Austenland is about a woman (Keri Russell) who is obsessed with Jane Austen. She has had a hard time with love in the real world and has turned to the idealistic fictional man from novels as an escape to the point of obsession. She decides to drain her savings and go to Austenland, an estate in England which allows women to be immersed in the world of a Jane Austen novel. No modern technology is allowed, and every women gets a man of their own, an actor hired to help complete the fantasy. (In a PG sort of way.)
The film was directed by Jerusha Hess, who along with her husband Jared Hess, brought us Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and Gentlemen Broncos. While I have always loved this type of humor, it was never something that would appeal to people my parents age, or even someone 10 years older than me. What I love about this film however, is that while I was wheezing from laughing so hard, so were the many couples my parents age in the theater with me. There’s humor that’s completely upfront about itself, like Jennifer Coolidge loudly attempting to spout terrible british phrases, then there is subtle gold you only catch if you are really paying attention, like the gardener carrying around a wheel barrow full of fake animals. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie consistently as hilarious to me in a while.
If you’re an Austenite, this movie doesn’t disappoint either. The story line combines many elements of Jane Austen novels. There is also a lot of Austen humor, which you’d have to have seen the films or read the books to understand. The film perfectly balances making fun of the obsessions many people have about Victorian literature and idealistic men, while somehow managing to embrace and play to the romance in them that many women are drawn to.
Originality plus humor makes Austenland a summer must-see. I am already plotting to buy it when it comes out on DVD, and I might even pay the $14 to see it again next week…