Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published November 22nd 2013
Looking for a real life Mr Darcy
Director: Jerusha Hess Cast: Kerri Russell, Bret McKenzie, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour
Jane Austen fans get a good-natured ribbing in this tepidly pleasant rom-com that attempts to transplant Austen-style predicaments into a contemporary setting via an Austen theme park. While it's fitfully amusing, as a romance it falls flat.
Georgia King, Keri Russell and Jennifer Coolidge play tourists awaiting their carriage to Austenland
Kerri Russell plays Jane Hayes, a rather pathetic spinster American whose obsession for all things Jane Austen, and Mr Darcy in particular, have completely detached her from the real world and the possibilities of true love. To the chagrin of her one close friend, she buys a ticket to the titular English holiday resort - a move that will either further fuel her fantasies or disillusion her to the point that she'll be forced to face reality.
Jane's first mistake is she buys the cheapest option of the package, which at once diminishes her options of a suitor at Austenland while setting her up as a stereotypical class underdog in true Austen tradition.
Coolidge, Russell and King frock up for some Regency era social intercourse
While in the stuffy drawing rooms of Austenland, much of the humour comes from Jennifer Coolidge, playing a variation on the boorish cougar she does so well. She flouts the rules of the game, constantly grabbing crotches and leaving no doubt she's out for instant gratification, showing little appreciation for the literary world she's been immersed in. Georgia King is also fun to watch. In contrast her character throws herself whole-heartedly into the game, revelling in the manners and customs of the times.
Jane is presented with a couple of romantic options, and anyone familiar with Austen's works will know which is the wise choice. Jane though, being an Austen heroine, needs to learn things the hard way.
Bret McKenzie and JJ Feild play duelling suitors, the humble stable-hand Martin and Mr Henry Nobley.
While Brett McKenzie as the rough but earnest Martin and JJ Feild as the smoulderingly sullen, Darcy-ish Henry both play their parts well, they are merely stock characters in an unconvincing story. It is, after all, pretty hard to swallow that the trajectory of an Austen novel can be quickly traversed during the week or so that this American tourist is on holiday. Apparently we will readily share Jane's belief that in this short window of time she will suddenly meet the love of her life and presumably immigration and marriage will ensue.
This lack of realism puts the film behind the dramatic eight ball, and without that essential spark of love in the air, there's a real sense of just watching the machinations of the plot being laid out in front of you.
The jokes and spirited performances ensure that this is a mirthful enough romp around the croquet fields and dining rooms of Georgian society, although It's possible that many a die-hard Austen fan will feel they're being laughed at more than actually being in on the joke.