Complete A-Z list

Jane Austen Book Club, The


Stars: Amy Brenneman, Maria Bello, Kathy Baker, Emily Blunt, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits, Hugh Dancy, Lynn Redgrave, Kevin Zegers, Nancy Travis

Director: Robin Swicord

This film for women by women is not so much a chick flick, more a hen flick. When Sylvia (Brenneman) finds her husband (Smits) leaving her for another woman, her friends, led by Bernadette (Baker) rally round, and organise a club to discuss Jane Austen's books and take Sylvia's mind off things. Her lesbian daughter (Grace) is reluctantly roped in, as is Prudie (Blunt), a teacher whose own husband (Marc Blucas) has cancelled her trip to Paris to take clients to a basketball game.

Austen completed six books, so two more members are needed. Jocelyn (Bello), a dog breeder in her late 30s, grieving over the death of her prize sire, brings in Grigg (Dancy), a decade younger, who has tried to pick her up in a bar.

It's pretty obvious where all this is going, as the group discusses Austen's books one by one, and sees the relevance to their present lives. All the relationships come to the expected conclusions: there are no surprises here, only some occasional good lines. 'He looks at me,' wails Prudie, over a putative teenage lover, 'as if he's the spoon and I'm a dish of ice-cream.'

There's an amusing (if irrelevant) beginning, as characters experience the 'if it can go wrong, it will' syndrome, but what follows is, well, just a bit wet. Not quite up to Austen's own wit and acerbity, I'm afraid, more a competently-acted 'women's picture' for the undemanding.

Alan Frank

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Sony (Sony Pictures Classics). Colour by deluxe.
105 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 12 Nov 2007