Although it can be enjoyed by anyone with a weakness for romantic comedies, The Jane Austen Book Club is really geared towards fans of the titular English novelist. Based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler, the story features a group of interconnected Californian women (and one man, whos trying to impress one of the women) coming together to read and discuss Austens novels.
The film is structured around their monthly meetings, each covering a different novel. The book club members find that their lives begin to mirror the books that theyre reading, as they struggle with romantic intrigue, failed relationships and striking a balance between passion and propriety.
The Jane Austen Book Club is best at observing the funny, awkward moments of everyday life, especially in its opening montage sequence. The cast is solid, with Amy Brennemans great turn as Sylvia, whose husband (Jimmy Smits) suddenly leaves her after more than 30 years of marriage, and Maggie Grace shining as her passionate, impulsive lesbian daughter. Some of the relationship set-ups are a bit of a stretch (even by loose romantic comedy standards), particularly Emily Blunts uptight French teacher hooking up with a hunky teenage student.
Overall, its quite charming, with good characters, satisfying romantic conclusions and way more literary discussion than the average Hollywood fare. (Mongrel Media)