Based on Shannon Hale's book by the same name, "Austenland" casts Russell as Jane, a contemporary American woman so obsessed with Jane Austen's classic romance novel "Pride & Prejudice,"and its dashing hero Mr. Darcy, she spends her life savings on a three-week trip to an English estate that recreates the book's 19th century setting -- complete with servants and chaperones, as well as handsome suitors to woo guests. Of course, once Jane is there, she feels ridiculous as she realizes the manufactured experience doesn't quite live up to the fantasy she has been entertaining most of her life.
As she starts to develop feelings for two men -- played by JJ Feild and Bret McKenzie -- she wonders about the blurred line between fiction and reality.
"I think this is a really sweet, hopeful fable," Russell told reporters in New York recently.
"I think it's poppy and fun and a fantasy and I think it's totally OK she got the guy in this. I don't think it's anything to choose your life by. I think it's fun and no one dies and we're all wearing fancy clothes and the boys have fake tans," she said. "It's meant to be fun."
Jennifer Coolidge co-stars in the film as a wealthy woman eager for romance and the chance to play dress-up, but who doesn't understand much about the history or literature Austenland tries to bring to life.
Asked what she knew about Austen's books and the world depicted in them before she began to work on the film, Coolidge replied, "My parents had a lock on the TV and we were only allowed to watch PBS, so I did get a really big dose of Jane Austen."
She said she didn't want to be a know-it-all on the movie set, even though she was very familiar with the material that inspired the movie.
"I could have had that choice, but I always feel like the funniness ... Especially in LA, there are these people who have these big jobs and maybe they don't know too much," the actress said. "So, I always think it's a funnier choice [to act like you don't know a lot about something.] 'I want that incredible experience!' But they don't know the particulars. ... And that's the weird thing. A lot of people in America have the money to do these things, even though they don't really care about them. They're like, 'We went to Galapagos.' And you ask them what they saw and they say, 'You know, things with fins...' But some day I'm going to have to play somebody smart in a movie and I'm actually going to have to know what's going on."
"Don't be fooled by Jennifer," offered Feild. "She may play someone who isn't smart, but she is one of the sharpest, most intelligent actresses I've ever worked with. You have to be really, really, really sharp and clever to be able to play not clever."
Written and directed by Jerusha Hess, the film is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.