When Jane (Keri Russell) finds herself in her mid-30s and at a coital dead-end, she spends her life savings on a trip to a resort in the English countryside that promises guests an immersive Jane Austen-style experience. Run by the money mongering Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), “Austenland” provides Jane with more romantic intrigue than her beloved Pride and Prejudice.
Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) charms in his role as Jane’s love interest, and Russell’s portrayal of a gal with a nerdy literary fixation will remind viewers of the quirkiness we adored her for in Waitress. Yet her character is hardly revolutionary; the hefty chunk of her life she’s spent fantasizing about Mr. Darcy recalls the mooning vapidity of Twilight’s Bella Swan. Rather than acting as agents of their own sexuality, the women who arrive at Austenland behave as though they haven’t been laid since the 1800s. Georgia King (The New Normal) and Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, American Pie) play two such lovelorn guests, and raise their cleavage to theatrical heights in their supporting roles (King as a drama geek, and Coolidge as a rich and raunchy American).
I’m always game for a pop-infused spin on highbrow art, especially when done with humor. But don’t expect any innovation from this stale crumpet.