I won't mince words: I adored The Jane Austen Book Club. It was intelligent, warm and real. Impressively, in less than two hours, the film managed to deal with more than six storylines well. Sure, it's a little schmaltzy, but it's oddly satisfying. The film (based on Karen Joy Fowler's book of the same name) is not only an ode to Jane Austen, but to literature as a whole, especially its resonance over the years. As Jane Austen's novels are too, this movie is about life, love, loss, trust and friendship.
The cast was brilliant: Mario Bello, Kathy Baker, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Hugh Dancy, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits and Lynn Redgrave. It was wonderful to see Emily Blunt have so much to do, especially after seeing her do little but smoke a joint and take her clothes off in Charlie Wilson's War. Mario Bello was fantastic. Despite so many excellent female performances, Hugh Dancy stole the movie. He was charming, dapper, awkward and ultimately endearing.
In so many ways, this movie comes dangerously close to being cringe-inducing and cheesy. Wonderful acting and the back drop of both intellectual and catty banter about Jane Austen firmly anchors this story in a respectable space. I'm not claiming the film itself is brilliant, but many pieces of it are, and it's ridiculously entertaining and moving. I can't wait to see it again.
Rating: 3 stars (loved it)