19 January 2013 | baho2
Great Fun. Remarkable Directorial Debut.
I saw this Austenland premiere at Sundance yesterday and I was thoroughly entertained. While not a completely original romcom premise, there is enough that is fresh in the storyline to keep you engaged, and at one point even with a whodunit flair.
Director Jerusha Hess (co-writer of Napoleon Dynamite) has a really remarkable debut. The movie is smart, funny and paces nicely. Keri Russell is at her girl-next-door best, but Jennifer Coolidge feels like she has been cut loose to reveal her outrageous, campy silliness in all its splendor, and Brett McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords fame) is surprisingly believable and impossible not to like as mostly a straight man. I expect this performance will catapult McKenzie's acting career. Other cast members, including J.J. Field and Jane Seymour, are solid.
Most of the cast was at the premiere and came on stage for the Q&A. Now many casts at Sundance say they enjoyed making the movie, but you could tell there was something different with this group. They sounded like the REALLY HAD FUN. McKenzie was hilarious live (something few actors are) and I only wish Coolidge had been there. Their enthusiasm was certainly buoyed by just having seen the movie for the first time and I'm sure being surprised by how well it turned out. But also, quite a credit to Hess to create an environment where good spirits flow. The positive energy definitely found its way to the screen.
I had the good fortune to run into Jerusha Hess in the parking lot afterward. She seems like a very genuine and engaging woman. I expect she will be highly sought-after from here out. A new Nora Ephron. In fact, there was something about this movie that reminded me a little of Mixed Nuts.