Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Starring: Maria Bello, Hugh Dancy, Kathy Baker, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace and Jimmy Smits
Director: Robin Swicord
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Fans of Jane Austen have commented that her books are so universally applicable to women that her plots are being played out everywhere everyday. And considering that Austen’s novels mostly deal with ‘ensnaring’ a beau, romance, sacrifice and betrayal, who can disagree? This movie is adapted by director Robin Swicord from the 2004 novel by Karen Joy Fowler.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Five women and one man decide to meet once a month for six months to discuss Jane Austen’s books (Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion). Bernadette (Kathy Baker), the organiser of the book club, has been married many times and she is game for one more. Jocelyn (Maria Bello) is a single woman and views her beloved dogs as being more suitable companions than men. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) is brooding over her failed marriage to Daniel (Jimmy Smits), who has left her after 20 years of marriage. Allegra (Maggie Grace) is Sylvia's lesbian daughter.
Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a young, unhappily married school teacher whose husband (Marc Blucas) treats her like an ornament. She finds herself attracted to one of her students (Kevin Zegers). Finally, there's Grigg (Hugh Dancy), a sci-fi fan but he's so smitten with Jocelyn that he agrees to come to the club when she invites him. Jocelyn sees him as a match for Sylvia, but fails to see that she could be Emma to his Mr Knightley. Yes, Austen’s characters find real-life parallels here…

HITS & MISSES: With a title like this, it is understandable that this movie will never be a male-magnet, especially when there are men who think that Austen is a town in Texas. However, it would do fine as a female-bonding flick the likes of “Joy Luck Club” and “Clueless” (another Austen adaptation). Also, you don’t have to be familiar with Austen’s works to enjoy the movie but it helps a bit when it comes to the finer points of the comedy.

The cast is generally likable, each providing the annoying, insensitive or self-pitying aspects of their characters. My favourite is Emily Blunt whose Prudie is such a bunch of contradiction that she invariably reminds us of someone in our life. Of course, Prudie is clinging desperately to the make-believe world she has crafted as a reaction to her family and we get to understand her when her mother (Lynn Redgrave) makes her obnoxious appearance. Dancy, however, radiates charm as the sheepishly smitten Grigg, while Smits plays the typical American ex-hubby in midlife crisis.

THE LOWDOWN: If you need a night out with the girls and a base to examine your own relationships, join this club.


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