When it comes to quirky filmmaking, no one does it better than Wes Anderson. But that doesn’t seem to stop Jared and Jerusha Hess from trying. Try as they might, they’ve given us plenty of laughs along the way with Jared typically in the director’s chair. From their huge splash at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival with Napoleon Dynamite, through their Hollywood debut Nacho Libre, to their last minor (but still hilarious) outing, Gentlemen Broncos, they may have only made three films prior to this year’s festival offering, Austenland, but they stayed true to their unique vision. With Austenland, Jerusha adapted the novel by Shannon Hale (who co-writes), and seems to have bigger fish to fry — namely, girls of the rom-com persuasion.
Jane (Keri Russell) works day to day at a job she hates where she’s harassed by an unrequited horndog, and keeps a low profile on the dating scene thanks to her obsession with all things Jane Austen. One day she finally decides she’s had enough and takes off on a vacation to Austenland, a Jane Austen-themed resort, against her best friend’s wishes. Here she’s greeted by the owner of Austenland, the chastising Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), after meeting fellow vacationer Elizabeth (Jennifer Coolidge) at the airport.
Everyone who visits Austenland is given a Jane Austen-style backstory. Seeing how Jane opted for the cheaper vacation plans, she is relegated to being an orphan of misfortune and sent off to the servants’ wing while Elizabeth is deemed Miss Charming. Part of the package includes a courtship with their very own Mister Darcy. These come in the forms of the scowly, downtalking Mr. Henry Nobley (JJ Field), the possibly gay Colonel Andrews (James Callis), and the swashbuckling Captain George East (Ricky Whittle). Everything winds up playing tried and true to Pride and Prejudice with Jane eventually having to decide between Henry and Martin (Bret McKenzie), who oversees the lands.