Film Review: The Jane Austen Book Club

22 Nov

Plot: As five women and one enigmatic man meet to discuss the works of Jane Austen, they find their love lives playing out in a 21st century version of her novels. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), is shocked when her husband Daniel (Jimmy Smits), leaves her after 20 plus years and three children. Jocelyn (Maria Bello), her unmarried best friend, distracts herself from her unacknowledged loneliness by breeding dogs. Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a young French teacher, in possession of a worthy husband yet distracted by persistent fantasies about sex with a younger student. The many times married Bernadette (Kathy Baker) develops a yearning for one more chance at happiness. Beautiful, risk-taking Allegra (Maggie Grace), Sylvia and Daniel’s lesbian daughter, has quit talking to her lover. And Grigg (Hugh Dancy), a young science fiction fan and computer whiz, seems horribly both out of place and obliviously at ease as the only man to be invited into the book circle.

I have mentioned in my review of Becoming Jane sometime in March this year, that I have only read four out of the six novels written by Miss Austen, and they are, in chronological order, as follows: Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility and Persuasion.

Like any Jane Austen fan, you’ll have favorite characters and try to relate to them as if the novels were written by Jane with the thought of you in mind. At one time I felt was more of a Lizzie Bennett -spunky, feisty and sure of herself- and that I would fall for a Mr. Darcy- successful, handsome yet very proud. Although I also loved the character of Emma Woodhouse , handsome, clever and rich but also rather spoiled as Austen herself describes her, or the Dashwood sisters with the younger Marianne as the hopeless romantic but fearless, or Elinor – the more sensible and responsible.

Single again and now in my late 30’s, I am inclined to be more like Anne Elliott from Persuasion which is now my favorite Jane Austen heroine for all time. I will also look for no less than a Captain Wentworth as a potential partner. Wait, we’re getting a little bit sidetracked, should’nt we really be talking about the film here? Believe me this prologue has got a point and I will get there now. Apparently the premise of the book reflects the lives and romances of these female characters as well as the heroines in all of Austen’s novels.

When I first heard that there was a book called The Jane Austen Book Club written by Karen Joy Fowler I thought, come on is this going to rip off everything that is holy and sacred about Jane Austen’s work? I did’nt bother getting the book or reading any reviews until I found out that they have made a film adaptation. Having seen the trailer just once it didnt take long to get convinced that I should at least give it a try. The film opened with Paolo Nutini’s ‘New Shoes’ that put me right at ease. The Jane Austen All The Time book club was formed to act as a diversion to help Jocelyn who recently lost her prized dog, it was meant to be just for females only but for some reason they allowed a man to join the club and as the tag of the film says, you don’t have to know the books to be in the club.

All the actresses did a great job in their roles, special mention to Emily Blunt’s effective role as an uptight wife in the middle of a not so happy marriage. The main reason why this film worked for me on such a high level was Hugh Dancy who played the computer whiz cum sci-fi geek Grigg. Dancy, who is a Hugh Jackman-Orlando Bloom hybrid, simply took my breath away. I so loved his character, that of a man who grew up with mostly sisters but turned out to become a normal and healthy person anyway, secure of his masculinity that he will read all Austen’s novels so he can get close to the object of his affection, in this case it’s Bello’s character of Jocelyn. It’s also funny how he meets Jocelyn, he was off to some sci-fi convention and that’s how he gets the invite to join the book club, and in their discussion of Mansfield Park, he likened the characters to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia but in reverse, I thought that was hilarious but very endearing. I’ve just added Dancy in my list of ‘men we love’ and you shall be hearing more about him in this blog. (Water, I need more water!)

This film is an excellent spin on the lives and loves of Jane Austen’s well-loved characters told in the eyes of modern men and women. In the same way that Austen’s characters will experience trouble at first, eventually the characters in her books did get everything they desire, as the film ended with a hopeful future, and they all lived happily ever after.

Can’t wait to have it on DVD!

The Jane Austen Book Club: 4/5

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7 Responses to “Film Review: The Jane Austen Book Club”

  1. Marina November 26, 2007 at 11:15 pm #

    Yey! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it! I thought it was much better than I originally anticipated!

    BTW – I don’t think reading 4 or the 6 Austen’s is a big deal. It’s more than most people!

  2. Simone November 27, 2007 at 1:12 am #

    Oh I loved it which also surprised me because I was skeptical about the book and then now a film. Hugh Dancy is a darling!

    I’m assuming you’ve read Austen, right Marina? 😉

  3. Marina November 28, 2007 at 9:22 am #

    You better believe it! The only one I haven’t gotten to is the one with Abbey in the title. Never got around to it. Maybe one day!

    And indeed, Dancy is…. swoon…..

  4. Shishi December 1, 2007 at 12:03 pm #

    ain’t new love grand?

  5. Simone December 1, 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    It is indeed! 😉

  6. Charlene April December 3, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    sounds goodah

  7. Simone December 3, 2007 at 5:18 pm #

    Have you read any Jane Austen April? I can send you my books if you like?

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