Austenland

The elaborate courtship rituals of Jane Austen’s England bear little resemblance to the no-strings hookups and domestic partnerships of the 21st century dating scene, but that hasn’t stopped modern romantics from hoping to find a Mr. Darcy of their very own. In the Sundance romcom Austenland, one particularly hardcore fan gets an opportunity to do just that.

Keri Russell stars as Jane Hayes, who splurges on a trip to an Austen-themed resort complete with Regency costumes, era-appropriate activities, and even handsome suitors (played by paid actors). But the experience isn’t all she’d hoped, and in her disillusionment she finds herself increasingly drawn to “stableboy” Martin (Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords). Watch the first trailer after the jump.

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Yesterday at Sundance Jim Rash and Nat Faxon premiered their film The Way Way Back. The Descendants writers penned the film several years ago, and only made it last year. The coming of age comedy is set in a Massachusetts seaside town , and features quite a cast: Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, and Rob Corddry make up the key ensemble, and relative newcomer Liam James plays the young man Duncan, who is trying to deal with his mom’s douchy new boyfriend (Carell) as they spend summer at his family beach house.

After the screening many people commented that the film seemed like an obvious buy for Fox Searchlight. It has that easy and appealing blend of dialogue-based humor and slight pathos that tends to make a hit. Germain vocalized a similar notion in his review.

And now Searchlight is said to be close to a $10m deal to pick up the movie. If the deal goes through, Searchlight will have beat out Lionsgate, FilmDistrict, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. in a sale that Deadline calls “one of the most spirited auctions in recent Sundance memory.” It would also be one of the priciest deals ever for the fest.

After the break, Austenland and Concussion get distribution deals, and several docs get distribution, too. Read More »

A few days after the kickoff the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, deal-making is in full swing. The well-reviewed drama The Spectacular Now, by Smashed director James Ponsoldt, is headed to newish distributor A24, while the crowdpleasing comedy Austenland, from Napoleon Dynamite writer Jerusha Hess, is nearing a deal with FilmDistrict. Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan‘s The Look of Love had a mixed reception, but that’s not stopping IFC Films from closing in on a deal; the distributor also released the pair’s last comedy together, The Trip. Meanwhile, Anchor Bay has picked up two narrative features so far, the Dermot Mulroney-starring The Rambler and Leland Orser‘s Morning. (The latter is not playing at Sundance.)

Over in the world of documentaries, music-centric films seem to be doing quite well. Showtime has acquired the broadcast rights to the two-part documentary History of the Eagles, which will air on the channel February 15 & 16. Also headed to television is Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer, which has been snapped up by HBO Documentary Films. Finally, Twenty Feet From Stardom, which follows some of popular music’s greatest backup singers, will get a theatrical release by RADiUS-TWC. And in non-music news, AMC’s Sundance Selects has grabbed Dirty Wars, about America’s covert wars, and The Summit, about climbers scaling the most dangerous peak in the world.

Hit the jump to read descriptions of the films mentioned above.

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Friday is the first real day of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and I spent the afternoon in the Eccles Theater (aka the Park City High School auditorium) watching two films: Jerusha Hess‘ adaptation of Austenland starring Keri Russell, and Kill Your Darlings starring Daniel Radcliffe as Alan Ginsberg. After the jump you can find my mini reactions and a video blog I recorded with Steve Weintraub from Collider.
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Two successful female writers will take on new roles as they collaborate on an indie romantic comedy. The film is called Austenland and it’ll be directed by Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos with her husband Jared Hess, and produced by Stephenie Meyer, writer of the Twilight novels. Though Meyer is credited as a producer on those ultra-successful movies, this will be her first producing gig on something she didn’t conceive.

Austenland focuses on a young woman obsessed with Colin Firth’s character, Mr. Darcy, in the BBC production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Starring Keri Russell, JJ Field, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Rupert Vansittart and James Callis, it humorously explores how that idealism completely ruins her love life. Shooting begins this week. Read more after the jump. Read More »

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