The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) Poster

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One half the world does not understand the pleasures of the other....
Karen (surreyhill)25 September 2007
Let's get one thing out of the way, first. This IS largely a chick-flick, although many men who go to see it are likely to get caught up in at least one of the subplots. The litmus test is Love, Actually--if you enjoyed that movie, and are a man, I imagine you'll like this one as well. There are several attractive females, some lesbian domestic affection scenes handled with remarkable matter-of-factness, and the film (and novel) handles the male characters gently and with love.

But it is a movie that with primary appeal to two groups--chicks and Jane Austen devotees, including the male ones. Are there enough of these to make a movie a success? Yes, there are.

Jane Austen's work stays current because she wrote about timeless themes--how do you choose the best person to marry? Is love enough, or even required for lifelong contentment? How do you deal with difficult or embarrassing family members? How best to handle a family crisis? How do you learn to tell true friends and quality persons from those who are perhaps flashy and amusing, but will end up betraying your friendship and trust or, heaven forfend, tempting you to abandon your own principles? Whether you live in the age of Blackberries and Hybrid SUV's, or the age of sealing wax and barouches, every person comes smack up against many or most of these vexing problems throughout their lives.

The conceit of this movie and the book it is based upon is that a shared love and appreciation of the works of Jane Austen can provide the currency through the exchange of which modern women (and a few selected men) can confront, share, and come to better understand their personal challenges and in the process, form bonds of friendship or even romance. The strength of this movie is that even if you have a tough time with that conceit, you will still enjoy the humor of it, and the strong performances. It's pleasant to watch, like curling up with a favorite book and a frothy cup of chocolate. It is true to Jane—no explosions, the villains aren't completely evil, the primary problems of the characters stem from incomplete or willfully-faulty understanding of themselves and those around them, there is no melodrama or Gothic touches except of the parody sort, and the lone death happens off screen.

I have this weird little theory about why P&P is the MOST beloved of all of Austen's books. Sure, Darcy is a smoldering hunk of tightly-controlled passion and Lizzie is as spirited and intelligent a heroine as ever nanced through a foot of mud to get to the bedside of an ailing sister, but that's not it.

In all the other Austen pairings, you had a sense that they were pairings which would truly happen in real life because deep down we know nothing has really changed from Austen's day--women's beauty and youth and social standing is factored into a certain equation which determines how handsome, wealthy, charming, accomplished, or respected a man she is able to aspire to. In no case, other than P&P, does this basic equation get violated. Lady Catherine De Bourg had it right. A shocking match, indeed! The Lizzie/Darcy romance, therefore, is the lone Cinderella story, and don't give me Edmund and Fanny, as Edmund was a younger son most in need of a virtuous wife who wouldn't ever embarrass him and was never laid out as a man of wildly attractive appearance while virtuous Fanny's looks were improved enough to attract the flirtatious Henry Crawford.

So, we women, all of us, are madly in love with P&P precisely because it is the ultimate fantasy of this amazing guy who will love us JUST FOR OUR QUICK WIT, GOOD HEART, and FINE EYES. There are no Mr. Darcy's, just like there are no characters of the sort commonly played by John Cusack, so get over it, already. There is possibly a Mr. Rochester, but remember, he had a crazy wife locked in the attic, a creepy housekeeper, an insipid ward, a bit of a sarcastic streak, and was once played on screen by a pudgy Orson Wells. In other words, a lot of baggage. And he still wasn't able to be brought up to scratch by Plain Jane Eyre until his fine big house had been burned down, his eyes put out, and his arm messed up. Now THAT is reality.

It is true in real life that single dog breeders can, and do, meet nice men and fall in love and maybe even get married. It is also true that nice, handsome, heterosexual men join book clubs*.

But this movie serves up impossibly cute Hugh Dancy in the role of an implausibly unattached, adorably geeky Grigg Harris who loves reading, older women, and can dance gracefully despite being too clumsy to artfully sip a cocktail. The statistical probability of such an attractive and unspoiled man (one who admits he is willing to be "directed") like this joining your book club and then actually wanting to develop a romantic relationship with an unattached woman older than himself is approximately the same as seeing one of the Dragonriders of Pern barnstorming over an Iowa cornfield.

In the RL JABC, Grigg would be gay and Allegra would be straight and Bernadette would be queuing up for the Early Bird Special at Cracker Barrel. And your cheating ex-spouse, Jimmy Smits, ain't never coming back, and if he did, it would be after a series of weepy drunken whiny pathetic phone calls at 3am. There will be no "letter". This movie is a little bit cruel to imply otherwise.

But that's OK. The world would be a very unkind place without at least the notion of dragons and rocketships, Darcys and Griggs. And that is why we loved it.

*with wife.
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david-beukes12 December 2007
I like movies with spaceships in, preferably exploding at some point. Also shooting, sword fighting and violent death. Oh, and car chases. And if I can't have the above, then can there at least be some explicit sex please?

And yet I loved this movie.

I loved the nerdiness, I loved the intimacy, I loved watching it unfold exactly as you know it's going to. And the chemistry between Hugh Dancy and the gorgeous Maria Bello crackles off the screen.

