Austen's Powers Novel Characters Bring Jane's Works Up to Date with Crisp Script, Sharp Acting
Gire, Dann, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic
"The Jane Austen Book Club"
* * * out of four
Maria Bello Jocelyn
Kathy Baker Bernadette
Emily Blunt Prudie
Amy Brenneman Sylvia
With Hugh Dancy, Jimmy Smits, Maggie Grace and Marc Blucas.
Written and directed by Robin Swicord; based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler. Produced by John Calley, Julie Lynn and Diana Napper. A Sony Classics release. At Piper's Alley in Chicago, Renaissance Place in Highland Park and the Evanston CineArts 6. Rated PG-13 (sexual situations, language, drug use). Running time: 105 minutes.
I can't guarantee that manly men won't lose some testosterone while watching "The Jane Austen Book Club." But those fearless enough to venture into this smart and engaging chick-lit flick will be amply rewarded for their hormonal losses.
You don't need to read Austen's six novels before seeing this movie. Still, a knowledge of the British author's works - including "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility" - enhances an appreciation for insights by the movie's characters, who, in the story's clever premise, turn out to be modern updates of Austen's literary characters.
The book club begins when six-time divorcee Bernadette (an effusive Kathy Baker) sees a woman in distress while in line to buy movie tickets.
The aptly named Prudie (a portrait in wounded vulnerability by Emily Blunt) works as a high school French teacher. Her insensitive jock husband (a study in clueless self-centeredness by Marc Blucas) undermines her ego. Her abusive mother (Lynn Redgrave) kills her spirit. Desperate, Prudie reaches for a bad boy student (Kevin Zegers) with hungry eyes.
Bernadette takes Prudie under her wing and proposes the Jane Austen Book Club, six novels to be presented by six people over six months. …