This is a cute little chick flick about a group of people, each with their own relationship issues, getting together to read Jane Austen's books, and watching the influence of the books unfold in their lives. Hugh Dancy and Emily Blunt's characters are the ones that really stuck with me. The plot is slightly predictable, but the ensemble cast and the good-natured humor of the story make this a lovely feel-good movie.
If you are a Jane Austen newbie, you may find this boring, as there are tons of references to the books and to the author's life. But someone who knows Austen's work well will find this a light-hearted and enjoyable flick.
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Quick tip. Before you start to watch the movie, go to the Special Features and watch the background history on Jane Austen. It'll help a lot in understanding the movie.
If you want, although it'll spoil some of the story, check out the feature on each character in the movie and who they are a representative of in the world of Jane Austen novels.
If you know Jane Austen in and out, you'll get way more out of this than the average person.
Having said that and this being a chick flick, I found two of the male roles the most interesting. Hugh Dancy as a lovable but bumbling sort of male dropped into this book club world of women is very good. Jimmy Smits (Cane!) is also surprisingly good as a husband who is lost and then finds his way (hopefully I haven't given too much away by saying that here).
Yes, the female roles are good but I only found Kathy Baker and Emily Blunt to be intriguing. The other three I just found to be OK (and I won't say anything more on that).
P.S. One bizarre thing is director Robin Swicord who appears on the extras looks uncanningly like an older Hayley Wickenheiser (Canadian women's hockey star).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Warm, Witty, and Wise!March 2 2008
Benjamin J Burgraff
- Published on Amazon.com
You don't have to be a fan of Jane Austen's novels to enjoy Robin Swicord's "The Jane Austen Book Club", but after spending 106 delightful minutes with some of the most likable people you'll ever meet, you may want to grab "Pride and Prejudice", and start a club of your own!
This IS another film where the women are all beautiful, and the men, hot, but, to Swicord's credit (working from Karen Joy Fowler's terrific novel), she establishes each character with a humanity that transcends appearance. Working mom, Syl (Amy Brenneman), has it all, with a great job as a librarian, a radiant, if klutzy, lesbian daughter (Maggie Grace), and a devoted husband (Jimmy Smits)...until he announces he was cheating on her, and asks for a divorce. Oft-married, ever-optimistic Bernadette (Kathy Baker) decides to create an Austen club to provide emotional support for both Syl and their best friend, ever-single dog trainer/matchmaker Jocelyn (Maria Bello), who is grieving over the loss of a beloved dog. Bernadette meets young, uptight French teacher/Austen devotee Prudie (Emily Blunt), who has her own baggage, with an inattentive husband (Marc Blucas), an ex-hippie mom (Lynn Redgrave), and a sexy student (Kevin Zegers), whose attentions are sparking her barely-repressed lust. The older woman quickly railroads Prudie into her plan, finalizing a book club that will be "all-women, all-Austen", focusing on a different Austen novel, each month. Ah, but then Jocelyn meets handsome young computer geek, Grigg (Hugh Dancy), and decides to pair Syl with him, using the club...so a male member joins in the mix, and the fun really begins...
With each major character a 21st century variation of an Austen one, the story unfolds around the monthly meeting/book discussions, allowing the entire cast opportunities to shine. Will Syl recover from her failed marriage? Will Prudie give in, and have her forbidden tryst? Will Jocelyn ever figure out Grigg loves HER? Swicord succeeds in making every subplot both involving, and entertaining!
Great bonus features make "The Jane Austen Book Club" even better. The Austen prototypes of each character are explained, there is a terrific biography of the writer (far better than the one offered in "Becoming Jane"), and an affectionate behind-the-scenes look at the production all truly expand the enjoyment of the film.
Is this a 'chick flick'? Certainly! But with it's well-written male roles, I prefer to think of this as an ideal 'date' movie, and an experience guys can enjoy, too!
"All Austen, all the time" never sounded better!
