Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review - Austenland

Austenland (2013)
Starring Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Georgia King, Ricky Whittle, and Jane Seymour
Directed by Jerusha Hesh

My Keri Russell fandom isn't unknown to those who know me.  I crushed on her when she first appeared on the 1990s incarnation of the Mickey Mouse Club during my formative early teen years and my fondness for her continues to this day.  Hence, she's the reason I desired to check out Austenland, a comedy in which Russell plays Jane, a dowdy office worker who is obsessed with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  With her apartment decked out from ceiling-to-floor in Austen memorabilia, Jane jumps at the chance to spend a boatload of money to visit Austenland in England -- a immersive Victorian-era experience that places guests squarely in the Jane Austen era.  While there, she finds herself in her own love triangle with a somewhat lowly stable man/maintenance guy named Martin (Bret McKenzie) and the uppity, cantankerous, and more aristocratic Mr. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild).

Unfortunately, it's the love triangle aspect of Austenland that never lands quite right and ruins much of the good will and humor that the rest of the script and the actors bring.  The film squarely sets forth her relationship with Martin and does so in a rather lovely and charming manner, but I kept feeling like the third part of the triangle -- her dalliances with Mr. Nobley -- felt forced and not well thought out.  There was never any sense of connection between the characters of Jane and Mr. Nobley, but rather a sense that the script was just forcing them together for want of tension.

Ms. Russell is charming as usual with that nice, calm, and sweet Felicity vibe being present for this one.  I loved seeing Bret McKenzie onscreen -- I'm not sure I've seen him in anything since Flight of the Conchords (with the exception of his fantastic behind-the-scenes songwriting for the past two Muppets movies).  Jennifer Coolidge is playing her typical brash, larger-than-life, idiotic, ditz persona...but for some reason I've failed to tire of it from her.  She's just so darn good at it that I'm able to overlook the fact that nearly every single one of her characters is interchangeable from one movie to another.  Still, despite these actors' charms, the script does them in on this one and, despite my goodwill going into it, I left a little disappointed.  (However, should you watch, make sure you stick around through the credits for a nice Victorian-era music video set to Nelly's "Hot in Herre" which was hilarious to me for some reason.)

The RyMickey Rating:  C


  1. I went in expecting bad, and laughed the whole way through it. I even teetered on buying it.

    Despite the 20 theatres within 10 miles of where I live, it was only playing in a theatre 20+ miles away. Despite expecting bad, I had to show some Austen-pride, so I drove out to it, parked a league a way, and started trekking to theatre in August heat (is that when it came out?). Then I realized I left my wallet at home. I was more sad than I should have been, but--bonus--I found an emergency gas-money stash in car (Greg's, hahahaa), that I didn't hesitate to use all of. Driving 20 miles here takes nearly an hour, so there was no way I was going back to try again. All this may have colored my impression of film, but I honestly felt really happy after it ended for at least a few hours. And I'd watch it right now if I had it.

  2. I certainly didn't hate it, but I think I went in with somewhat higher expectations -- those expectations were certainly unwarranted, but I went in with them anyway.

    Two things: 1) I need to learn from this to keep an emergency stash of gas money in my car. 2) The hour to drive 20 miles makes me not interested at all to live in Texas...