Thanks to the film Austenland, which premiered at Sundance 2013, you can watch a timid young woman (Keri Russell) do just that. Russell plays Jane Hayes, a woman who finds herself in a boring life devoid of romance. All she has to remind herself of true love is her life-sized Mr. Darcy cardboard cut-out and her Pride and Prejudice-themed bedroom. The modern world just can’t seem to offer her what she longs for. So, when Jane comes across a promotion for an immersive theme park experience that promises romance and all things Jane Austen, Jane is willing to spend her life savings on it and a chance, she believes, to find what’s missing in her life.
The ladies at the park, including the sexually brash and audacious Miss Elizabeth Charming, played by Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, American Pie), interact with paid actors who are there to fulfill their romantic fantasies. The men seem to pair off with certain women and life at the park becomes confusing: Who is supposed to be with whom? What’s the official script behind the scenes? What exactly will Jane get for her money?
During her trip Jane meets a behind-the-scenes helper, Martin, played by Bret McKenzie (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Flight of the Concords). She finds herself enjoying her time with him, even though he isn’t one of the main players. At the same time, she reluctantly grows closer to the insufferable Mr. Henry Nobley, played by JJ Field (Northanger Abbey, Captain America: The First Avenger). Any Austen fan will recognize Mr. Nobley as, of course, the park’s very own Mr. Darcy.
Austenland is a bit silly, definitely over-the-top, and grounded firmly in situational humor. It has a traditional vibe, no envelope pushing here, but it manages to come off quite charming. Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite along with Jared Hess, steps out on her own as the writer and director of Austenland. The film also credits Shannon Hale as a screenwriter and author of the novel the film is based on. Austenland truly is made for Jane Austen fans, or fans of the romantic comedy genre. Anyone who loves Mr. Darcy will get a kick out of this movie, so don’t miss it if you, like Jane Hayes, are obsessed with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and the pond-diving scene. You know what I’m talking about.
Austenland was picked up by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions for worldwide distribution. Sony Pictures Classics will distribute the film domestically.