47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
The Jane Austen Book ClubOct. 19 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Five women and one man decide to start a book club, reading the works of Jane Austen. Bernadette (Baker), the organizer of the club, is a woman looking to add one more to her many marriages. Jocelyn (Bello) is single and happy with her dogs. Sylvia (Brenneman) is in a failing marriage to Daniel (Smits). Allegra (Grace) is their lesbian daughter. Prudie (Blunt) is unhappily married, and attracted to one of her students. Lastly, there is Grigg (Dancy), a science fiction fan who is in the club because he is interested in Jocelyn. Their lives all contain elements that echo Jane Austen's stories, so their choice of reading is appropriate.
"The Jane Austen Book Club" is a female bonding movie that will also appeal to fans of Jane Austen. The acting is capable, but nothing outstanding. There is a little of everything relationship-wise here, and all the stories are handled pretty well. Jocelyn and Grigg's story is probably the most appealing though. To the story's credit, knowledge of Jane Austen isn't necessary, but it helps. In all fairness, the title of the film is going to draw in the appropriate audience, and they will probably enjoy it.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
"No Rules, No Fear ~ Reading Jane Austen Is A Freaking Minefield"Feb. 10 2008
Brian E. Erland
- Published on Amazon.com
Warning: This is a major "Chick Flick", no testosterone required.
Chick flick or not, the '07 release `The Jane Austen Book Club' is a delightful film exploring the possible application of the six books comprising the "Jane Austen Bible" into the everyday lives and loves of five contemporary women. What was supposed to serve as a carefree diversion from the constant angst of male female relationships becomes the epicenter of their emotional venting and the Gospel of Jane the rule by which all relationships are judged.
The cast displays an infectious chemistry, the storyline solid and consistent from beginning to end and the dialogue is believable, containing a number of quotable lines that will stay with you. `The Jane Austen Book Club' is a terrific film for the females audience. As far as the guys are concerned, come on and give it a try, you know you have to give in once in a while. This one is not as painful as most within this genre.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Should be a crowd pleaser on DVD!Feb. 5 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
"The Jane Austen Book Club" (TJABC) was a 2004 novel by author Karen Joy Fowler. I acquired the novel last spring and relished the thought of reading a contemporary version of Austen's romances, with each character and each chapter tying into one of Austen's novels. A clever premise, some interesting characters....but I found the overall effort to be a tad on the lackluster side and kept picking the book up, and putting it down before eventually managing to end it all.
Robin Swicord tackled the job of getting this book to film; and it opened to very little fanfare last summer. As the members of the book club, the cast is a director's dream. It's always a joy to see Amy Brenneman (Of the TV Show, "Judging Amy", on the screen, and we've had too little of her in the world of film. Brenneman is devastated and devastating as an unwilling divorcee, Sylvia, who was married to Daniel (Jimmy Smits in an unfamiliar role) who has fallen in love with the other woman. Maggie Grace (Shannon from the TV Show, "Lost") is suitably cast as Allegra, Sylvia and Daniel's grown daughter. Much of Fowler's book centered on the oddities of Allegra...thankfully, the movie only touches on them.
Kathy Baker plays flamboyant, much-divorced Bernadette and does so with a satirical air. Maria Bello is Jocelyn, a dog breeder who is afraid of commitment. Bello is no surprise; she's done a credible job with every one of her big screen roles -- here we are caught up in her draw towards Grigg, the only male member of the club, although initially she attempts clumsily to "matchmake him" to Sylvia.
The outstanding turns belong to Hugh Dancy, as Grigg. He's a science fiction fan who accidentally meets Joceyln and accepts her invitation to join a book club reading a genre he has no idea about. He's subtly charming and has a way of 21st century hero about him; he and Bello are drawn like moths to flame. Also a stand out is Emily Blunt, so good in whatever she brings to the screen, as Prudie. Prudie's character is audacious -- an obsessive French teacher married to the wrong man, she's eager to find romance in any way she can.
