The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)
Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships -- both old and new -- begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.
Explores Austen's adage that general incivility is at love's essence. Sylvia's husband dumps her for another woman, so Bernadette and Jocelyn organize a book club to distract her. They recruit Sylvia's daughter Allegra; Prudie, a young teacher whose marriage may be on the rocks; and Grigg, a sci-fi fan who joins out of attraction to Jocelyn. The six read and discuss one Austen novel per month. Jocelyn tries to interest Grigg in Sylvia; Allegra falls in love with a woman she meets skydiving; Prudie contemplates an affair with a student; Sylvia's ex keeps popping up. In the discussions, characters reveal themselves in their comments. By the end, are truths universally acknowledged?
In California, the favorite dog of the lonely Jocelyn dies and she meets her best friends in the funeral: the six times divorced Bernadette; the housewife Sylvia and her lesbian daughter Allegra; and the young French teacher Prudie, whose mother is a dysfunctional woman. When Sylvia's husband Daniel 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, 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 is in crisis and she flirts with the student Trey. Aleggra falls in love for Corinne 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.
- Single and childless Jocelyn is devastated at the loss of one of her prize-winning Rhodesian ridgebacks. Her friends Bernadette and Sylvia try to think of ways to distract her. They decide to start a book discussion group. While waiting in line to see "Mansfield Park", Bernadette strikes up a conversation with a tearful Prudie, who teaches French at the local high school. Prudie's husband Dean has just cancelled their trip to Paris and she is very upset. Over coffee, Bernadette suggest that Prudie join their book club. Prudie is not enthusiastic until Bernadette comes up with the idea of reading Jane Austen's novels.
Sylvia and her lawyer husband Daniel have three children; two boys who are away at college and Allegra, an attractive young lesbian. During dinner, Sylvia's world is shattered when Daniel asks for a divorce. He has been having an affair with a colleague for some time. Sylvia leaves the restaurant in tears. Allegra is very supportive of her mother and moves back home for a while. They learn that Daniel's girlfriend is younger and very attractive.
Jocelyn goes to a dog breeders' convention and meets Grigg, a sci-fi enthusiast who is attending a convention at the same hotel. He is attracted to her but at first she freezes him out. In an abrupt about-face, she invites him to join their Jane Austen book club. That brings the total to six people, with each one reading an Austen novel.
The group meets at Starbucks to finalize details but Prudie is rude to Allegra, referring to her online jewelry business as "hippie handicrafts". Allegra starts to leave but Jocelyn stops her. Grigg arrives late, having gone to the wrong Starbucks. Introductions are made and each person chooses a novel. They decide to meet once a month at each other's homes. Grigg is what Bernadette calls an "Austen virgin" as he has never read the novels.
Jocelyn tries to pair up Grigg and Sylvia, even though she is several years older. She thinks an affair with Grigg would take Sylvia's mind off Daniel. But he is only interested in Jocelyn. He brings her several sci-fi novels, urging her to read them, but she is not a fan of that genre.
Prudie is attracted to one of her former students; a senior boy named Trey. He works at a bookstore and sells her some travel books about Paris. She covertly watches him in the school library and turns bright red when he suddenly looks in her direction.
Dean suggests that Prudie invite her mother to visit while he is away on a business trip. Having grown up as the only child of a pot-smoking ex-hippie known as Mama Sky, Prudie is not enthusiastic. She never met her father and had only one picture of him. Mama wants to come to school with Prudie and watch her teach, but it isn't allowed. Prudie reluctantly allows her mother to drop her off so she can use the car, but warns her to be back after school. Mama is late and Trey asks Prudie if she will help him with his lines in the school play. He comes on to her but she rebuffs him.
The first meeting of the Jane Austen book club is awkward. Prudie uses French phrases which she has to translate, not realizing that the others consider her stuck-up. Grigg bought a huge volume containing all six of the Austen novels, which amuses the group.
Sylvia and Daniel meet with an attorney. Afterward, Sylvia is so upset that she cries in the restroom. Jocelyn tries to set up a lunch date for Sylvia and Grigg, but he asks her to go along. That is not what Jocelyn had in mind and the date doesn't come off.
Allegra goes sky-diving and breaks her wrist during landing, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. She doesn't want Sylvia to know because her mother would worry, so she asks a fellow team member, Corinne, to call her and make up an excuse of why she will be home late. The young women are instantly attracted to each other and end up living together.
Grigg keeps asking Jocelyn if she has read the books he gave her. He thinks she will like sci-fi if she will only give it a chance. Jocelyn promises she will get around to reading the books.
