Opening 7 Feb 2008
Never underestimate the power of a book club, especially one which focuses solely on works by the English author Jane Austen (1775-1817). Six people each select an Austen book to read and discuss. The lives of these readers are reflected in Austen’s fictitious characters, which were written more than 200 years ago. Parallel to the discussions, Bernadette surprises everyone; Sylvia begins a new life; her daughter Allegra loses her lesbian lover; Prudie re-evaluates her marriage, and Joycelyn encourages Grigg, the sole man. They slowly realize that they are mastering their ups and downs in tandem with the Austen characters. If this sounds boring, believe me, it’s not. Each person reminded me of someone I know in real life, and I began to care about the successes, pain, and misunderstandings. Perhaps that borders on hard-core soap opera, but at least it was a soap opera very well made and never boring or repetitious.
Anyone who is interested in literature and people, with or without book club experience, should find something to enjoy in this film. At the very least you’ll be able to answer the quiz question: name six Austen books. (Answer: Emma, Mansfield Park, Northhanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice,
Sense & Sensibility, and Persuasion, of which all have been filmed more than once.) This first film by Robin Swicord was based on the successful book by Karen Joy Fowlers. In this ensemble piece there are no stars; new names and faces contribute to a well-rounded whole for a successful picture. These actors are Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker, Emily Blunt, Maria Bello, Hugh Dancy, and Maggie Grace. (Becky Tan)