Austenland

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This comedy was pummelled by critics (only 30% on the Tomatometer) and was a box office dud. Yet both Mrs. Salad and I found it funny and clever all the way through; especially refreshing after a bunch of alleged comedies where the laughs were sparse.

Keri Russell plays Jane, a 30something single American woman obsessed with all things Austen. She has a lifesize cardboard cutout of Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy, and that's just one example of the Austen flotsam that clogs her apartment. Her obsession is doing damage to her own romantic prospects, but that doesn't seem to concern her overmuch. She espies an ad for "Austenland", an immersive role-playing environment in England, and quickly decides to blow her savings on a weeklong excursion.

Quickly things turn out to be not quite as imagined. Jane can only afford the Copper package, while the other attendees have splurged on the Platinum experience. Although part of the package is a make-believe romance with one of Austenland's fine character actors, her apparent assignee is moody and off-putting. (Hint: just like Mr. Darcy in the book.) She gets on much better with the stable keeper, who is (she's told) supposed to have only limited interaction with guests.

Performances are fine. Especially funny is Jennifer Coolidge as another attendee who's only got a hazy idea of what the whole Austen deal is about, but has a good time nevertheless, participating with what she imagines to be cheerful English idioms in what she imagines to be an English accent. Also: Bret McKenzie (from Flight of the Conchords) as the stable lad, James Callis (Dr Baltar in Battlestar Galactica) and Jane Seymour as Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the conniving proprietress of Austenland.

But it's really weird to see Keri Russell in a frothy, funny comedy, just when I'd gotten used to her as a ruthlessly murderous KGB spy in The Americans. She's a very good actress.