The Jane Austen Book Club

TJABCDirected: Robin Swicord
Written: Robin Swicord. Based on the book of the same name written by Karen Joy Fowler
Released: September 2007
Starring: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Hugh Dancy, Kevin Zegers, Marc Blucas, Jimmy Smits and Lynn Redgrave

This film is up there with Bridget Jones’ Diary, I reckon.

I got this DVD because there was a ‘buy two, get one free’ deal on. Since the choice was limited, I thought I’d give this a whirl.

I was concerned because I had no interest in any of Jane Austen’s romance novels and had little knowledge of the stories and characters. So I wondered if a film about people discussing these books would be confusing…

Not the case, surprisingly!

The first time I watched it, I was just like ‘meh’, better than a chick flick… But kind of average. So it gathered dust on my shelf until one day, boredom and exhaustion from watching my DVD collection five times over resulted in me indulging in The Jane Austen Book Club once again.

I have to say, I really love this film now. The six main characters are empowering and strong, they all relate to at least some part of your own personality or life experiences. I could literally write an entire in depth essay of each character if necessary, they are that ‘real’!

I’m loathed to say they are ‘very human’, but you get where I’m coming from… They are likeable and relatable.

This is a character-based film where each character has some sort of hurdle to overcome, or growth.

jane+austen+book+club+maria+belloMaria Bello as Jocelyn
Jocelyn is my favourite! She’s never fallen in love, which she says is “all like fiction to me anyway”. She’s a dog-breeder, and if you catch onto her mannerisms early enough, you’ll notice she treats men like dogs – she’s strict, short-tempered and dominant with them. Jocelyn is known as the ‘match-maker’, always on the look-out on who she can pair people up with. She’s drawn to ‘Grigg’ because he’s “eager to please” and “tries hard”… Sort of like a dog.

“Alone’s not the end of the world. For as many years as you’ve been married I’ve been quite happily unmarried.”

EmilyBluntFace3Emily Blunt as Prudie
Prudie gets on my nerves SO much! But I can’t help but admire her. She is so elegant, controlled and feminine. Her mother was a hippy, so she has a systematic and professional lifestyle to distance herself from her past. However, she is falling for a rebellious student…

Prudie: Trey, you really shouldn’t come on to me.
Trey:  Why? Because you’re a teacher? We’ll go back to my place…
Prudie: Let’s not and just wish we did.

BernieKathy Baker as Bernadette
I would love to have a best friend like Bernadette. She is optimistic and loves people. Bernadette is a free spirit and probably doesn’t think things through very much, she has been married and divorced six times. But she is totally in love with the idea of love and brags about her previous husbands like they are trophies – not regretting any of them.

“My first husband was a politician. He was embarrassed by every move I made. He said I was rude and loud. “Stop pointing your breasts everywhere,” he’d say to me. I was 17… I married the first man who looked at me… But I’d like to get married again, maybe just once more.”

hugh+dancyHugh Dancy as Grigg
Aww, Grigg! You almost feel sorry for him because he is so excitable and happy all the time. You just want to take him under your wing and look after him. He stumbled into the Jane Austen Club because Jocelyn was trying to set Sylvia up with him.

“Hi! Well, I’m excited. Never read anything by Jane Austen before. What is it? I went to the bookstore to buy a copy of each one of the novels, and I saw this. And I thought, ‘Well, maybe they’re sequels’. So, I figured it might be a good idea to keep them all together in one book, in case I needed to refer back…”

Amy-Brenneman-as-Sylvia-Amy Brenneman as Sylvia
Sylvia is a woman who is an amazing mother and best friend. Her husband who she has been with since highschool recently asked her for a divorce and she is devastated. However, toward the end of the film, she realises how much she has grown and changed – perhaps something she was never able to explore in her younger years.

“I don’t want to meet someone [else]. I wanna pull the covers over my head and read novels. And eat. I’m starving. Allegra, go get me a dozen eggs. I’m gonna make a flan.”

Maggie-Grace-as-AllegraMaggie Grace as Allegra
Allegra is the daughter of Sylvia. She is a fresh-faced, alternative, out-doorsy young lady who immediately clashes with the tightly-laced Prudie. Allegra  falls in love and trusts “too quickly” causing her strife. She is close to her mother and quickly becomes a strong component to the book club.

Bernadette: How’s Sylvia doing without Daniel?
Allegra: She’s still stuck in the wounded stage. When she’s ready for anger, I’m so there.

Each Austen novel has a curious relevance to each character’s life. The details are subtly interwoven into the story, so even if you haven’t read any Austen, you can guess pretty easily. If you are an Austen fan, you’ll relish the tibits they reference all through the script!

This ‘review’ is more of a character bio, so please excuse that! However, I have to say, the film relies on these characters so heavily, they really ARE the story.

I am so buying the soundtrack! Amazing songs! Particularly “Save Me” by Aimee Mann.

As a side note – I am such a fan of Robin Swicord now. She’s worked on Matilda, and even collaborated with the writers of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button!

Awesome watch! But obviously not for everybody.

Jodie’s rating: 7.5/10

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About Jodie (NZ Film Freak)

I am a journalism graduate (2014) from New Zealand. I enjoy writing on my blog about films and songs, plus the odd random thought. Currently working as a writer in UK. Follow me on Twitter @NZFilmFreak and like my Facebook page NZ Film Freak. Follow my travels around the world www.jodiehart.co.nz
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5 Responses to The Jane Austen Book Club

  1. Pingback: Au revoir, 2013! | The Film Freak of NZ

  2. Pingback: Thelma & Louise | NZ Film Freak

  3. Pingback: My Fave Character: Jocelyn | NZ Film Freak

  4. Pingback: Best Movie Meltdowns | NZ Film Freak

  5. vinnieh says:

    I really love the sound of this movie, great write up.

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