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The Jane Austen Book Club (3 stars)

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The Jane Austen Book Club

(12A) 105min

Despite the literary title, the club in this adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler’s bestselling book is conceived after Prudie Drummond (Emily Blunt) goes to see the 1999 version of Mansfield Park at the cinema. Similarly, writer/director Robin Swircord conceives of Austen’s characters in broad cinematic terms rather than literary ones, ignoring the author’s considerable merits as a transcriber and satirist of her times. Yet, while The Jane Austen Book Club is as warmly toned but visually banal as an episode of Desperate Housewives, its consideration of the tangled love lives of a group of Californian women has an enjoyably trashy quality.

Will Jocelyn (Maria Bello) get over her dead dog and find true love? How will Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) react to her husband’s affair? Will poor Prudie emerge from under the shadow of her mother (Lynn Redgrave)? And who’ll end up with the Darcy figure as personified by geeky software expert Griggs, played by a suitably shame-faced Hugh Dancy?

The books the girls share and discuss could have been written by Victoria Beckham for all the literary analysis on show here. The sun-kissed women featured in The Jane Austen Book Club view the author’s canon as nothing more than a romantic guide-book in the vein of self-helpers like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Yet this is nothing like as soppy as this year’s other Austen cash-in, Becoming Jane. With Blunt, Bello and a substantial female ensemble all on song, The Jane Austen Book Club’s soap opera plotlines prove as compulsively ‘more-ish’ as the source book’s admirers might expect.

General release from Fri 16 Nov.

The Jane Austen Book Club

  • 3 stars
  • 2007
  • US
  • 105 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Robin Swicord
  • Written by: Robin Swicord
  • Cast: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Hugh Dancy, Kevin Zegers, Marc Blucas, Jimmy Smits, Lynn Redgrave

While this movie about the tangled love lives of a Californian book group is as visually banal as an episode of 'Desperate Housewives', there's an enjoyably trashy quality to the soap opera plotlines. The sun-kissed women might see the author's canon as nothing more than romantic self help books, but with a substantial…

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