The Jane Austen Book Club

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/11/2007

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Average romantic drama that stays watchable thanks to its excellent cast, though it's neither as emotionally engaging nor as clever as it thinks it is.

What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Karen Joy Fowler, The Jane Austen Book Club focuses on the romantic entanglements in the lives of five Sacramento women who form a Jane Austen Book Club. They include: group founder and six-time divorcee Bernadette (Kathy Baker), recently separated Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), Sylvia's gay, extreme-sports-nut daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), neurotic French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt) and dog-breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello), who declares that she's never been in love and invites sci-fi nerd Grigg (Hugh Dancy) to join the group, intending to set him up with Sylvia.

The group decides to meet once a month, taking Austen's six novels in order of publication. Meanwhile, their lives begin to echo the novels: Jocelyn remains ignorant of the fact that Grigg has feelings for her, while Prudie is tempted by the inappropriate advances of an attractive student (Kevin Zegers) and contemplates leaving her inattentive husband (Marc Blucas).

The Good
The Jane Austen Book Club is one of those by-the-numbers chick flicks that Hollywood seems to churn out with clockwork-like regularity – think Steel Magnolias, How To Make An American Quilt, etc.

To be fair, the cast are excellent, particularly Maria Bello, who generates intriguing chemistry with Dancy. Emily Blunt is equally good, landing both the funniest scenes and the film's most engaging storyline, while Maggie Grace proves that there's more to her than the spoiled brat routine she perfected in Lost and Lynn Redgrave contributes an amusingly bonkers cameo as Prudie's mother.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the structure of the film means that there's an awful lot of chatter at the expense of any actual action. Similarly, the film isn't nearly as clever or as charming as it thinks it is and the laboured Austen parallels never quite work.

Worth seeing?
This is basically a series of cliches dressed up with literary pretensions but as ensemble chick flicks go, it's certainly watchable, thanks to its talented cast.

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The Jane Austen Book Club
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Content updated: 29/01/2020 05:43

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