You don't have to be a fan of Jane Austen's novels to enjoy Robin Swicord's "The Jane Austen Book Club", but after spending 106 delightful minutes with some of the most likable people you'll ever meet, you may want to grab "Pride and Prejudice", and start a club of your own!
This IS another film where the women are all beautiful, and the men, hot, but, to Swicord's credit (working from Karen Joy Fowler's terrific novel), she establishes each character with a humanity that transcends appearance. Working mom, Syl (Amy Brenneman), has it all, with a great job as a librarian, a radiant, if klutzy, lesbian daughter (Maggie Grace), and a devoted husband (Jimmy Smits)...until he announces he was cheating on her, and asks for a divorce. Oft-married, ever-optimistic Bernadette (Kathy Baker) decides to create an Austen club to provide emotional support for both Syl and their best friend, ever-single dog trainer/matchmaker Jocelyn (Maria Bello), who is grieving over the loss of a beloved dog. Bernadette meets young, uptight French teacher/Austen devotee Prudie (Emily Blunt), who has her own baggage, with an inattentive husband (Marc Blucas), an ex-hippie mom (Lynn Redgrave), and a sexy student (Kevin Zegers), whose attentions are sparking her barely-repressed lust. The older woman quickly railroads Prudie into her plan, finalizing a book club that will be "all-women, all-Austen", focusing on a different Austen novel, each month. Ah, but then Jocelyn meets handsome young computer geek, Grigg (Hugh Dancy), and decides to pair Syl with him, using the club...so a male member joins in the mix, and the fun really begins...
With each major character a 21st century variation of an Austen one, the story unfolds around the monthly meeting/book discussions, allowing the entire cast opportunities to shine. Will Syl recover from her failed marriage? Will Prudie give in, and have her forbidden tryst? Will Jocelyn ever figure out Grigg loves HER? Swicord succeeds in making every subplot both involving, and entertaining!
Great bonus features make "The Jane Austen Book Club" even better. The Austen prototypes of each character are explained, there is a terrific biography of the writer (far better than the one offered in "Becoming Jane"), and an affectionate behind-the-scenes look at the production all truly expand the enjoyment of the film.
Is this a 'chick flick'? Certainly! But with it's well-written male roles, I prefer to think of this as an ideal 'date' movie, and an experience guys can enjoy, too!
"All Austen, all the time" never sounded better!
Five women and one man decide to start a book club, reading the works of Jane Austen. Bernadette (Baker), the organizer of the club, is a woman looking to add one more to her many marriages. Jocelyn (Bello) is single and happy with her dogs. Sylvia (Brenneman) is in a failing marriage to Daniel (Smits). Allegra (Grace) is their lesbian daughter. Prudie (Blunt) is unhappily married, and attracted to one of her students. Lastly, there is Grigg (Dancy), a science fiction fan who is in the club because he is interested in Jocelyn. Their lives all contain elements that echo Jane Austen's stories, so their choice of reading is appropriate.
"The Jane Austen Book Club" is a female bonding movie that will also appeal to fans of Jane Austen. The acting is capable, but nothing outstanding. There is a little of everything relationship-wise here, and all the stories are handled pretty well. Jocelyn and Grigg's story is probably the most appealing though. To the story's credit, knowledge of Jane Austen isn't necessary, but it helps. In all fairness, the title of the film is going to draw in the appropriate audience, and they will probably enjoy it.
Warning: This is a major "Chick Flick", no testosterone required.
Chick flick or not, the '07 release `The Jane Austen Book Club' is a delightful film exploring the possible application of the six books comprising the "Jane Austen Bible" into the everyday lives and loves of five contemporary women. What was supposed to serve as a carefree diversion from the constant angst of male female relationships becomes the epicenter of their emotional venting and the Gospel of Jane the rule by which all relationships are judged.
The cast displays an infectious chemistry, the storyline solid and consistent from beginning to end and the dialogue is believable, containing a number of quotable lines that will stay with you. `The Jane Austen Book Club' is a terrific film for the females audience. As far as the guys are concerned, come on and give it a try, you know you have to give in once in a while. This one is not as painful as most within this genre.
"The Jane Austen Book Club" (TJABC) was a 2004 novel by author Karen Joy Fowler. I acquired the novel last spring and relished the thought of reading a contemporary version of Austen's romances, with each character and each chapter tying into one of Austen's novels. A clever premise, some interesting characters....but I found the overall effort to be a tad on the lackluster side and kept picking the book up, and putting it down before eventually managing to end it all.
Robin Swicord tackled the job of getting this book to film; and it opened to very little fanfare last summer. As the members of the book club, the cast is a director's dream. It's always a joy to see Amy Brenneman (Of the TV Show, "Judging Amy", on the screen, and we've had too little of her in the world of film. Brenneman is devastated and devastating as an unwilling divorcee, Sylvia, who was married to Daniel (Jimmy Smits in an unfamiliar role) who has fallen in love with the other woman. Maggie Grace (Shannon from the TV Show, "Lost") is suitably cast as Allegra, Sylvia and Daniel's grown daughter. Much of Fowler's book centered on the oddities of Allegra...thankfully, the movie only touches on them.
