Movie review: “Jane Austen Book Club”

We thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Even though there were no car chases, no flying bullets, no alien creatures, and no super heroes anywhere.

Jane Austen Book Club (2007) is closely based on the book of the same title by Karen Joy Fowler. Both the movie and the book were highly acclaimed. As the title indicates, the story revolves around a book club, which meets once a month over a period of 6 months to discuss one of Jane Austen’s novels.

There are five women and one man, each of whom is responsible for ‘taking charge of’ one of the novels. According to the director of the movie, Robin Swicord, each of the six characters in fact represents a specific person in the Jane Austen novel that they have chosen.

  • There is Bernadette (played by Kathy Baker), the mother-figure who essentially takes charge of the book club. She resembles Mrs Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice.
  • The second is her long-time friend Sylvia (played by Amy Brenneman) who resembles Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. Her husband Daniel has just left her for a younger female colleague at his firm, after more than 20 years of marriage, and she is devastated.
  • Her daughter Allegra (played by Maggie Grace) is a beautiful young woman who likes living on the edge (skydiving, rock climbing) and who happens to be a lesbian. She is said to resemble Marianne in Sense and Sensibility.
  • Sylvia’s friend Jocelyn (played by Maria Bello) supposedly represents Emma in .. er.. Emma. She is a middle-aged single woman who breeds Ridgebacks, and who brings in the one and only man in the group, a youngster called Grigg, who most definitely fancies Jocelyn, even though she is trying to matchmake him with Sylvia.
  • Grigg (Hugh Dancy) is linked with Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey and “all misunderstood male characters in Austen’s six books”. Having grown up with three sisters, he sought refuge in science fiction novels, and he tries repeatedly throughout the movie to persuade Jocelyn to read Ursula le Guin and other sci-fi authors.
  • Another outsider to the group is the young school teacher Prudie (played brilliantly by Emily Blunt), who (like her name suggests) is a bit prudish and buttoned-up. Frustrated by what she perceives as a lack of love by her husband and a dead-end marriage, her life begins to parallel that of Anne Elliot in Persuasion, as she has a very brief love affair with one of her young students.

It was really interesting to see the parallels between the six characters and the personalities and plots in Jane Austen’s novels, and also to see how they grew and changed through the movie.

Thanks for the tip, Kim! If you hadn’t mentioned that you’d enjoyed his movie, I might have had a harder time bartering for it.

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For other movies we’ve watched in May, click on:

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