I know, I know, you could level this movie without much effort. You wouldn't even need that big of a stick. But you find yourself not caring.

This film is pure pleasure, start to finish. I gladly relinquish one of my Man cards for saying that. I'm off to watch something with guns in to compensate, though.
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Enjoyable to watch with a great ensemble cast
wxgirl5514 September 2007
I saw this movie at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival and made a point of learning as little as possible about what it was about and who was in it. Such a refreshing way to be invited into a story.

Though this movie will never win an academy award and it's premise revolves around a well-known British author, this is a very "Hollywood" movie.

The ensemble cast is like a large-scale painting with each character portraying different colours and brush strokes. Their diversity brings perspective and depth to the story.

I loved Bernadette's (Kathy Baker) ballsy and ebullient pseudo-matriarchal figure; and I silently cheered for Jocelyn (Maria Bello) to break out of her disciplined and 'in-control' habits, but it was Emily Blunt's portrayal of Prudie that shone a light giving the sharpest and most emotional contrast of all. She, who steadfastly distanced herself from the social class she grew up in, and worked tirelessly to elevate herself "to the manor born", convinced herself, with her stylish bob, Chanel-esquire attire and fanciful forays into french phrasology, that she was beyond the mundane and ordinary. She convinced me she was both strong and fragile, and my heart broke along with hers. What a lovely performance.

This isn't high-brow film by any means. The audience's biggest challenge is listening for and extracting the many Austen quotes that get zipped and zinged throughout the film. We are ultimately drawn to watching the ever-changing relationships, like petri dishes being poked and provoked.

This movie will be enjoyable even for those unfamiliar with Jane Austen's novels. A visually appealing, emotionally satisfying, safe and somewhat predictable film. Most likely to be pegged as a chick flick because it's heavy on relationships. Guys' loss.
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Literacy, Fast and Furious
dalefried8 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
What to think of a film that has the most literary references than any since 'Love and Death'. The danger here is that those with little knowledge of Jane Austen will have no understanding of what is going on since the dialogue twists and turns on discussions of characters and themes in 200 year old novels.

But unlike a Woody Allen punch line comedy full of in-context jokes, you do not need a complete understanding of Austen to appreciate this literate work. The reason Jane Austen interests people two centuries later are the universality of her themes. Seeing these themes played out can work at many levels. Addicts will revel in the dialogue's appreciative in jokes. Those with some experience like me will pick up things here and there while enjoying the whirling dervish playing out in the verbal repartee. Neophytes will simply enjoy the characters living out these timeless motifs likely leaving desirous to learn more.

Some have complained about the lack of directorial artifices to woo us here and there. What better way to emphasize the literacy of it all by letting good actors use wordplays to move us instead. If this is too subtle for you, 'American Gangster' awaits.

Others have complained about obvious symbolism in the characters. A woman trapped in her time, Austen wailed subtly against her capture by focusing thematically on one potential way out through love and relationships. The film and the book it is based on strive to provide a meaningful glimpse into the core themes of this wonderful writer and how for the most part these strivings remain among us as lively as ever. If the characters are archetypes, they are necessarily so and once understood become more powerful in their abstraction.

But it is their likability that rues the day and throughout you feel for them as they traipse through their foibles. The fixer who cares more for the happiness of others than her own, a defense mechanism against longed for passion. The mother who wades through the ultimate disappointment with courage that makes her stronger when her dreams of marital bliss return. The aggressive young lesbian courageously bouncing between adventures until disappointed into seeking another. The young teacher walking to the edge of a potentially luxurious mistake and passionately imploring her man to save her from herself through Austen. The older woman wanting to keep tasting because the effort, though difficult, is worth it. And in the middle, the almost goofy, literature driven, emo-dreamboat who attracts them all in various ways though suffering from an almost paralyzing inhibition ultimately resolved

Unfortunately most men won't get it or even take the time to appreciate it all. In my screening, women outnumbered men 17-2. In the end this intelligent, optimistic feminism may have too small an audience to save itself from obscurity, but if it ends up a voice in the wilderness, it is far better left said than not.
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Book a showing of this very worthy film, you will not be disappointed
Amy Adler11 October 2007
Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) and her husband, Daniel (Jimmy Smits) have been married for a little over 20 years. But, one day, Daniel drops the big bombshells that he is seeing another woman and that he wants a divorce. Sylvia is heartbroken, so much so that her young, beautiful, lesbian daughter Allegra moves back home to keep an eye on her. Close friend, Jocelyn (Maria Bello) is also hovering over Sylvia and decides to create a book club so that the jilted lady will be surrounded by friends, conversation, and hope. Joining the club is a six-time divorcée (Kathy Baker), an uptight young French teacher, Prudie (Emily Blunt), and Allegra herself. But, because they decide the club will be devoted to Jane Austen and her six books, they need one more member to put someone in charge of each, distinct book discussion. Therefore, Jocelyn invites Grigg (Hugh Dancy), an attractive young man she met at a hotel bar, to join them. In truth, he has eyes for Jocelyn and, although a science fiction fan, would read almost anything to get to know her better. Thus, the discussions start, but the repartee is, at times, only a brief breather from the continuing problems of the club members. These troubles include death, near-infidelity, sky-diving crashes, crazy mothers, and more. Will the club work to the benefit of its members? This is a lovely film about the friends and relationships that make human existence bearable. As the bosom buddies, the movie's fine cast members are all quite wonderful, with Blunt, especially, still managing to make her flawed, confused character, endearing. The California setting is beautiful, naturally, and so are the costumes. Then, too, the script is lively and refined, echoing Austen's great books. Indeed, there is enough of Jane's novels worked into the film's content to satisfy the fans of her highly esteemed works. In short, book yourself a showing of this film and invited your friends to join you at the viewing. Forgive me, but you will "club yourself" if you don't!
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Delightful for Common Viewers, but Certainly Wonderful for Jane Austen's Fans
Claudio Carvalho8 August 2012
In California, the favorite dog of the lonely Jocelyn (Maria Bello) dies and she meets her best friends in the funeral: the six times divorced Bernadette (Kathy Baker); the housewife Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) and her lesbian daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace); and the young French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt), whose mother is a dysfunctional woman.

