Based on the title alone I would guess that theatres owners aren’t going to have to worry about huge crowds of men descending on their theatres this weekend, clogging up their lobbies while standing in line to buy tickets for The Jane Austin Book Club.
The film is an adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler’s bestseller about a group of five women and one man who form an Austin book club only to discover that their own lives echo the predicaments, both romantic and otherwise, of the characters in the novels they are studying.
The Jane Austin Book Club has lots of characters—too many too actually define any of them properly. Each of the women in the club is supposed to represent a theme or character in an Austin novel, but each are so broadly written it is hard to not to see them as caricatures rather than characters. There are six Austin novels, so I suppose there had to be six main characters, but fewer, more defined characters would have given this movie more oomph.
That is not to say that the movie fails. It is predictable—particularly if you have read any of Austin’s novels or seen any of the dozens of film and television adaptations of the books—but isn’t without its charms. Emily Blunt makes the most of an underwritten part while Kathy Baker (best known as Jill Brock from the late, great television show Picket Fences) adds some verve with her madcap take on the book club’s much married founder. First time feature director Robin Swicord takes pains to make the book club segments cinematic, but is stymied by the inherent bookishness of the dialogue. These segments end up sounding more like Coles Notes of the novels than interesting dialogue. What worked so well to propel the story in Fowler’s novel doesn’t translate to the big screen.
The Jane Austin Book Club wants to be a female bonding movie along the lines of The Joy Luck Club or Waiting to Exhale, but, despite a few laughs here and there, is done in by the superficiality of the characters.