That Rarest Of Things - A Delicious & Romantic Movie To Touch All Bases!
, 18 Nov 2007
I've just come back from an early evening showing of this film in our nearby multiplex on a wet and windy Saturday night in London. Myself and my mate were looking for something uplifting and light and decided on this. No one else did. We were the lone two in the cinema - literally! This, I suspect, is because its received 3 star reviews almost everywhere, which is a damn shame, because `Book Club' is much better than that - and we both thought so!
Here's the basic story: Six women of different ages and sexual persuasions form a book club to discuss something that unites and excites them all - Jane Austen's six period-piece novels. One will be tackled and talked about every month in the club in a different location. There's 'Pride & Prejudice', 'Sense & Sensibility', 'Emma', 'Northanger Abbey', ' Mansfield Park' and 'Persuasion'. The actresses are Amy Brennaman (who is married to and having trouble with Jimmy Smits), Emily Blunt (who is a married teacher lusting after an 18-year hunky student, while she gets nothing mentally or physically from her simpleton of a husband and mad hippy mum), Kathy Baker (the oldest in the group, who has been married six times and is happily looking for husband number seven), Maggie Grace who's Amy Brennaman's daughter and a lesbian in love with a manipulative writer - and finally Maria Bello - who loves dogs more than almost anything - including men.
The Writer/Director has written their lives to mirror Austen's plots and as some reviewers have pointed out, these bits are a little too pat for comfort. But that doesn't stop the dialogue from being repeatedly touching and amazingly on the pulse of how love is in the complicated and confusing 2000s. There are rare insights here and beautifully observed snippets of life too. The actresses as you can imagine (given great material) are uniformly superb - especially Blunt - who looks ravishing every time the camera is pointed at her - a huge star in the making if ever there was one. Maria Bello is her usual classy self, bringing real gravitas and warmth to her character, who has to do the most `growing' and Amy Brennaman adds a real earthiness to what would have been a little too frothy a crew. Maggie Grace is both lovely and sexy as the passionate and headstrong daughter.
Then come the men who are excellent choices both actor-wise and eye-candy wise. Hugh Dancy plays the hapless Grigg who fancies Maria Bello's character Jocelyn - but she only wants to pair him off with Amy Brennaman's character Sylvia. Sylvia is too much in love with/and hurt by her now parted/cheating husband Jimmy Smits to notice anyone. Smits is excellent and so likeable as an actor. Emily Blunt's prim and proper Prudie is licking her rather delicious lips at the heartthrob that is Trey played by Kevin Zegers - a new young actor, who is far more handsome than should be legally allowed! But the unfolding surprise is Marc Blucas as Blunt's husband Dean - his performance is clever and grows convincingly. A criticism would be that the men's characters are painted as just a little too sappy and useless.
And then of course there's 'that' writer - the gorgeous Jane Austen - who generation after generation takes every heart by storm. Hearing each of Austen's novels discussed and critiqued and then hearing extracts from some of them only makes you want to run out and instantly buy all six - then go on a Jane bender yourself.
The Jane Austen Book Club is not quite a rom-com, nor a full on girly fest - it's much better than that I think. Like Jane Austen's great writing itself, it's that rarest and most irresistible of things - impossibly and deliciously 'romantic'. You feel heart and belief and joy went into the making of this 'little film' and all concerned had a real blast doing it. This is a lovely movie that I thoroughly enjoyed and will look out for the DVD when it's released.
Ignore the so-so reviews and give it a whirl!
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