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Poster art for AustenlandBased on the novel by Shannon Hale, Austenland stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes, a 30-something single woman with an unhealthy obsession with the Regency world of Jane Austen. In a last-ditch bid to get this out of her system, Jane blows all her savings on a trip to Austenland, a British theme park devoted to all things period, teaming up with the busty, raucous Miss Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) at the airport. Together they enter a world of needlepoint and corsetry, run with an iron rod by the stern Mrs. Wattlebrook (Jane Seymour) in an idyllic country mansion.

The beginning of the film makes great play of the American fascination with British culture and manners, and Coolidge’s artless vulgarity perfectly counterpoints Russell’s uptight elegance. And when they reach their destination, the film plays its masterstroke: unable to afford the ‘platinum’ service, Jane has to make do with the ‘copper’ edition. Just as Jane Austen’s fiction dealt with wealth and society, so Austenland comes with its restrictions and caste system, with Jane denied such supplementary pleasures as carriage rides and personal tutoring in the game of whist.

The film sometimes breaks its own rules – Mrs. Wattlebrook bans all modern gadgetry, but there seems to be plenty of it lying about – and the whole scenario is incredibly lavish seeing as there are only a handful of paying guests. But this is nit-picking, since Austenland is really about the female fantasy of love and romance, and the film has a fine time with the popular Austen formula, promising to end with a ball and lots of engagements, which, in a sense, it delivers. The language, too, is suitably eloquent at times, with Jane falling for earthy farmhand Matthew (Bret McKenzie) but finding her head turned by Mr. Nobley (J.J. Feild), a surly dandy in the Mr. Darcy mode.

– Damon Wise, The Guardian

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