The Jane Austen Book Club
Winter 2008 Main series
Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 7:00pm
Monday, January 7, 2008 at 7:00pm
Directed by Robin Swicord
Starring Lynn Redgrave, Kevin Zegers, Jimmy Smits, Maggie Grace, Hugh Dancy, Amy Brenneman, Emily Blunt, Marc Blucas, Maria Bello, and Kathy Baker
Rated PG ·
Life imitates art in this adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler’s bestselling novel about a book group reading the work of Jane Austen. Each of the people in the group is at a different stage of life: there’s Sylvia (Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy), whose husband has just left her for another woman, and her daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace, The Fog), who’s looking for a woman herself. Bernadette (Kathy Baker, Cold Mountain) has six marriages under her belt, while Jocelyn’s (Maria Bello, A History of Violence) most significant relationship is with her dog. New to the group of friends are Prudie (Emily Blunt, My Summer of Love), a teacher who is unhappy with her marriage, and Grigg (Hugh Dancy, Elizabeth I), the group’s only man — a sci-fi fan invited by Jocelyn to take Sylvia’s mind off her failed marriage. As they make their way through Austen’s novels, they discover that the writer’s work is just as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. The group has its own Emma, and a sparring would-be couple bears striking resemblance to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.
The Jane Austen Book Club succeeds largely thanks to the strength of its cast. Bello is better known for dramatic roles in films such as The Cooler and A History of Violence, but she does an excellent job with this film’s lighter tone. As know-it-all Prudie, Blunt steals just as many scenes as she did in The Devil Wears Prada. Though it might seem like a clubhouse with a “No Boys Allowed” sign, the men in the movie hold their own with the female cast. Jimmy Smits, Marc Blucas, and Kevin Zegers play supporting roles, but it’s Dancy who deserves the most praise. As Griggs struggles to woo one of the women in the group, Dancy easily wins the heart of the audience with his geeky charm.