When Sylvia's husband Daniel (Jimmy Smits) dumps her for a younger woman, Bernadette and Jocelyn organize a reading club of Jane Austen to distract her with Allegra and Prudie. Meanwhile the sci-fi fan Grigg (Hugh Dancy), who owns a software company and was raised with three sisters, flirts with Jocelyn and she invites him to join the club with the intention of introducing him to Sylvia. They plan to read and discuss the novels "Sense and Sensibility" (1811), "Pride and Prejudice" (1813), "Mansfield Park" (1814), "Emma (1816), "Northanger Abbey" (1818) and "Persuasion" (1818), one per month.

Meanwhile, Prudie's marriage with Dean (Marc Blucas) is in crisis and she flirts with the student Trey (Kevin Zegers). Aleggra falls in love for Corinne (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and tells her private life to her affair. But Jocelyn does not understand the feelings of Grigg. While reading the novels, their lives entwine with the characters of the writer, leading each one of them to find what is looking for in love.

"The Jane Austen Book Club" is a delightful film for common viewers, but certainly wonderful for Jane Austen's fans. The story about love, second chance and Jane Austen novels has one of the most pleasant and charismatic cast that I have ever seen, with very beautiful and charming mature and young actresses and great actors having top-notch performances. In the end, the film gives the desire of reading Jane Austen's novels. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Clube de Leitura de Jane Austen" ("The Jane Austen's Reading Club")
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Jane Austen in California
Red-1258 October 2007
The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) was directed by Robin Swicord, who also wrote the screenplay. Thanks to movie adaptations--some great, some so-so--Jane Austen has found a wider audience than she could ever have guessed. Now, second-generation books and films are being made about Austen and her novels. "The Jane Austen Book Club" is one of these.

The premise of the film is simple but irresistible. Six Californians decide to get together once a month to discuss each one of Austen's six novels in turn. The group has some cohesiveness--most of the people are friends, and the group includes a mother and her daughter. However, there is a newcomer--a young man--who is not familiar with Austen, but is charming enough, and eager enough, to be accepted because the group lacks a sixth member.

All of the women are in a lesser or greater crisis at some point in the movie, and the film intertwines their problems with the problems faced by Austen's heroines. The parallel is apt enough--the women, like Austen's heroines, are attractive and reasonably comfortable financially. Most of their problems center around love, or lack of love, which, again, follows Austen's plots.

There's a problem with the movie--every one of the main characters is extremely attractive. Surely, there must be some average-appearing women and men in the Sacramento area. One of the actors--Emily Blunt-- is so beautiful that it's hard to believe she's real. It's also hard to believe that she would have married--and would stay with--her insensitive lout of a husband. (I've never seen Blunt in a film before. When I checked her images in Google, she just looked like one more very attractive young actor. In this movie, she's other-worldly.) I would have liked the movie more if some of the characters had the appearance of people you meet in the real world.

The film will work better if you know Jane Austen's novels and characters. However, even if you don't, "The Jane Austen Book Club" is still worth seeing. Incidentally, it's not a chick-flick. I don't see why men would like the movie any less then women. It's a good film for anyone who likes to read and likes to think.
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Getting in touch with my inner Austen.
Blueghost11 October 2007
An enjoyable film that, for the genre it's in, was not very predictable, and in this way was a very pleasant watch. I really wasn't sure what to expect. I figured with Jane Austen's named tagged onto it it'd be some kind of emotional film with lots of angst. Perhaps it might be a period piece. But this isn't what I got.

I have to admit that I've never cracked a Jane Austen novel, but had seen many a British import on PBS rendering Austen's works for the small screen. And I half expected a costume drama to unfold on the screen, but got something that was a little more cliché in one way, but very unique in another.

The film uses Austen's plots as set piece examples from which the characters learn, apply to their personal lives, and grow. I have to say that I saw some aspects of my own personal life ingrained in this film. One might call it art imitating life, imitating art, only to imitate life once more. As an audience member whose been through some unique experiences as of recent, I found it heart felt. But I digress.

