The Jane Austen Book Club


Directed by: Robin Swicord
Written by:Robin Swicord
Starring: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker, Maggie Grace, Hugh Dancy, Jimmy Smits, Marc Blucas, Kevin Zegers, Vanessa Redgrave
Released: January 31, 2008
Grade: C+

Five women and one guy haven’t gotten together and formed a book club.  They’re not too keen on the idea of reading a whole bunch of new novels so they’re focusing on what they’ve already familiar with – the works of Jane Austen.  They agree to meet up once a month and have an in-depth discussion on the plot and characters from a nominated book.

These six people are strange, to say the least.  The most annoying would have be a young teacher named Prudie.  She doesn’t know anyone else in the club and at their first meeting, she manages to irritate everyone with her pretentiousness.  Maybe this was the intention of the writer (this film is based on a book) or maybe they’ve just heightened her personality.  Either way, she drove me insane.  I don’t understand why the others in the club didn’t kick her out.

If you’re a Jane Austen devotee, you’re likely to enjoy this film a lot more.  You’ll appreciate the conversations the members of the book club share and will understand when they talk about the characters in each Austen novel.  I haven’t read any of the books (and can’t remember too much about the movies) so I found their book club meetings rather dull.  I was much more interested in what was happening to them outside of these meetings.

Prudie (Blunt) is an emotional wreck and is considering having an affair with a student from her school.  Sylvia (Brenneman) and her husband have recently divorced after a 20 year marriage and Jocelyn (Bello) is trying to set her up with Grigg (Dancy), the sole male member of the book club.  Allegra (Grace) is Sylvia’s daughter and is trying find meaning in her own current relationship.  Bernadette (Baker) has been married six times and is on the hunt for husband number 7.  Yep, there’s a lot happening.

As I’ve alluded to earlier, I found much of the story hard to believe.  Every event seems over-exaggerated and every emotion seems over-played.  For example, there’s a very brief scene where Prudie has a visit from her eccentric mother (a cameo from Vanessa Redgrave).  The scene is included so that we can have sympathy for Prudie and understand why behaves the way she does.   Why though is the mother character so nutty?  I found it laughable.

My gripes should count for very little when it comes to The Jane Austen Book Club.  I’m pretty confident that writer-director Robin Swicord wasn’t aiming her film at a 30-year-old guy who has never read a Jane Austen novel.  Let’s label it a “chick flick” and leave it at that.  I know plenty of people who will enjoy it… just not me.