The Jane Austen Book Club
As five women and one enigmatic man meet to discuss the works of Jane Austen, they find their love lives playing out in a 21st century version of her novels. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), is shocked when her husband Daniel (Jimmy Smits), leaves her after 20 plus years and three children. Jocelyn (Maria Bello), her unmarried best friend, distracts herself from her unacknowledged loneliness by breeding dogs. Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a young French teacher, in possession of a worthy husband yet distracted by persistent fantasies about sex with another man. The many times married Bernadette (Kathy Baker) develops a yearning for one more chance at happiness. Beautiful, risk-taking Allegra (Maggie Grace), Sylvia and Daniel’s lesbian daughter, has quit talking to her lover. And Grigg (Hugh Dancy), a young science fiction fan and computer whiz, seems horribly both out of place and obliviously at ease as the only man to be invited into the book circle.
This movie has an entertaining opening spot during the credits. We see a woman speed up her treadmill too fast and she almost falls off. We see a “Closed” sign placed on a store’s door just as the customer is about to walk in. We see a man trying to change a dollar and the machine keeps spitting it back at him; and we see a person get ripped off by a vending machine. Immediately the viewer realizes the film is going to deal with things in our lives which go wrong-especially love.
Several women start a “Jane Austen Book Club” and the things they read about in Austen’s various novels somehow hit close to home. One character’s husband has just left her for another woman, another woman in her late thirties to early forties has never married but meets a man who could be “the one.” He joins the book club and helps shake the club up a bit. Another woman is tempted to have an affair as she and her husband seem like strangers but she still loves him. This character, named Prudie ((Emily Blunt) delivers a great line when she tells her husband, who is reluctant to read the books, “The only thing you know about Austen is that it is in Texas!” It should be noted that Prudie, a high school French teacher, considers having an affair with a student of hers, but does not do so although she kisses him at one point. There are some good performances in this film, especially from Hugh Dancy as Grigg, the lone male in the book club, and by Maria Bello, who plays his love interest. In fact, Dancy gets to deliver one of the great lines of the film, when he says to Bello’s character, “You just want to be obeyed. That’s why you only have dogs!”
Unfortunately, despite some of the clever dialog, there are a few strong words in the film, including a character taking the Lord’s name in vain, and sex is a consistant topic. There is also the implied sex of an unmarried couple who sleep together. For these reasons, we are unable to award our Dove Seal to this film as a family-friendly movie.