THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is a feel-good film based on the popular book of the same name by Karen Jay Fowler. It’s a rom-com at heart, detailing the lives and loves of a disparate group of women (and one man) who meet up every month to discuss one of Austen’s novels. Fans of the 19th century author will enjoy the way the various plot and characters from all six of Austen’s novels are discussed and the way in which the various fates of the modern-day characters resemble those found in the literature.With decent direction, assured performances and a witty script, there was no real chance of this film going wrong. It does a grand job on what it sets out to do, which is to provide a fly-on-the-wall look at relationships in both the 19th and the 21st centuries. Topics such as infidelity, the break-up of marriages, younger men with older women [Sue says, "that'd be me then ;-)" ], adultery, teacher-student relationships as well as overbearing parents are the order of the day, and there’s a liberal sprinkling of comedy along the way too.
The cast is decent with a good mixture of familiar, experienced faces (Jimmy Smits, Lynn Redgrave and Nancy Travis, for instance) with fresher talent. Emily Blunt bags the meatiest role of the young French teacher tempted to sleep with a high school student, and she has some really poignant moments throughout the film. Yet other actors, such as Maria Bello, Kathy Baker and Amy Brenneman are also equally good in their parts and Hugh Dancy is delightful.
There are some heartbreaking moments and a truly touching ending, and as a whole the film is thoroughly engaging with hardly any false steps. We’re looking forward to the DVD when it comes out...