Sunday, November 30, 2008

Movie Review: The Jane Austen Book Club

Photobucket Summary: Lest there be any doubts about the ongoing relevance of the novels of Jane Austen, the charming Jane Austen Book Club will lay them to rest--with wit, sharp insight, and a wicked chuckle or three. Directed by the talented Robin Swicord, who adapted the book by Karen Joy Fowler (and also wrote the crackling screenplay for the 1994 version of Little Women), the film is a modern-day comedy of manners, with deeply felt emotions, repressed feelings, unquenched desire and embarrassing relatives--all staples of Austen works. The film centers on a group of six friends in Sacramento, Calif., who gather to distract themselves from loss (a newly dumped Sylvia, played with grace and quiet pain by Amy Brenneman), repressed disappointment (the prissy teacher Prudie, played by Emily Blunt), or a life of unrealized dreams (Jocelyn, played by Maria Bello, whose acting skills have gained great nuance, both in comedy and drama). All are devoted Austen fans, except the lone man, Grigg (Hugh Dancy, adorable and available, ladies), who has an ulterior motive for joining the chick-lit gang. As the months unfold, we learn about the relationships of all the members, and watch as elements of Austen's novels and characters pop up with enchanting regularity.
There's plenty of pride (Prudie), prejudice (Jocelyn), sense (Sylvia), and sensibility (Sylvia's daughter Allegra, headstrong and reckless in life and love, played by Maggie Grace)--and a fair amount of persuasion (Grigg and Sylvia's caddish ex, Daniel, a smooth Jimmy Smits). As the minuet of relationships and alliances unfolds over the months, the emotions are real and the leavening humor spot-on. About the only thing that doesn't ring true is seeing all these Sacramento women bundled up in shawls, blankets, thick sweaters and extra layers--even in July(!). Still, the film will engage even reluctant Austen readers (if there is such a thing). As Kathy Baker's Bernadette says gaily, "Jane Austen is the perfect antidote to life!" Elizabeth Bennett couldn't have put it better.

Movie Review: Another book to movie, where I haven't read the book, but I thought The Jane Austen Book Club sounded like a perfect movie to watch while my husband was out. It indeed was. I was working while watching it, but it's one of those movies that doesn't need your undivided attention to get the gist of it. The cast is excellent and part of the reason I wanted to watch it. The movie itself is a tad predictable but it's not like I didn't expect that when I decided to watch it.

I did like the idea that each book club member chose the Jane Austen book of their liking and how it correlated to what they were going through personally. Again, predictable but enjoyable nonetheless. I've attempted to read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but I couldn't make it through. (I know that's horrible being an avid book reader). I think I prefer the movies based on her novels rather than her novels *ducks the tomatoes being thrown*. I will encourage my daughter to actually read the books because I do want her to understand the language of one of the best female writers ever.

If you are looking for an enjoyable movie to watch while drinking some wine and relaxing, The Jane Austen Book Club is a perfect movie for that and if you don't mind predictability. It might make you want to pick up a Jane Austen book or at least understand the books better.

Movie Final Take: 3/5


Serena November 30, 2008 at 11:58 AM  

I read this book, but haven't watched the movie yet. I'm not sure how I feel about the movie, considering I didn't really like the book.

Jenn November 30, 2008 at 1:17 PM  

Yes, Austin can be very 'wordy'. I read P&P. That was enough.

I think I'd like to see this one on film over paper; it sounds like it might be conceptually better as a film.

Anonymous ,  November 30, 2008 at 4:15 PM  

I read the book then saw the movie - and they were both good. There were some necessary changes, as the novel was less plot-driven, but they kept the essence of the characters.

If you want to try Austen again, try Persuasion. That's my favorite and I think it's easier to get drawn into than P&P, though I love that one, too.

Frankie and Bella December 1, 2008 at 12:23 AM  

I have to say that I found the movie translated so much better for me than the book :) I wasn't really looking forward to the movie after reading the book but I loved the movie! Usually it's the other way round and the book is better but I found that I missed so many little intricacies in the book that I enjoyed in the film

Anonymous ,  December 1, 2008 at 1:51 PM  

I didn't much like the book but thought it translated really well to film! For once, the movie was better than the book!

Jenn May 28, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

I finally got around to watching this... and thought it was okay. I kind of thought it was a little kitsch that their lives reflected the current novel. But a good rainyday chick-flick none the less.

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