Somewhere in literary afterlife, dear reader, Jane Austen has just rolled over and reached for her musket.
Based on co-writer Shannon Hale’s bestseller, Austenland follows American singleton Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a woman obsessed with Pride and Prejudice’s brooding Mr. Darcy who buys an English Austen-themed vacation package at a country estate, where lonely women in empire-waisted gowns are courted by handsome actors in period costume.
There’s potential for a smart satire of the Janeite cult here, but writer-director Jerusha Hess (she co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite with her husband, Jared) has taken an Adam Sandler approach to Austen’s universe: The result might be called Dense and Densibility.
Of course, the suggestible Jane is drawn to the surly Mr. Nobley (J.J. Feild), while enjoying the attention of the groom and chauffeur, Martin (Bret McKenzie), whom she somehow fails to see as another hired player.
Fellow guest Elizabeth (Jennifer Coolidge, as a wealthy dumb sexpot) attempts to ravish her designated partner, a fey colonel who is terrified of her vast cleavage. A third guest, a shrill Brit dubbed Lady Amelia (Georgia King) is enthralled by a faux Jamaican pirate with spring-loaded pectorals.
The acting throughout falls into two registers; pantomime mugging for most of the cast, while the romantic leads, Russell and Feild, look so ill at ease that you pity them.