The Jane Austen Book Club

Year: 2007
Production Co: Mockingbird Pictures
Studio: Sony
Director: Robin Swicord
Writer: Robin Swicord
Cast: Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Jimmy Smits, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Lynne Redgrave, Nancy Travis

Now I look back I had no idea how meta I expected this to be, Jane Austen being not only the godmother but the progenitor of the entire modern romcom movement in many ways. But more mysterious is what I thought I'd get out of it. I certainly have no judgments of Austen's work (never read it) nor her fans – all I can think is that I'll watch a romantic movie hoping for true and heartfelt romance like you see so seldom (The Age of Adeline is the best recent example) without it being cloying or stupid.

But much like Avengers: Infinity War was made for fans of the characters who've been with Marvel the entire series rather than newcomers, apparently you do need a working knowledge of Austen's oeuvre and her characters, because the various people who find themselves in the titular monthly meeting take on the characteristics of characters from Austen's work. With no knowledge of who they were inspired by all that escaped me, where it might have meant more to hardcore fans.

As such it just seemed to be about a group of disparate people the screenplay wanted to mash together, none of whom I believed in as individuals, let alone through their interactions with each other. It might be that the script was too cack handed sketching them out, or it might be that the delight an Austen fan would get from recognising them would overshadow any deficiencies in the characterisations.

Describing them all, how they come together and what they learn is frankly not worth the bother. You can read it just as easily on Wikipedia's entry about the plot, and if they are Austen archetypes in a meta-statement about the influence of her work I won't do it justice in any case. There's the steadfastly single dog breeder, the jilted wife, the eager young male inductee, the miserable, prickly young wife whose husband pays her no attention. The script gives them all arcs that twist and wend together adequately enough, every month or so all coming together to discuss the next book on the list.

Most interesting is seeing a pre-fame Emily Blunt, not long after she appeared in the movie I first saw her in, My Summer of Love.

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