The film is respectably shot. Warm lighting compliments respectable though average cinematography. But then again the film isn't about wowing the audience with stunning visuals. It's about presenting characters and how they relate to one of the great writers of all time and her works.

The humor revolves around the unexpected, as do the more tragic and hurtful points. But even here there's a sort of unpredictable-predictability that, because of its exuberance, can be accepted for what it is. The characters behave as expected, but are surprised with the audience when the unexpected pops up. We can sympathize with them and their situations. It's what might be called the ultimate in character empathy--Austen style.

And isn't that one of Austen's great hallmarks? Her ability to create characters one can believe and sympathize with on all levels? Austen's books are used to create a tapestry of themes to navigate the highs and woes of life. The film's irreverent narrative remains intelligent, adult, somewhat prosaic and marginally didactic, but highly enjoyable for the most part.

A respectable chick-flick. :-) Enjoy!
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Book-of-the-Month Club
jotix10017 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Jane Austen, the English author, left a body of work that, to this day, seems unsurpassed by any other novelist of her time. She was not a prolific writer, and yet, her six novels have survived the passing of time; they have become a must read for English literature studies. Bernadette, a Californian lady that loves the works of Jane Austen proposes to start a book club in which each member would lead the discussion of one of the six novels that must be read. Her only problem is she can only count with two other friends. Bernadette is set in getting the rest of the group by sheer determination that pays off in unexpected, and satisfactory ways.

The group that Bernadette assembles could not so much different. Jocelyn, a dog breeder, leads a lonely life in her rural place. Sylvia, a librarian, discovers her husband Daniel wants to leave her. Her daughter Allegra agrees to join, perhaps a bit reluctantly. Prudie, the uptight teacher, whose marriage seems to be disintegrating before her eyes, is talked into coming aboard. The last member Bernadette finds is not a woman, but a computer specialist, Grigg, whose taste runs more into science fiction. Bernadette feels the last member will be good to boost Sylvia's morale who is depressed after Daniel's desertion.

Director Robin Swicord, who also adapted the original novel by Karen Joy Fowler, shows an affinity to the material that is no small achievement. Ms. Swicord's second film is an enjoyable time because it involves the viewer in unexpected ways. The narrative brings parallel between the work of Jane Austin and the characters that are trying to make sense of the meaning of it. Another coup for Ms. Swicord is the incredible talented cast that was put together to bring to life a story that in someone else's hands would not have had the impact this film has on many levels. It is a highly feminine work, but it should not scare discriminating fans.

Kathy Baker, who plays Bernadette, is a welcome addition to any film. The luminous Maria Bello, another excellent actress, does justice to her Jocelyn. Emily Blunt is perfectly snobbish as Prudie. Amy Braverman and Maggie Grace appear as mother and daughter, Sylvia and Allegra. The other principal, Hugh Dancy, does a surprising turn as Grigg. Jimmy Smits is seen as Daniel.

Robin Swicord's understanding with the material and her love for Jane Austen made a rewarding film that will delight audiences of all ages.
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Not Just for Jane Austen Fans
Brent Trafton5 October 2007
I'm not a Jane Austen fan. I have not read any of the books and I have only seen two movies based on the books. However, I liked "The Jane Austen Book Club" more than either of those movies.

While it is not particularly realistic, the characters are interesting and likable, the acting is good, and it is not filled with violence and vulgarity, something that seems to be hard to find in the movie theater right now.

All the actors are good but Emily Blunt really stands out. She could end up being a big star. And who knew that Maggie Grace was a real actress and not just the bimbo she played on "Lost."

"The Jane Austen Fan Club" is not a masterpiece and you can probably wait for it to show up on video, but with the poor variety currently available in the theaters, it is the best thing out right now.
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A brilliant and emotional film
fdarcy18 May 2010
I don't know if this is one of the best films I have seen. But this is certainly one of the most intelligent. films based on books (and I'm referring to Austen books, I didn't read the novel it's based upon) tend to be irritating, often insulting the original books and the intelligence of their readers. when the film tries to stay "loyal", in many occasions it is nothing but a poor shadow of the original book.

This film is nothing of this sort. Those who made it really loved and understood Jane Austen (and literature in general). Anyone of admires her books will find in this movie lots to think about. And still, it is also a movie, with beautiful and interesting characters, none of them is made ridiculous or flat.

Small movie, but worth every second of watching.
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Old Fashioned Storytelling Rules!
aharmas28 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Even though this film came out weeks after "Dan in Real Life", there are many ways in which they resemble each other, and I'm glad I did see "Club" second so I can understand how "Dan" didn't quite achieve its goals, and "Club" soars above many of its contemporary counterparts. Both of them are ensemble pictures, the same kind Hollywood used to release by the dozen week after week. "Club" uses as its inspiration the stories written by Jane Austen, one of literature's most interesting societal observers, her own personal life becoming secondary to her analysis of what was the main components of her contemporary society.

