This ensemble piece takes a look at a group of friends preoccupied with their marriages, friendships, and romances through their passion for the works of Jane Austen.
The story is pretty simple – When Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) splits with her husband Daniel (Jimmy Smits) and Jocelyn (Maria Bello) looses her cherished dog friend Bernadette (Kathy Baker) decides to convene a Jane Austen Book Club
The three are joined by Sylvia and Daniel’s daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), young high school French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt) and Austen newbie and Sci-Fi fan Grigg (Hugh Dancy) – the only male in the group – who meets Jocelyn in a hotel and who Jocelyn is desperate to match up with Sylvia.
Over a period of six months each member of the group leads on a particular Austen book and slowly the group finds some echo of their lives in in her works.
However, despite their apparent love of Austen’s works few of the characters really convey any sense of passion, the notable exception being Blunt’s neurotic and slightly superior Prudie who insists on peppering her musings with snippets of French .
The film has some genuine laugh of loud moments mostly courtesy of Dancy who does a lot with a role which at least initially frames him as a bumbling geek and gives him few opportunities to drive the story.
Jocelyn’s constant attempts to match Grigg with Sylvia and inability to see that it’s her he’s interested in might be believable in another setting when it’s so obvious and the two are surrounded by other characters it just seems a pointless obstacle to much telegraphed ending.
Despite the title this isn’t really a film about Jane Austen or her books, it’s about people and their relationships, about love and redemption. These themes will lead many to label it ‘a girl’s film’ but it’s really a movie for anyone who has ever loved or yearned to be loved.
The Jane Austen Book Club opens across the UK from Friday November 16th.