Kathy Baker plays flamboyant, much-divorced Bernadette and does so with a satirical air. Maria Bello is Jocelyn, a dog breeder who is afraid of commitment. Bello is no surprise; she's done a credible job with every one of her big screen roles -- here we are caught up in her draw towards Grigg, the only male member of the club, although initially she attempts clumsily to "matchmake him" to Sylvia.
The outstanding turns belong to Hugh Dancy, as Grigg. He's a science fiction fan who accidentally meets Joceyln and accepts her invitation to join a book club reading a genre he has no idea about. He's subtly charming and has a way of 21st century hero about him; he and Bello are drawn like moths to flame. Also a stand out is Emily Blunt, so good in whatever she brings to the screen, as Prudie. Prudie's character is audacious -- an obsessive French teacher married to the wrong man, she's eager to find romance in any way she can.
Tying in Austen's novels and characters to the ensemble is easy, and a little tedious, but by film's end, you're glad you made the attempt. TJABC is kind of a "little film that could"...not excellent by any stretch of the imagination, but still a worthy contemporary treatise on Austen's themes.
Set in Sacramento, the surroundings are lovely and bracing, and the DVD has a full complement of extras like deleted scenes, the casting dilemma, and a lively conversation about the filming between Swicord, the producers, Maggie Grace and Hugh Dancy.
For once, a film that improves upon the material it was derived from. Worth a viewing!
on September 25, 2007
When a single guy and five women of very different ages and stages form a book club to discuss Jane Austen's six novels, their messy lives begin to imitate the art they're reading. The movie has six segments, each one named after one of the novels. With each turn of the kaleidoscope this film takes on the character of a soap opera--everyone has problems with love and marriage, too many sagas are treated too superficially, and little more than snappy verbal jousting moves the picture forward. And like a soap opera, neither real life nor Austen's novels enjoy the syrupy resolution of this film. My hunch is that a woman who has married six times is not a candidate for bliss on the seventh try, that a young teacher who hits on her high school student will not rebound so quickly, or that a twenty year marriage that ends in acrimony will probably not u-turn into one of affection after the husband (!) reads an Austen novel. If that's too critical, then enjoy this fluffy film as a fun romantic comedy that includes a reminder about the real problems that we all have with the game of love.
My wife and I went to see this movie on kind of a whim. We had taken our daughter and some friends to see a movie, and needed to kill some time. We'd seen pretty much everything else of interest, so we agreed the cast of the movie looked like fun, so we went. VERY GLAD WE DID!!
I have seen a few Jane Austen movies and have enjoyed them. I REALLY liked SENSE AND SENSIBILITY in particular. But I have never read an Austen book...nor have I been particularly drawn to it. I love to read...but haven't read Austen. Simple as that. So I had a rudimentary knowledge...and that was plenty. The movie is simply a delight, and the discussions and references to Austen would certainly heighten the enjoyment, but even without understanding the specific references...it's pretty easy to get the idea.
I only hesitate to give the movie five stars because of it's overly-structured plot. I totally realise that the movie is supposed to play out like an Austen novel...people working hard NOT to get with the person they're supposed to be with...then finally making it. But I felt just a little too taken by the hand and let to one predictable (but usually fun) plot twist or device after another. The surprises came in the performances...not in the plot.
The basic premise is that these 5 women, and one very befuddled but completely charming man, meet once a month to discuss another of Austen's 6 books. They all do their reading, they are all well-spoken and have inciteful opinions. That isn't totally believable...but it is easy to just accept and move on. These people are going through turmoils (mostly breakups and loneliness) that Austen sometimes relieves and sometimes echoes too perfectly. At least the women know it...you can tell they kinda sense they're living out a modern-day Austen story. This requires some suspension of disbelief...but it's easy to come by because all the characters are so likeable.
Kathy Baker leads the group as a 60-something free-spirit, who organizes everyone into this club, mostly to help one younger friend (Maria Bello) overcome the death of her beloved Ridgeback dog. Also in the group comes Amy Brennerman, recently split from her long-time husband Jimmy Smits. Brennerman is joined by her daughter, played by Maggie Grace (of LOST). Baker also happens to meet an exceedingly uptight high-school French teacher (DEVIL WEARS PRADA'S Emily Blunt) and invites her to attend. Bello, on a whim of her own, invites a younger man named Grigg to attend...hoping he will have an interest in Amy Brennerman. Suffice it to say, this is not where his interests end up.
