toffs and servants.
Jane’s vacation proceeds in a series of broadly played, sketch-like episodes, during which she encounters two potential suitors – stable-hand Martin (played by Flight of the Conchords star Bret McKenzie) and the standoffish, Darcyesque Mr Henry Nobley (JJ Feild).
If Russell’s insipid heroine wasn’t such a drip, we might care which one she ends up with, but writer-director Jerusha Hess, adapting Shannon Hale’s novel, fails to make the story’s romantic intrigue remotely engaging.
Films as diverse as Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary prove you can update Jane Austen with sympathy and panache; Austenland only insults the author’s memory.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 97 mins. Director Jerusha Hess.
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