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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 Janeno 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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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")
*** This review may contain 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.
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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