JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, THE
Six-times divorcee Bernadette (Kathy Baker) decides to convene her friends in a Jane Austen-dedicated book club, as she believes there is little that Austen does not know about love and life. Her idea is to meet once a month to discuss one of Austen's novels with five members others. They are Bernadette's dog-loving friend Jocelyn (Maria Bello), emotionally bereft Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) whose husband Daniel (Jimmy Smiths) has just left her, their easy-going lesbian daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), prudish French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt) and sci-fi loving Grigg (Hugh Dancy). Prudie, who has nothing in common with her hippie mother Sky (Lynn Redgrave) is going through a difficult time in her marriage to Dean (Marc Blucas) and is flattered by the attentions of high-school senior Trey (Kevin Zegers).
Review by Louise Keller:
'Reading Jane Austen is a frickin' minefield,' Maria Bello's dog-loving spinster and Austen aficionado succinctly observes. It is indeed a rich minefield of emotions that are canvassed, as real life situations of the six Austen Book Club members are mirrored by the author's renowned characters. Breaking up, jealousies, match making and a bid for second chances are the themes of this vibrant and uplifting film that explores life, love and desire.
Falling in love seems like fiction to Bello's Jocelyn, who recruits the club's only male member, the lovably hapless sci-fi buff Grigg (Hugh Dancy), hoping to provide a pleasant distraction for the newly separated Sylvia (Amy Brenneman). But Grigg has other ideas and the will-they, won't-they nature of Jocelyn and Grigg's relationship is one of the film's highlights. 'That's why you have dogs; you just want to be obeyed,' he notes, pointedly. Also engaging is the subplot with Emily Blunt's stitched-up and aptly named French teacher Prudie ('why do you dress like a flight attendant'), who disconcertingly throws in French phrases throughout every conversation. Romance is something she has only experienced in novels and the unthinkable attraction she feels for Kevin Zeger's flirtatious student makes her forget her bitter disappointment of a marriage to Marc Blucas' blokey Dean. After all, Dean thinks Austen is a city in Texas. Watch out for Lynn Redgrave's treat of a cameo as Prudie's slobby, hippy mother.
It's a superb ensemble cast with Kathy Baker as the six times married Bernadette, Maggie Grace as Allegra, the extreme-sports loving lesbian adventurer, and Jimmy Smits as the unfaithful husband intent to 'quit while he's ahead'.
As Jane Austen's novels are discussed, analysed and scrutinised one by one, bonds are created and confidences shared. Secrets are revealed, temptations tasted and aspirations discovered. How can they not relate to the plights of Emma and Mr Knightley, Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, Mansfield Park's Fanny and Edmond..... You don't have to have read all Jane Austen's works to enjoy the film, although those who are familiar with her works will no doubt experience a love-at-first-sight response.
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JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, THE (M)
CAST: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Hugh Dancy, Jimmy Smits, Ed Brigadier, Kevin Zegers,
PRODUCER: John Calley, Julie Lynn, Diana Napper
DIRECTOR: Robin Swicord
SCRIPT: Robin Swicord
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toon ASC
EDITOR: Maryann Brandon ACE
MUSIC: Aaron Zigman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rusty Smith
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 31, 2008