Non-sense and non-sensibility

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman, in possession of little fortune, must be in want of a husband.

That’s the premise of Austenland, a romantic comedy about Mr Darcy uber-fan, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell).

Jane , a single 30-something American, is obsessed with the 1995 BBC miniseries of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (certainly the definitive screen version of this novel, in my opinion). Jane is so in love with Austen, that her entire flat is decorated in the Regency-style of Austen’s time. She even has a life-size cardboard cut-out of Colin Firth (who played Mr Darcy in the miniseries).

After deciding she’s had enough of dating men who don’t quite measure up to Darcy, Jane takes her life-savings and goes in search of some romance at the Austenland theme resort in the English countryside. Here, tourists can star in their own fantasty version of an Austen novel. Handsome actors are paid to provide swooning females with a fictional “happy ending”.

The film is permeated by archetypes and caricatures. Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s mom in American Pie) co-stars as Elizabeth Charming, a vulgar, silly but kind-hearted woman who knows absolutely nothing about Austen. There is the rude, aloof, Darcy-like Henry Nobley (JJ Feild) and the handsome, friendly stable boy, Martin (Bret McKenzie), both of whom pique Jane’s interest. But, as Jane becomes entrenched in the world of Austen reality and fiction blur.

Austenland is a fluffy, candy floss romantic comedy that tastes like weak, milky Earl Grey.

Perhaps director, Jerusha Hess (who penned the off-beat and brilliant Napoleon Dynamite), wants to poke fun at British snootiness, or the growing American obsession with Austen.  But, the plot is obvious, trivial and superficial.

Serious Austen fans might be disappointed. Women looking for a bit of mindless fun with a predictable happy ending on the other hand, could be satisfied.

 

Director: Jerusha Hess

Cast: Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymor, JJ Feild

Rating: 2½ out of 5

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