Love makes fools of us all. And yet each and every single person on this planet longs to find it and has felt the stirring of the heart in some form or capacity. It is a powerful magic that has been written about time and time again by musicians, poets and screenwriters because it is a fascinating and mysterious subject.
Love is no more mysterious and fascinating a subject than it is in “The Jane Austen Book Club,” the ultimate guilty-pleasure chick flick. This film captures many of the facets of love eloquently.
“The Jane Austen Book Club” is about five women, each of them experiencing a different problem with their love lives and each of them with their own plots. After one of the women goes through a divorce, her friends decide to distract her from her problems by creating a book club honoring Jane Austen and her six novels.
However, this is not an estrogen-centric film. There are males present and accounted for as well – three main male characters, to be exact. In fact, one male (Hugh Dancy, “Blood and Chocolate,” “Ella Enchanted”) joins the book club to round out the six people needed. Each person takes one of the books as his or her responsibility, and he helps provide a male perspective on Austen’s work.
This is an intriguing screenplay that weaves the story of four romances together quite brilliantly to their conclusions. As the characters read each of Austen’s novels, similar actions or locales mimic the actions of the characters in the film.
Austen’s fans will find and recognize these connections or even participate in the book discussions that are held periodically throughout the film. Yet these discussions are brief and do not encumber the film with their inclusion, nor do they exclude non-Austen readers as viewers can just enjoy the film for what it is.
Moreover, the film does a great job depicting each of the characters reading and enjoying Austen’s books, not something ordinarily seen in films and certainly hard to convey in this medium. It’s also used as a great visualization of the passage of long periods of time, as the film is supposed to occur over several months.
While the visual techniques in the film are not extremely artistic or incredibly fresh, they still manage to fit the mood of the film. The same can be said of the scenery. Each of the character’s homes are incredibly well developed with such minute detail – throw rugs, favorite coffee mugs, doggie toys – that the audience feels as if these characters could actually live in them. There are the other locales that also fit in lighting and tone with the rest of the film.
Although everyone is recognizable as a talented B-film actor or actress, the cast still manages to fill the roles they play so well. Maria Bello’s (“A History of Violence,” “Coyote Ugly”) portrayal of Jocelyn kept insisting that she needed to be single. Bello typically plays hard-nosed characters and does here again, but we also get to see other dimensions of her acting as she shows some of the softer sides of her character: a fear of being vulnerable, jealousy and even the sparks of desire for her romantic interest.
Emily Blunt’s (“The Devil Wears Prada,” “Wind Chill”) role as the unhappily wed Prudie is the most difficult to portray as she is the least likeable initially and has so many issues to deal with. Yet she is able to make the role and all its facets work as she fleshes out her character into a three-dimensional person. The real gem is Amy Brenneman’s (“Judging Amy,” “Private Practice”) portrayal of the divorcee struggling to understand why her husband has left her for another woman. She is believable in her grief, but at the same time is able to show strength as her character moves on with picking up the pieces of her life.
Since there are no big names in the film, it is easy to see why this film wasn’t widely released initially and, once it did expand to other locations, why it isn’t doing well financially. This film has not been well advertised, but it is well worth the watch. While love continues to remain mysterious and fascinating, “The Jane Austen Book Club” does a great job at capturing some of its magic.