Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Jane Austen Book Club - DVD Review

THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB (***) - Starring Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Hugh Dancy, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits, Marc Blucas, Kevin Zegers, Nancy Travis and Lynn Redgrave.
Written & Directed by Robin Swicord.

I've seen Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma, Keira Knightly in Pride & Prejudice, Emma Thompson in Sense & Sensability and Frances O'Connor in Mansfield Park. I also saw the frothy Jane Austen biopic Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway. I have not, however, ever read a Jane Austen book, and I think my enjoyment of this movie would have been enhanced had I done so.

Five women and a token guy meet once a month to discuss Austen's books in this ensemble chick flick, and when they discuss the characters, they do so like the audience already has intimate knowledge of Austen's works. This wound up being okay, because the cast is warm, the acting's good, and the plot threads all follow their natural course. The movie is like a book you read sitting on your cushioned wicker chair on your porch overlooking the beach, straight out of one of those "celebrate the moments of your life" coffee commercials.

I liked it. It was fine. Chick flicks don't have to be a bad thing. Give me characters to care about and I can be entertained without armies getting slaughtered and CGI robots fighting mid-air. Stand-outs for me were Emily Blunt (very different from her Devil Wears Prada role) as an uptight teacher unhappy in her marriage who starts to fall for a student, and Maria Bello as the ringleader of the group who starts to act a little too much like Austen's Emma. And I even bought Hugh Dancy as a sci-fi geek who likes women and joins the club to expand his horizons.

Did it make me want to read an actual Austen book? I don't know. Maybe. Right now I'm reading Carolyn Jessop's Escape, Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, and I just picked up C.S. Lewis's Prince Caspian again, so maybe down the road... if someone paid me... Sure.

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