‘Austenland’ offers cheap laughs but a decent Keri Russell

James Callis, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie and Keri Russell try out old-timey weaponry in "Austenland." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
James Callis, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie and Keri Russell try out old-timey weaponry in “Austenland.”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘Austenland’
Director: Jerusha Hess
Stars: Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

Jane Austenheads are easy targets, which is probably what attracted filmmaker Jerusha Hess. Her previous work, directed by her husband Jared, has been “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Nacho Libre” and “Gentlemen Broncos,” films that take semi-loving potshots at subjects (Midwesterners, Mexican wrestlers, fantasy novelists) that provide cheap laughs. In “Austenland,” Keri Russell plays Jane, a dateless thirtysomething unhealthily in thrall to Fitzwilliam Darcy — or at least Colin Firth’s wet-shirted incarnation of him in the 1995 BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice.” She has a life-size cutout of Firth in her Austen-packed apartment, because of course she does.

When she hears of a resort in the English countryside that simulates the Austen experience, complete with tight corsets and furtive, contact-less courtship, she hops to it. There, she finds an undermining countess/owner (Jane Seymour) who pronounces “aficionado” the fancy way, a reliably disinterested Darcy type (JJ Feild) and a dreamy stable boy (Bret McKenzie) who’s prone to break the “no touching” policy.

What proceeds are simple jokes, in particular any of those including Jennifer Coolidge as a fellow patron whose vulgar routine goes from somewhat amusing to enervating then back and forth for the remainder of the film. There’s an obviously gay “suitor” (James Callis), who tries not to recoil at Coolidge’s lusty advances. What there aren’t are a lot of Austen-specific jokes.

It’s clear that Hess has read “Pride and Prejudice” — or at least seen one of the movies — as Jane winds up having very nearly the same reaction to Feild’s Darcy-esque actor: revulsion at his bad attitude, then slow thawing as he proves unexpectedly strapping. But Jane winds up too quickly souring on her trip for any real fun to be had. Almost immediately she grows weary of the refined chitchat and piano interludes, and nips off for dalliances with McKenzie’s smooth stableboy.

Somewhere in the film is a fairly savage satire about being defined and entrapped by our cultural intake. But so-so gags, repeated ad nauseum, rule the day. Only Russell escapes alive. Where everyone else is a broad caricature, she oozes real humanity. She starts as a stereotype of stunted adolescence, disappointed that modern life barely resembles two centuries hence, but soon reveals a more levelheaded persona — albeit one who still giggles uninhibitedly when forward men in tight attire work their way up her arm. Thanks to her, “Austenland” occasionally has a human pulse.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.