In this film, Maria Bello and Emily Blunt manage to shine a bit brighter than the rest of a very inspired cast. Emily Blunt validating the point that her turn in last year's "Prada" was no fluke shows she can handle an apparently infinite number of emotions. Her lovely French teacher faces a very tough choice, as her own marriage undergoes critical times. There are other personal issues causing friction in her personal life, and this one is one the film doesn't explore as much as it could have, her relationship with her mother. Still, since the film is probably supposed to come in under two hours in order to meet the industry's time restrictions, we only get so much, and what we get is lovely and satisfying.

Maria Bello also has her own comedy of errors to deal with, she is unable to recognize the restrictions and masks others learn to live with in order to cope, and the message soon becomes clear: it's time to live and take chances. She is a lovely woman, with classical features and very expressive eyes, eyes that are able to communicate love, frustration, jealousy, passion, and sadness within seconds of each other. Her scenes are probably the most intense in the movie, yet not necessarily the best. The best involve the entire cast as they discuss Jane Austen's lessons and texts, and soon we understand how our society is not very different from that of Austen's. The costumes and settings have changed, but the emotions are still somehow, the same.

Giving another joyous and remarkable performance is Kathy Baker, who embraces her role as the mother figure with gusto and much conviction. She is a lively creation and one that is not as overbearing as it the heavy hand of another director and performer would have created. Baker somehow is a metaphorical captain that leads her crew to safer water and watches, teaches and learns without really interfering. It's a masterful job by this seasoned actress, and it recalls the work of Rosalind Russell and other classic performers who knew what to do with a very good part and a great script.

There is much more to discuss in this film, and let it suffice that Smitts also does some of his best work ever, as does the rest of this fantastic cast. "The Jane Austen Book Club" is a charming, light film that manages to find its center and embraces literature, life, and the many emotions that are common to people throughout time. It is a film that makes us think, feel, and laugh at our trivial and deep conflicts, that serves as a blueprint and a source of inspiration to filmmakers who might want to try giving the written word a bigger role in the production of films. An outline is not enough, a well developed script will provide the performers with material that will satisfy both their professional drives and the needs of desperate audiences around the world.

"The Book Club" is a remarkable achievement, an oasis in a Hollywood landscape that has forgotten how important creativity and talent must work together to produce quality work. Thank the Gods for these moments, when the silver screen still manages to shine golden.
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Book club members' delight
Harry T. Yung29 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Those familiar with Jane Austen's six novels will get more (but not necessarily much more) out of this movie, but it's people who have experienced book clubs that will really get a kick out of it. To audience that is neither, this is still an enjoyable (I hate to use the term but cannot think of a better one) chick flick.

As the title suggests, the story evolves around the book club meetings but this is really one of those familiar ensemble pieces. But first the book club: six members are needed to cover all six of Austen's novels, each taking primary responsibility for one, to be discussed in six consecutive monthly meetings at various venues (one of which ended up being a hospital ward!). There are 4 initial members who know each other while the remaining two are drafted through chances encounters.

BERNADETTE the founder is a sophisticated woman who has married six time and has purportedly seen it all. Her two Austen enthusiast friends are JOCELYN, a woman of independent spirit and a dog breeder by profession and SYLVIA who on the surface has a happy family but is in fact on the verge of a separation with a husband who is looking for a new relationship after 30 years of happy married life. ALLEGRA is Sylvia's daughter, a lesbian. As these four set out to look for two more members, Bernadette has an encounter with PRUDIE, another Austen enthusiast with a husband who has just disappointed her by canceling out a business trip to Paris (on which she can accompany him) because he has to travel with the boss to watch a basketball game. Finally, GRIGG, the only male member and an "Austen virgin", encounters Jocelyn in a bar, in a certain amount of mutual attraction. With Grigg being a computer geek and Sci-Fi fan, he agrees to read Austen's "girlie books" in the hope that Jocelyn will give Ursula K. LeGuin's "The left hand of darkness" a try.

There is no point for me to go into details. The audience will have a pretty good idea of what they expect to see. The six members have their own predicaments and situations and they are all projected through the Austen stories and characters during the discussions. Within the six of them, we see relationships and interactions from simply conflicting opinions about the novels to much more personal involvements. Outside these six book club members, there is more than another half dozen characters playing out various situation life dramas with them. The movie is light, easy flowing and very funny at times. In the end, everything is nicely resolved because there is no problem in life and relationships that cannot be set right by a well written letter, as any deserving Jane Austen fan can tell you. By the end of the movie, you would have enjoyed it so much that you wouldn't mind that it has not gone any deeper.

The actings are all competent and effective. Playing Jocelyn is Mario Bello who is comfortable with both mainstream (World Trade Centre) and not-so-mainstream (A history of violence) material. Playing the woman outwardly fully in control but has a lot of feeling bottled up is not a big challenge for her. Kathy Baker, whose sensuous persona in "Edward scissorhands" I still remember, has an easy time with Bernadette, a facilitator role in both the book club and the movie. Emily Blunt, who served notice with "The Devil wears Prada", is good as Prudie, a troubled wife who feels being neglected and is at a crossroad. Hugh Dancy, whom I remember most as Galahad in "King Arthur" (2004), is the brightest spot in the movie as Grigg, not necessarily because he is the sole male member of the club, but more to do with his sunshine persona. Amy Brenneman shines as Sylvia, giving a little more to the role of the betrayed wife. Maggie Grace makes an effective contribution to the ensemble cast with her role of pretty young thing Allegra.