Prudie comes home to find the smoke alarm blaring and her mother stoned, eating ice cream and brownies while watching TV. The hot pan of brownies made scorch marks on the living room rug. Suddenly fed up, Prudie orders her mother to pack up and leave.
During a discussion of "Mansfield Park," Sylvia becomes upset and leaves the room in tears. There is adultery in the novel and Jocelyn feels guilty at having forgotten. She even wonders if the group will manage to get through the rest of the books.
Grigg's choice was "Northanger Abbey". When it is time for him to host, he takes Jocelyn along while he buys a sofa. She is somewhat irritated when he buys the first one he sees, without regard to color and size.
Prudie and Trey meet in her car during lunch period. She tells him it wouldn't be proper to have an affair, since he is a student. He points out that he is eighteen. Suddenly she sees Dean in the distance. While she goes to meet him, Trey slides out of the car unnoticed.
That night the group meets at Grigg's house. He has rigged it with fake skeletons, cobwebs, bats, and spooky music. Sylvia finds it scary so he has to turn off the music. Bernadette tells them that Prudie's mother was killed earlier that day in a traffic accident. She and Dean have left to make funeral arrangements.
At the funeral, Prudie accuses Dean of flirting with one of her friends. He denies it and they have an argument. Their marriage is in serious trouble and they both know it.
Sylvia wakes up to the sound of a lawn mower. Daniel has come to mow but she orders him to leave. He seems to be trying to reach out to her but she reminds him that their marriage is over.
The next meeting of the book club falls on the night of the local library benefit, of which Sylvia is in charge. The group decides to meet there to discuss "Pride and Prejudice." Daniel and his girlfriend have also purchased tickets and Jocelyn is determined to arrive early to support her friend. She accepts Grigg's invitation to ride with him but soon regrets it. On the way he runs out of gas and they are still miles from the library. Neither of them brought their cell phones. Angrily Jocelyn sets off on foot, berating Grigg for his carelessness.
Emotions are running high at the dinner. Allegra has broken up with Corinne after learning that her friend had betrayed her. Prudie has been drinking and announces that Dean thinks Austen is the capital of Texas. Then she reveals that her father's picture was a fake. Mama Sky had no idea who her father was and she purchased the picture at a garage sale. No one knows what to say and Prudie runs into the restroom. Allegra follows and tries to comfort her. Later, Bernadette drives Prudie home. She confides in Bernadette about Trey but is assured that her feelings for him are a result of her grief.
While wall climbing at a gym, Allegra falls and is briefly knocked unconscious. Sylvia and Daniel rush to her side. Later they sit by her bed, discussing how accident-prone she is. Daniel admits to having broken up with his girlfriend and admits he made a big mistake.
The group meets at the hospital around Allegra's bed. Bernadette is teaching Prudie how to knit. Grigg and Jocelyn, having quarreled the night of the dinner, snipe at each other. There is only one more book left to discuss, "Persuasion". Since part of the novel takes place in Lyme, a seaside village in England, they decide that the last meeting should be at the beach.
By that time, Prudie and Dean are barely speaking. After driving off, Prudie pulls over and exchanges her beach clothes for a sexy dress and heels. Instead of attending the last meeting, she has arranged to meet Trey at a motel. But when she arrives, she can't bring herself to get out of the car. She returns home and asks Dean to read "Persuasion." It is about a couple who used to love each other deeply but have fallen out of love, just like herself and Dean. At first he refuses but finally agrees to read the first chapter.
Grigg has brought his visiting sister to the meeting. She wanted to meet the ladies who had talked him into reading Jane Austen. After cornering Jocelyn, she bluntly tells her that Grigg is in love with her. Daniel arrives with Allegra and her new friend, a doctor she met during her hospital stay. He started reading "Persuasion" with Allegra and thinks it is a wonderful book. He asks to stay and reluctantly Sylvia agrees.
Prudie and Dean end up in bed and since "Persuasion" is a fairly short book, he ends up reading all of it aloud to her. They fall asleep in each other's arms. Jocelyn finally reads the sci-fi books from Grigg and loves them so much that she impulsively drives to his house to tell him so. They embrace, kiss, and make love on the new sofa. Sylvia finds a letter from Daniel in her morning newspaper. He asks to come back. When Allegra arrives later, she finds her parents embracing.
A year later, the group once again gathers at the library benefit dinner. All the couples are still together and Prudie is pregnant. Bernadette arrives with her new husband, who has not read Jane Austen.