Friday, July 5, 2013

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) [PG-13] ****



Half a dozen strong characters share the stage in this ensemble romantic drama. Jocelyn (Maria Bello) and Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) are best friends from their college days; Jocelyn gave her college boyfriend to Sylvia when she was finished with him, and now, 25 years later, he has a mid-life crisis and divorces Sylvia for a younger woman. Their lesbian daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace) is passionate about relationships and experiencing life, and continually gets hurt by both. Bernadette (Kathy Baker) has had seven husbands, yet remains optimistic about her chances for love. Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a high school French teacher who has never been to France; she is torn between giving in to the advances of a younger student, and trying to rekindle her passion for her husband. And Jocelyn breeds dogs as a way of avoiding the mess and complication of a love affair.

Jocelyn invites Grigg (Hugh Dancy) to join their book club and tries to push him toward the wounded Sylvia, while Grigg is falling for Jocelyn. The club meets monthly, and as they work their way through Jane Austen's six novels, the characters and relationships of the book they are all currently reading are reflected in the lives and relationships of the six book club members. Some of the shared insights are quite interesting: that Jane Austen herself was never married; that she focuses on courtship and not on the married life of the main characters after they were married; that she never wrote a divorce novel; and that her characters continually fight for control over their emotions. While the screenplay is clever, the character and plot references are subtle enough that they will be best appreciated by fans of Jane Austen's novels, but may be lost on others. Nevertheless, if you love Jane Austen's novels, or even just the films of her novels, like Pride and Prejudice (2005), you might enjoy The Jane Austen Book Club

Labels: drama, romance     
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 61/100     
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=61, viewers=70)     
Blu-ray

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