As I said, there are more than another half a dozen characters but the one that must be mentioned is Prudie's mother whose mere presence spells trouble. This is just a cameo role but when this is played by Lynn Redgrave, you get more than your money's worth.
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Great, wonderful, terrific
cmgilliford11 October 2008
Had not seen any publicity for this film so had no idea what to expect but what a breath of fresh air this film is. An amazing ensemble cast. Really hits the right balance in all ways.

It could have been a soppy Chick flick but turned out to be an intelligent and thoughtful piece of writing which the actors carried off brilliantly. Can't wait for another one by this collaboration of producers and director. Bravo.

This does not fit into any one genre I don't think. That is one of the things I enjoyed about this movie. It wasn't romance, comedy or drama but had all of those elements.
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Pleasant; Characters and Resolution Did Not Convince, Engage or Arouse Feeling
"The Jane Austen Book Club" was a pleasant movie, one I didn't mind watching once but would not want to watch again. There were a couple of very good lines, and the actors are all, without exception, fine. Production values are high.

The characters and resolution didn't convince or engage me, though. I just did not believe, at any point, that these were real people. I especially did not believe the final scene. "He ended up with her? I don't think so," was what I kept thinking. I didn't believe the final couplings, and I did not care.

I had the same problem with this movie that I had with the book on which it was based. Both book and movie felt like writerly exercises to me. I felt as if the writer, Karen Joy Fowler, got this neato schematic idea in her writing class, "Aha! A book club of bourgeois people who read Jane Austen and fall in love!" and went about filling in the pieces of that puzzle without ever investing any of the characters with real human warmth.

One characterization stands out, though. Emily Blunt as a depressive woman with a bad mother, a mediocre marriage, and a temptation to do very bad things, creates a moody air all by herself. It's as if she came in from the set of a daring indy movie. I hope she's given chances in the future to live up to the promise she shows here.
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Never got into Austen, but the film still read well.
sudburHUY22 September 2007
This harmoniously concocted movie features as many 'novel' film making devices as it does Jane Austen novels. Although I have yet to read one Jane Austen novel -feeling like the odd one out during last night's Gala presentation at Cinefest- I very much enjoyed this movie. I think it will serve as a great conversation piece for not only movie goers, but also film and literature classes. However, it is nowhere near the likes of "Shakesphere In Love"... The acting in this film was overall good, but not great. Feist offers a nice track near the end of the movie, which was a nice surprise. Robin Swicord does a wonderful job directing her own screenplay.
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Very nice! Sensable AND sensitive
bopdog15 November 2007
I have never read Jane Austin. Although I did have a senior Librarian at the British Library, where I am a "registered" scholar-reader, crack a funny and original joke about her to me once. The joke was slow, off-the-cuff (he made it up on the spot), and so droll in the way he told it "au naturel" and spontaneous. HE probably was chortling for the rest of the day. For him it probably was the height of hilarity. I was impressed, and charmed, even though the joke itself was pretty mild. Much like this movie.

The modern day Jane Austen book club members act out love lives and turmoil (and triumphs) very much in parallel with a Jane Austin book, as I understand their plots to be (I have seen them all in movies, but never in print). This reminded me of Shakespeare in Love, where the modern writers performed a brilliant art that went beyond mere parroting or mimicry. I suspect a Jane Austen reader/fan would recognize much, and see in-jokes and intelligent references that I missed. But, I think it is saying something good about the movie to note that I learned something about Austin's books, but also followed the plot, was thoroughly entertained and interested throughout, and felt a involved with what happened. Again, I'm not part of the Austin cognoscenti, but I at least felt "in on the jokes" and in on the plot as well. I was included by the movie.

Some of the plot points veered toward the girlie for a moment, but never completely went off down that road. That is, with the chatty older lady Kathy Baker's character initially showing contempt for men, and hints of a lesbian theme, at first I was ready for a rant. Or at least a put-down of males, like the last 10 minutes of "Steel Magnolias." But everybody lightened up, and basically respect and affection was shown to all, ultimately. Although, returning for a moment to the lesbian thing, I did not for one minute actually buy that the daughter, Allegra, was gay--- not that there would be anything wrong with that (note the Seinfeld reference). But as a comment on the movie, on the narrative and the portrayals, it just didn't FEEL real or true. Not even "movie true." But the actors were competent and otherwise convincing, all around, so I found myself able to dismiss that dissonant note with relative ease.

