I didn’t expect much from Austenland, an unabashedly concocted “chick-flick,” but still I was disappointed. There’s plenty of potential in young-adult novelist Shannon Hale’s rom-com premise, but the film adaptation by Jerusha Hess (half of the writing/directing team behind Napoleon Dynamite) is much too broad. The film intentionally strives to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure. Keri Russell, the lovely star of TV's Felicity and Adrienne Shelly's 2007 indie Waitress, plays Jane Hayes, a lovelorn thritysomething American who travels to a Jane Austen-themed resort to live out her longstanding Mr. Darcy fantasy. Jane Seymour plays Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the proprietor of the retreat, who employs local actors to play out Romantic era drawing room scenarios so guests can have an “authentic” Jane Austen experience. The best detail of the story are the various price levels offered to the guests: those who pay the top rates get treated like landed gentry while those who opt for less expensive packages are treated like women with no income or prospects. Unfortunately, all opportunities to explore themes of fantasy vs. reality, or nostalgia for a bygone era only understood through works literature, are squandered. Seymour and the rest of the supporting cast are not well utilized. The hilarious Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie, Legally Blonde) is overused to the point of annoyance and the talented Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) is wasted in an underwritten role.  Russell is an attractive and engaging lead, but her character is about as plain as a Jane can be.

Directed by Jerusha Hess
Produced by Stephenie Meyer and Gina Mingacci

Screenplay by Jerusha Hess and Shannon Hale
Based on the novel by Shannon Hale

With: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, James Callis, Ricky Whittle, and Jane Seymour

Cinematography: Larry Smith
Editing: Nick Fenton
Music: Ilan Eshkeri

Runtime: 97 min
Release Date: 19 September 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1