Austenland (PG-13)

Comedy 97 August 16, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
Since it's called Austenland, and since it's a romantic comedy, you probably expect it to open with "It's a truth universally acknowledged" and to wrap with one lovesick sap madly dashing after another, right up to an airport's departure gates, even though both presumably have cell phones. You wouldn't be that far off in those particulars, but as with all stories of new love, it's the life in the middle that counts, which Austenland nails with uncommon spirit and wit. Keri Russell plays the usual unmarried, just-turned-30 heroine who can’t get through three scenes without someone mentioning her biological clock. Her Jane elects to fly off to England for a week at pricey Austenland, a sort of B&B, Restoration cosplay camp, and act-along dinner theater. There, she and the other guests, all women, don sumptuous gowns, jaunt about the gardens, and volley epithets with actors playing chivalrous gents right out of Emma. At week’s end, there's to be a ball-- and a rash of impassioned proposals from the men paid to pair up with the guests. It is to the books what fishsticks are to fresh mahi mahi. Jane takes an immediate dislike to her Mr. Darcy stand-in (JJ Feild) and instead strikes up a flirtation with a dashing young man (Bret McKenzie) who toils in the stables-- and makes a new BFF, played by Jennifer Coolidge in wide-eyed horny toddler mode. Russell is strong, especially when Jane musters some resolve and takes charge of her Austen-camp role-playing in the third act. It's like watching sugar will itself into steel. To say more about the plot would be a disservice to the film's resonant, satisfying surprises.
Jerusha Hess Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, James Callis, Jane Seymour, Ricky Whittle Jerusha Hess Stephanie Meyer, Gina Mingacci Sony Pictures Classics

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