If you are a guy, don't be afraid of this movie. It's pleasant, and about real-enough things that concern us, too. After all, for most of us, relationships involve men and women, so here's something that is a bit about both, but the perspective is nonetheless clearly from the distaff side, which intrigued me. I enjoyed it! BTW--- I went to a special "art series" showing at the cinema where I am visiting. I went alone. Throughout the movie, however, I could hear many female voices laughing, and seemingly chuckling with agreement when certain truths and characters' foibles were brought to light--- and never in a mean way. So maybe it rings true for the ladies as well.
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Not a Jane Austen Film Club?
Tim Kidner30 November 2010
The rented DVD had tags of this being an all-star rom com. Those two words normally, especially when in conjunction with each other sends me running to the hills.

With some preconceived notion that, by its very title and the nature of the 'club' in question, I felt this would be lifted up and above the usual trite that passes off as a humorous romantic movie these days.

So - it wasn't quite as I expected, but then it wasn't as bad as I expected it could be, once I (sort of) knew what to expect.... Follow? It makes perfect sense that a cross-section (mostly women) of Californian people with time to spare and quite a few loose ends in their lives to tie up would follow Austen as their chosen book club author.

That it doesn't try too hard to either be high-brow literature or an out and out banal people-in-need-of-therapy (a few don't, actually) sob session makes it all gently perceptive. How a common theme, which could be anything ie ten-pin bowling, can become a focal point in which folk can socialise and hopefully, put their lives into perspective. That that subject is in fact a world-loved and world-known author whose characters are so everyday, they can be transferred, by type, a few centuries forward and interwoven into the lives of readers any time - and anywhere.

Just for the record, I'm not a follower of Jane Austen's works but do know the salient titles and a few of the key characters and I'm sure if you do, you'd get more from the film than maybe I did.

Admittedly, I didn't recognise many (if any) of the cast but found the entire viewing experience a refreshing, often witty one that thankfully desisted obvious stereotyping.

In short, yes worth the modest rental fee and for those who like such stuff, but with an added intelligence, go for it.
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Nice moments but whole doesn't satisfy
kammm25 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The acting was great but there were many false moments originating from the script.

I didn't believe the lesbian...she was inconsistent, angry and then happy and I never understood what she wanted.

I didn't believe Sylvia taking back her husband without so much as a discussion about his infidelity.

I didn't believe Maria Bello pushing away a great guy because she prefers dogs...

I did believe every moment of Prudies dilemma. This was the character and story line that was most developed. We understood her disappointment in her husband and attraction to the hot kid.

Isuspect in the book these plot points are more fully motivated because here, most of them just don't work. Given what the actors had to work with, I give them a big A+...especially Emily Blunt.
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Half of a good movie
jmc47696 October 2007
Jane Austin Book Club is half of a good movie. I like Jane Austen and I wanted to like this movie. It had good acting. It had more character development than you see in most movies. And I personally like movies with a lot of talking. The problem is that out of the six members of the book club, three were unlikable. Allegra is a hedonistic, self-centered woman who has trouble maintaining long term relationships. Bernadette is a supercilious know-it-all. And Prudie, the most problematic member of the club, is so neurotic and so clueless that you wince every time she opens her mouth. If you're going to put a neurotic main character in a movie, he or she needs to at least be charming enough to offset the mental issues. In an ensemble cast, it simply doesn't work to have so many unlikable characters. Another big problem I had with the movie is that the ending is right out of fantasy land. No way this is gonna happen in the real world. Still, most Jane Austen fans will probably like the film and I would recommend it to them because of the many references to her novels.
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Everything Works In Spite of Itself
tedg7 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you think Austen is all about mere story, there's still something to talk about. In the end, things work out despite the structural imperfections of the world which work against happy endings. If that's your take, if it is all about story for you, this is a perfect movie.

Because it works. And it works in spite of some horrible missteps, some absolutely bad decisions that should cripple it. There are a surplus here, enough to have killed a similar movie. And yet it works. Yes, everyone finds romance at the end, but what I mean is also that we fall in love with the movie.

Why? Three reasons.

The actresses really are centered, the key ones. The characters aren't Austenian in manner, but they are as abstract and dramatic as hers are. Because these actresses don't have to play real, nuanced people, they get to pour all their skills into the three or so characteristics each is supposed to have. The funny thing is that the chords they strike as a group seem to be acceptable. Its not a play about life, but a play about a fictional world of romance that itself relates to life, or so we accept. So the actresses work. Emily Blunt is a power, and I am committed to follow her. She makes good choices.

There are some truly endearing sequences. Its fewer than half, and they are interwoven with some real mistakes. But they are powerful enough to allow us to skim over the badness in the movie. I believe that in part this is because the nature of the story and the being of the characters is to do that. So the two tractors of continuance in the face of incompetence make the incompetence irrelevant.

And then there's the big idea, what I call the fold. We have the movie. We have the books. We have the people in the movie reading the books and comparing themselves to what they read. We have us "reading" the movie and doing likewise, but slightly differently. We have us reading what the writer of the script did in terms of overlapping the four of these, and us wondering whether we will follow 21st or 19th century conventions (and being pleased to progressively find the latter). Its a simple fold but interesting because it is so overt. Its even underscored by the appearance of that usual folding device: a school play about love where the actor gets to relate to his love off-stage and tell her he loves her.

