Austenland Review - Vique Rojas Flick Chick

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Austenland:  Calling all romance nerds!

I am a huge Jane Austen fan.  Now to my shameful secret:  I have never read a single Jane Austen novel.  (Hang head in extreme shame!)  So how in the world can I call myself a fan?  I have seen every film adaptation for screens big and small that have been made of her works.  Some I have seen multiple times.  And much like the lead character in “Austenland”, the PBS version of “Pride and Prejudice” is my favorite.

Keri Russell is adorable as Austen-stuck Jane Hayes, the fan who sacrifices everything to splurge on an outrageously expensive nerd camp called “Austenland”.  Here women can live out their wildest Jane Austen fantasies at a romantic English country estate.  From Regency era couture to fawning male attention, no detail has been missed by “Austenland’s” proprietress Mrs. Wattlesbrook.

The premise alone is fertile ground for laughs but the comedic situations go into overdrive when Russell’s character can only afford to attend “Austenland” on the ‘budget’ package.  As if that weren’t bad enough, she is paired with another vacationer on the ultimate experience where no expense has been spared.

At some point the audience is allowed to peek in on the backstage lives of the actors and things get almost surreal.  But what fun!

The scenery and costumes are lush and everything you would expect in a Jane Austen dramatization.  The characters are larger than life and the big cast does a remarkable job.  Russell goes from a love struck, wide-eyed romantic to exasperation to somber realization with all the feistiness of a Jane Austen heroine.  Jane Seymour as uptight and iron-fisted Mrs. Wattlesbrook is hysterical in her rigidness. 

James Callis, Bret McKenzie and JJ Field as the hired help provide lots of eye candy and testosterone fueled rivalry.  Delish!  But stealing every scene with over the top everything is Jennifer Coolidge as Russell’s rich and clueless fellow vacationer.  As Miss Elizabeth Charming, she is a never ending fountain of funny.

Much credit has to go to first time director Jerusha Hess, the female half of the husband and wife team behind “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre”.  Her wacky sensibilities are a perfect match for this strange girl’s club.

One of the things I read about Ms. Austen was that she liked to give her characters a bit of trouble but romantic happiness in the end.  I think she would be absolutely delighted with “Austenland” as a comical homage to her romantic style and the millions of women who have adored her work over the years.  My one complaint is that now I want to go to a real “Austenland” and I guarantee you will, too.  But I guess this fan will have to settle for watching “Austenland” again and again!

“Austenland” romances 4 Red Vines for being a fantastic romantic romp

A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way affects my unbiased review.