Tying in Austen's novels and characters to the ensemble is easy, and a little tedious, but by film's end, you're glad you made the attempt. TJABC is kind of a "little film that could"...not excellent by any stretch of the imagination, but still a worthy contemporary treatise on Austen's themes.
Set in Sacramento, the surroundings are lovely and bracing, and the DVD has a full complement of extras like deleted scenes, the casting dilemma, and a lively conversation about the filming between Swicord, the producers, Maggie Grace and Hugh Dancy.
For once, a film that improves upon the material it was derived from. Worth a viewing!
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
40-something man's reviewOct. 7 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
My wife and I went to see this movie on kind of a whim. We had taken our daughter and some friends to see a movie, and needed to kill some time. We'd seen pretty much everything else of interest, so we agreed the cast of the movie looked like fun, so we went. VERY GLAD WE DID!!
I have seen a few Jane Austen movies and have enjoyed them. I REALLY liked SENSE AND SENSIBILITY in particular. But I have never read an Austen book...nor have I been particularly drawn to it. I love to read...but haven't read Austen. Simple as that. So I had a rudimentary knowledge...and that was plenty. The movie is simply a delight, and the discussions and references to Austen would certainly heighten the enjoyment, but even without understanding the specific references...it's pretty easy to get the idea.
I only hesitate to give the movie five stars because of it's overly-structured plot. I totally realise that the movie is supposed to play out like an Austen novel...people working hard NOT to get with the person they're supposed to be with...then finally making it. But I felt just a little too taken by the hand and let to one predictable (but usually fun) plot twist or device after another. The surprises came in the performances...not in the plot.
The basic premise is that these 5 women, and one very befuddled but completely charming man, meet once a month to discuss another of Austen's 6 books. They all do their reading, they are all well-spoken and have inciteful opinions. That isn't totally believable...but it is easy to just accept and move on. These people are going through turmoils (mostly breakups and loneliness) that Austen sometimes relieves and sometimes echoes too perfectly. At least the women know it...you can tell they kinda sense they're living out a modern-day Austen story. This requires some suspension of disbelief...but it's easy to come by because all the characters are so likeable.
Kathy Baker leads the group as a 60-something free-spirit, who organizes everyone into this club, mostly to help one younger friend (Maria Bello) overcome the death of her beloved Ridgeback dog. Also in the group comes Amy Brennerman, recently split from her long-time husband Jimmy Smits. Brennerman is joined by her daughter, played by Maggie Grace (of LOST). Baker also happens to meet an exceedingly uptight high-school French teacher (DEVIL WEARS PRADA'S Emily Blunt) and invites her to attend. Bello, on a whim of her own, invites a younger man named Grigg to attend...hoping he will have an interest in Amy Brennerman. Suffice it to say, this is not where his interests end up.
There's lots of juicy talk between the group. Grigg is a delightful character...totally unbelievable but so likeable that he really becomes the central focus...we root for him so completely. Brennerman is always very good, and Baker is a force to be reckoned with no matter what she does. She's like a softer Patricia Clarkson. Bello is always good (despite her ignorant and reprehensible personal politics, she always draws me in with her talent), and Maggie Grace is a nice surprise after playing Shannon on LOST with such one-dimensionality. Emily Blunt has the toughest role...because she goes through the biggest change...and starts our dreadfully unlikeable. After we meet her mother (the wonderful Lynn Redgrave), we can begin to understand her troubles. She evolves the most as a character...where the other ladies don't really change much, they just have things happen to them. Seeing her in this movie and PRADA...I predict good, Oscar-winning things from her in the years to come. She's very good.
The movie is well-written and utterly engaging. It is preposterous...but so full of fun that you really don't care much at all. Only a few plot points caused any real groans of "oh, you must be kidding." In fact, as I write this and think back on how much unexpected fun I had...I give the film 4.5 stars!
Another nice thing...it is deservingly a PG13...but it is not dirty or foul-mouthed. What a nice change. A young teen girl might enjoy it a great deal.