Movie Review: 'Austenland' -- 3 stars
Directed by Jerusha Hess
Starring Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie
Playing at Lincoln Square and Angelika
High-concept movies are a dangerous proposition. If the conceit fails, the movie can’t recover, regardless of the cast, director or screenplay.
“Disneyland meets Jane Austen” is as high-concept as it gets. Fortunately, it’s a pretty promising idea and the movie formed from that pitch is filled with charm.
Keri Russell stars as an Austen fanatic, appropriately named Jane, who signs up for an all-immersive Austen experience on a British estate. There, under the stern eye of Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), Jane and fellow American Elizabeth (Jennifer Coolidge) get to live out their ultimate fantasy, complete with beautiful costumes and dashing gentlemen.
Jane has a life-changing experience at Austenland as she falls for the “outcast” stable boy (Bret McKenzie) and is simultaneously romanced by Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), her Mr. Darcy.
The movie is shot with the scope of a period piece. At the same time, director Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote the offbeat “Napoleon Dynamite,” never lets you forget that this is a ruse; the movie garners considerable dramatic interest from the clash between Jane’s genuine emotions and the reality of the situation. It hurts to see Jane hurt because Russell has so perfected the likable, misfit everywoman. But the movie is so filled with uniquely incongruous details that it’s hard to stop watching.