You may be wondering about the sequences that are missteps. Austen depicts a world that is profoundly broken, but instead of pounding us with it, she presents the breaks through humor, humorous characters mostly, who present attitudes that collectively circumnavigate the world. Austen called this "irony," though the definition has changed twice since then. This writer-director tries this in a way, by introducing situations we might know from old TeeVee sitcoms. There's the computer geek's house that is set up with scary gismos. There's the same geek comparing Austen to Star Wars. And yet this same geek is the fulcrum of many of the most powerful presentations of tentative commitment.

There's a moment when Blunt's character is making a tough choice and literally sees a blinking sign wondering "what would Jane do?" This is bad in so many ways. There are a dozen such spots where you wonder what they were thinking.

This reminds me of some successful people I know. They are deeply inadequate in fundamental ways, but they know how to use their strengths to comb over the thin spots.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Boring and unnecessarily random...
Ron Manke9 October 2007
Jane Austen's Book Club was an interesting concept on paper. I like many of the Jane Austen movies, but I have to admit I am a male that has never read any of her books.

The subtitle to this movie implies that you don't have to know the books to enjoy this movie, but I found the movie boring and strangely random. Some characters don't seem to feel genuine, and random things seem to happen to move the story along.

I also don't understand why a movie about a book club has to have a shaky camera at times, and multiple shots of people at different angles while someone is sitting at a table having a conversation?

I guess they figured they had to keep the camera moving to keep people's attention. It's a trend that seems to be gaining momentum lately in action movies, and now they are using it as a device to make book club movies seem to have more action...

All I can say is that I found it less interesting than an actual book club meetings, of which I have attended a couple.
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Keep Austen Weird
David Ferguson7 October 2007
Greetings again from the darkness. For the life of me, I don't understand how a filmmaker can create a movie around the marvelous writings of Jane Austen and literally suck all of the soul and spirit from every single character! It's as if director Robin Swicord assumes that just by mentioning the classic novels, everyone will swoon at her movie and her characters. Wrong!! First of all, how about tossing in a likable character? The closest we have here is pretty boy Hugh Dancy (no, not Darcy) who is not only a very nice and sensitive guy (guess what, he has older sisters!), but in a tip of the cap to the ultimate dream guy ... he also has lots of money! OK, he has a few flaws ... he doesn't vacuum his car.

Somehow every female character in this film is miserable in their life and more importantly, miserable to watch on screen. Could someone PLEASE tell Kathy Baker to shut up? And Amy Brenneman ... supposedly devastated when her hubby dumps her ... her reaction is to stop wearing make-up. Now THAT is heartfelt pain. I am not going to say much about Maggie Grace in her role as a selfish little lesbian princess who has no clue what caring or giving is, but is quick to rip everyone else's thoughts. Maria Bello's character gets a really raw deal. The film starts out with all her friends making fun of her miserably lonely life because she has a funeral for her prize dog. A lousy start to a lousy film. Worst of all is how the great Emily Blunt is treated. Why would this beautiful and intelligent woman, who is going through a rough time in her marriage, even consider messing around with a student? Plain ridiculous.

As if all that weren't enough, I really felt embarrassed for Vanessa Redgrave, who is forced to act like a clown and then written out in a cheap TV movie plot twist. Then, just when you think it can't get any worse, the last 10 minutes are hokey, gutless and just pathetic. If you want a quality chick flick, see "In Her Shoes" or "The Devil Wears Prada" ... or better yet, pick up and read any of Jane Austen's marvelous novels.
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I don't know what Jane Austen has to do with this movie....
grekanda2920 February 2008
Let me start out by saying that I'm an avid fan of Jane Austen books - that in itself should say it all. But since most people (aka those who haven't read Jane Austen) won't understand this, I'll say it more bluntly. And to me, they might as well have called this movie the Soap Opera Fan Club, or the Jackie Collins Fan Club. The books were written in the early 1800's, people, not 2008. In none of Jane's books were there even hints of men cheating and leaving their wives, lesbians, or women who lust after men like dogs in heat. I'm sorry, but I must say that I feel it's misleading to portray to those who are clueless of Jane Austen, that she was just like today's Desperate Housewives type of modern woman. She was witty and funny, often ahead of her time, true, but this movie makes her books sound like they are what they really aren't. If the movie had been titled by another book club name I could've swallowed it. However, my tolerance for such Hollywood exploitation, most who have probably never even read classic literature, (the actors who were forced to read the book ahead of time by the director DOESN'T count) is absolutely zero.
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No Feast of Love, TG
Ric-79 October 2007
This film covered many of the same themes as did "Feast of Love," but this film's coverage of those topics was much, much better. I have not read any Jane Austen novels (and can't say that I now want to), but I thought this film was never less than interesting.

There were some parts that were rather formulaic, and I thought the ending was a bit too neat. I didn't much care for the lesbian, because it seemed that she was required to be a credit to her sexual orientation. It would be so refreshing to see a character that was just incidentally gay--you know, the way we are in "real" life.

But this is basically a "feel-good" movie, that (so far as I am concerned) accomplished its purpose. I imagine that if I had any familiarity with Jane Austen, I would have liked it even more.
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