There's lots of juicy talk between the group. Grigg is a delightful character...totally unbelievable but so likeable that he really becomes the central focus...we root for him so completely. Brennerman is always very good, and Baker is a force to be reckoned with no matter what she does. She's like a softer Patricia Clarkson. Bello is always good (despite her ignorant and reprehensible personal politics, she always draws me in with her talent), and Maggie Grace is a nice surprise after playing Shannon on LOST with such one-dimensionality. Emily Blunt has the toughest role...because she goes through the biggest change...and starts our dreadfully unlikeable. After we meet her mother (the wonderful Lynn Redgrave), we can begin to understand her troubles. She evolves the most as a character...where the other ladies don't really change much, they just have things happen to them. Seeing her in this movie and PRADA...I predict good, Oscar-winning things from her in the years to come. She's very good.
The movie is well-written and utterly engaging. It is preposterous...but so full of fun that you really don't care much at all. Only a few plot points caused any real groans of "oh, you must be kidding." In fact, as I write this and think back on how much unexpected fun I had...I give the film 4.5 stars!
Another nice thing...it is deservingly a PG13...but it is not dirty or foul-mouthed. What a nice change. A young teen girl might enjoy it a great deal.
This film is very original, creative and heartfelt. It is a romantic comedy of manners told with wit and charm. It is the story of 6 friends who are Jane Austen fans and all decide to form a book club for different reasons. 6 months, 6 members and 6 books. As each book is read and discussed we get involved more and more into the complexities of the real lives of each character. They are all very real, very believable and it is very touching how they all gain more inner strength by the continuity of the book club.
It is a romantic comedy but the comedic touches are right on and not forced the same as they are in life. My favorite characters here are those played by Amy Brenneman and Emily Blunt as a woman recently dumped by her husband and a very prissy unhappily married teacher respectively. The journeys of self discovery both of these women go thru is emotionally heart wrenching and excellently portrayed.
Jane Austen writes with a complex purpose in each of her novels and they can all be debated for days so to have a book club centered around her work as a basis is an outstanding idea. It freely allows us to see the real life drama each character is actually going through. The acting is superb throughout and the ending is very uplifting but it manages to not be formulaic. Not all things in life end badly and the way each character moves on is very authentic.
This film could be called a chic flick but it is so much more and I think it is a perfect film for all couples to watch together and discuss after. It can be used as a touching stone the same as the Jane Austen Book Club was in the film.
Watch and enjoy excellent acting and very believable characters journey through life and learn from each other.
on March 19, 2008
I notice that a lot of the 1-star reviews this film has had are written by people who have an utterly bizarre and in many cases outrageously stupid idea of what they were getting into, proof I suppose that being a fan even of a writer as great as Jane Austen doesn't always make people more wise, tolerant or understanding.
I watched this expecting it to be a chick-flick, and it is one, but it's a reminder of why chick-flicks are a good idea; because they're about people and human relationships, and not about who knows what and who's talking to who. Austen fans will have great fun spotting which of the characters are riffing off which Austen characters (my wife and I were totally convinced that the Emily Blunt character Prudie and the Maggie Grace character Allegra were basically re-enacting Pride and Prejudice - boy, were we wrong) and those who have never read Jane Austen...well, I can only assume that this would turn you onto her, the way Babette's Feast turned an entire generation of film-lovers onto French cuisine.
It's nice to see British actors demonstrating that they can do great American character acting as good as any American actor - kudos to Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy and Lynn Redgrave. My favourite actor in the whole thing is Maria Bello, fabulous as what you might call the 'Emma' character, a woman so used to being single that she's forgotten how to be normal around anyone but her friends. There's a sublime moment early on, in an elevator, where her dog-breeding single woman character suddenly notices an adornment on a passing Goth girl, and comments on it...classic.
It's a generous, intelligent, grown-up rom-com. Expect nothing more or less. And reflect on how hard that is to achieve. It's certainly more intelligent than Richard Curtis' most recent output.
on March 17, 2008
This film opens with a montage of modern day, mundane technological snags, which sets the stage for busy and varied lives among working people. I thought this was a brilliant way to begin, to show just what kind of people form a book club and how random it all really is. The cohesiveness of these seemingly mismatched individuals, a free-spirited, serial bride, a recently discarded wife and her lesbian daughter, a socially awkward, pretentious French teacher, a control-freak dog breeder and a bicycling techno-geek (albeit a very CUTE techno-geek) centers around the six novels of Jane Austen. This story really isn't about the work of Jane Austen, but rather, it's about the people of the club coming from many different directions to form a believable bond. Sure it has some Jane Austen-esque subplots, but so many modern stories do and I, for one, never grow tired of them.
Very enjoyable, well-cast and well-acted film, and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story of group dynamics--regardless of whether or not you liked or disliked the book.
Michele Cozzens is the author of It's Not Your Mother's Bridge Club
It isn't often that the movie turns out to be much better than the book, but that's true with The Jane Austen Book Club. Maybe it's a case of a solid premise poorly written, but I disliked the book so much I couldn't finish it.
The film version, on the other hand, is entertaining and intelligently presented, and with so many main characters, that's saying something. Each person in this impromptu book club, set up to help a newly divorced woman cope with the changes in her life, has a problem similar to that of one of Jane Austen's characters. This is a complicated plot, but the movie works! No high powered stars here, no gimmicks, just a romantic comedy/drama that delivers.