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Austenland

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Bret McKenzie and Keri Russell

It was such a strange experience leaving the theatre after this screening in La Jolla. I brought a female friend in her 60s. She’s been to at least 12 movies with me and has always liked them. I had only liked a handful of them. As the crowd was leaving and talking talking about how much they loved it, she leaned in and whispered, “I hated that!”

I laughed a handful of times, and felt the cast was charming enough to almost pull the film off. It’s just a shame that a movie doing satire on Jane Austen fans ended up becoming silly slapstick.

Keri Russell is always a charming presence on screen that you can root for. She was perfectly cast in Waitress and is good in this. We see a date of hers go terribly awry in the beginning. He punches a life-size cut out of Mr. Darcy as he stomps off.

It’s always strange when these gorgeous women have such impatient men they go on dates with in movies. In Morning Glory a guy got up from the table and left because Rachel McAdams took a phone call while on their date; because, yeah…we’d all walk out on a Keri Russell or Rachel McAdams for something as trivial as taking a work related call, or being a huge fan of a romance author. But I digress.

Russell decides to fly to England where there’s a place that recreates Jane Austen novels. It’s a premise that would’ve been great for a short film, or skit on Saturday Night Live.

Russell meets up with Jennifer Coolidge, who appears to be channeling Bette Midler with such a loud delivery of her lines.

Coolidge is always fun in Christopher Guest movies. Not as much fun as Stiffler’s mom in the American Pie films (she’s the one the term “milf” was created after). In this, she plays a rich woman who knows very little about Jane Austen (or even which accents and phrases to use). She has a few fun scenes, but generally, her character and the scenes she’s in often come off as amateurish.

Russell is disappointed to find that since she bought the cheapest package, her quarters aren’t nearly as nice as Coolidge’s. Yet just like an Austen novel, she ends up having two male suitors. One is the typical snooty Englishmen. The other is a stable boy and worker at Austenland. Bret McKenzie, a member of the hysterical comedy singing duo Flight of the Conchords, plays him. I was pleasantly surprised that he got a song in, too.

The film was penned by Jerusha Hess. I enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite, but hated Hess’ Nacho Libre. Never saw her Gentleman Broncos, but people either love it or hate it (most hated it). It starred the other Conchords member – Jemaine Clement.

Jane Seymour plays the madam of Austenland, and the film is the first produced by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer.

The whole thing grew on me as I was watching it, but it’s one of those movies where you end up telling your friends, “I’d wait to catch it on HBO.”

I’m guessing most men would give it 1 star out of 5. Most women would give it 4 stars out of 5.

I’m giving it 2 stars.

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