The Jane Austen Book Club (film)
|Jane Austen Book Club|
|Directed by||Robin Swicord|
|Produced by||John Calley
|Written by||Robin Swicord|
|Based on||The Jane Austen Book Club
by Karen Joy Fowler
|Music by||Aaron Zigman|
|Editing by||Maryann Brandon|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Running time||106 minutes|
The Jane Austen Book Club is a 2007 American romantic drama film written and directed by Robin Swicord. The screenplay, adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name by Karen Joy Fowler, focuses on a book club formed specifically to discuss the six novels written by Jane Austen. As they delve into Austen's literature, the club members find themselves dealing with life experiences that parallel the themes of the books they are reading.
The book club is the brainchild of fiftysomething six-time divorcée Bernadette, who latches onto the idea when she meets Prudie, a prim, married high school French teacher in her mid-20s, at a Jane Austen film festival. Her concept is to have six members discuss all of Austen's six novels, with each member hosting the group once a month. Also inducted into the club are Sylvia, a fortysomething librarian who recently has separated from her philandering lawyer husband Daniel after more than two decades of marriage; Sylvia's 20-something lesbian daughter Allegra; Jocelyn, a happily unmarried control freak and breeder of Rhodesian Ridgebacks who has been Sylvia's friend since childhood; and Grigg, a science fiction fan who's roped into the group by Jocelyn with the hope he and Sylvia will prove to be a compatible match.
As the months pass, each of the members develops characteristics similar to those of Austen's characters and reacts to events in their lives in much the same way their fictional counterparts would. Bernadette is the matriarch figure who longs to see everyone find happiness. Sylvia clings to her belief in steadfast love and devotion, and eventually reconciles with Daniel. Jocelyn denies her own feelings for Grigg while playing matchmaker for him and Sylvia. Prudie, encumbered with her inattentive husband Dean and a free-spirited, pot-smoking, aging-hippie mother, a product of the 1960s counterculture, finds herself desperately trying not to succumb to her feelings for her seductive student Trey. Allegra, who tends to meet her lovers while engaging in death-defying activities, feels betrayed when she discovers her current partner, aspiring writer Corinne, has used Allegra's life as the basis for her short stories. Grigg is attracted to Jocelyn and mystified by her seeming lack of interest in him, marked by her failure to read the Ursula K. Le Guin novels he has hoped will catch her fancy. He also serves as the comedic foil to Jocelyn and Prudie's very serious takes on the books.
In The Book Club Deconstructed, a bonus feature on the DVD release of the film, screenwriter/director Robin Swicord explains how each of the six book club members is based on a character in one of Austen's novels. Bernadette represents Mrs. Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice, Sylvia is patterned after Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, Jocelyn reflects the title character in Emma, Prudie is similar to Anne Elliot in Persuasion, Allegra is most like Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, and Grigg represents all of Austen's misunderstood male characters.
Although the film is set in Sacramento, it was shot in Southern California. Filming locations included Encino, Lakewood, Long Beach, Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Northridge, Santa Clarita, Santa Monica, Van Nuys, and Westlake Village.
The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival before going into limited release in the US. It opened on 25 screens on September 21, 2007 and earned $148,549 on its opening weekend. It went into wide release on October 5, expanding to 1,232 screens and earning an additional $1,343,596 that weekend. It eventually grossed $3,575,227 in the US and $3,542,527 in foreign markets for a worldwide box office of $7,117,754.
- Maria Bello as Jocelyn
- Emily Blunt as Prudie
- Kathy Baker as Bernadette
- Hugh Dancy as Grigg
- Amy Brenneman as Sylvia
- Maggie Grace as Allegra
- Jimmy Smits as Daniel
- Marc Blucas as Dean
- Lynn Redgrave as Mama Sky
- Kevin Zegers as Trey
- Nancy Travis as Cat Harris
- Parisa Fitz-Henley as Corinne
- Gwendoline Yeo as Dr. Samantha Yep
- Myndy Crist as Lynne
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 86 reviews, while on Metacritic, the film has an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.
Stephen Holden of the New York Times said the film "is such a well-acted, literate adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler's 2004 best seller that your impulse is to forgive it for being the formulaic, feel-good chick flick that it is ... Like the other movies and television projects in a Jane Austen boom that continues to gather momentum, it is an entertaining, carefully assembled piece of clockwork that imposes order on ever more complicated gender warfare."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "a celebration of reading" and added, "oddly enough that works ... I settled down with this movie as with a comfortable book. I expected no earth-shaking revelations and got none, and everything turned out about right, in a clockwork ending that reminded me of the precision the Victorians always used to tidy up their loose ends."
Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film "enjoyable if fairly predictable ... It's all a tad too neatly packaged, like a brand new set of Austen with the bindings unbroken. Still, a lively ensemble cast works hard ... Swicord's gift as a screenwriter is that her catch-up summaries avoid sounding pedantic or like CliffsNotes. She's less assured as a director. Her pacing is off, with some scenes going on longer than they need to and others whizzing by so fast you miss the nuances. Relationships aren't always as clear as they should be. Still, Austen devotees are sure to lap up the central premise that her notions of love and friendship are as relevant today as ever. And if The Jane Austen Book Club gets people thinking about forming a club of their own, it will have served a more admirable purpose than most movies."
Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times said it was nice to see "a movie so alive to the pleasures of reading and writing and sharing books, especially when the love feels sincere ... in parts, the story feels awkwardly truncated or too shallow to matter. But Swicord has a playful sense of humor and a good ear for dialogue, and the movie pleasantly accomplishes what it set out to accomplish."
Dennis Harvey of Variety stated, "While there are occasional forced notes ... Swicord's direction proves as accomplished as her script at handling an incident-packed story with ease, capturing humor and drama sans cheap laughs or tearjerking."
- "BoxOfficeMojo.com". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- "RottenTomatoes.com". RottenTomatoes.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- "Metacritic.com". Metacritic.com. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- New York Times, September 21, 2007
- Kenigsberg, Ben (2013-06-19). "''Chicago Sun-Times'', September 21, 2007". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- Ruthe Stein, Chronicle Senior Movie Writer (2007-09-20). "''San Francisco Chronicle'', September 21, 2007". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- Ferguson, Dana. "''Los Angeles Times'', September 21, 2007". Calendarlive.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- Variety, September 10, 2007[dead link]