Like the latest fad diet or cell phone, the search for love is constantly evolving. Singles can internet date, speed date, blind date, double date, virtual date and swing date. OK, I made that last one up, but it could be a thing. Suffice it to say the search for love propels us forward. That’s great, but what if forward isn’t the way to go?
Jane (Keri Russell) has had it with the twenty-first century. Her apartment is a shrine to Jane Austen and her love life is withering as real-life men pale in comparison to the fictional Mr. Darcy. At the end of her rope, Jane spends all her savings on the promise of a complete Jane Austen immersion experience. Austenland is an English estate that mimics the era, customs and costume of Pride and Prejudice. Run for profit by the oddly enterprising Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), Austenland promises a trip back in time with entertainment, a cast of characters and most importantly, romance.
Like most things in her real life, Jane’s visit fails to live up to her expectations. Only the delightfully bumbling Mrs. Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) can seem to keep Jane smiling. The handsome stable boy (Bret McKenzie), the laughably exotic sea captain (Ricky Whittle) and the brooding Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild) all woo Jane and play their parts with varying degrees of success, leaving Jane to wonder who, if anyone, isn’t pretending. She misjudges Nobley at first, finding him patronizing and dismissive, only later realizing he may not be the curmudgeon she first thought. Sound familiar?
The film is light and fun and amusing. In fact, my biggest criticism is that the movie doesn’t take the story seriously enough. It sweeps over Jane’s back story and rushes through her romance and any revelations her character may have had. It’s almost as if the director doesn’t want to give the audience too much time to think about what’s happening on screen for fear they will see the absurdity. Guess what? The absurdity is what makes the film charming. I wish the filmmakers had taken a moment to relish it. It’s a 6.