The Jane Austen Book Club

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Jane Austen Book Club Movie Poster Image
Chick flick's mature themes aren't for tweens.
  • PG-13
  • 2007
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A married man abandons his wife, who later runs into him and his mistress; the same man later belittles his wife's friend's attachment to her pet. A woman betrays her lover by writing dismissively about her. Also, stereotyping of male and female roles.

Violence

No violence, but some heated arguments between couples.

Sex

Two women cavort in bed -- the camera zooms to their midriffs -- and flirt while one's in the bathtub; a teenager propositions his married teacher, whom he kisses passionately in the car; later, they make a date to meet outside a hotel, and the teacher is shown changing into sexier clothing beforehand. The women make sexual comments about the men in their lives.

Language

Infrequent, but some moments are punctuated by strong language, including "f--king bitch."

Consumerism

Big plug for Jane Austen's books, as well as Ursula le Guin's; some close-ups of computer and bike brands and coffee shops (Starbucks).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking. Prunie's mom is a heavy marijuana user who smokes in front of her daughter, who's visibly upset by the behavior.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Austen-loving teen girls might be drawn to this movie by the promise of lots of Austen talk (not to mention the presence of Hugh Dancy). But many of the movie's themes -- infidelity, betrayal, a teen hooking up with his teacher -- are on the mature side. There's some minor language (including one use of "f--k") and social drinking, and a supporting character is a heavy marijuana user. Still, for the most part, the film is fairly heartwarming, and the discussions about the books are surprisingly robust (for a movie, anyway). There's little nudity or drinking or drug use to be concerned about.

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What's the story?

Four women and one man meet once a month to dissect Jane Austen's classics in THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. It's a motley crew and, thanks to their wildly different personalities, not everyone gels easily. But their commitment to the famed author wills them to persist, and they wind up the better for it. French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt) longs for romance, yet takes her husband for granted even as she fantasizes about a sexually aggressive student, while Bernadette (Kathy Baker) is a serial monogamist who loves being married but can't make a union last. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) is devoted to her family but finds it -- and herself -- decimated when her husband, Daniel (Jimmy Smits), abandons her for another woman. Sylvia's best friend, Jocelyn (Maria Bello), wants to fix her up with her addition to the book club, Grigg (Hugh Dancy), who only has eyes for Jocelyn.

Is it any good?

There's enough drama -- big and small -- in The Jane Austen Book Club to fill one of the author's novels. As a techie confused by Austen's novels (he compares Mansfield Park to Return of the Jedi) and the women who read them, Dancy is supremely likable. He genuinely looks befuddled, especially when the object of his affection, Jocelyn, pushes him to court her best friend instead. Dancy and Bello have great chemistry; she can barely tamp down her usual smoldering self to portray a woman who better understands dogs than men. Blunt again proves herself talented with a storyline that's at once scandalous and poignant, and Brenneman stands out as a wife blindsided by her husband's infidelity.

In fact, the whole ensemble is strong, and the early scenes in which they try to get comfortable with each other are especially entertaining. (If you've ever been in a book club, you'll understand.) But there's something a little removed about watching a movie about a book club about Jane Austen. The many layers to sift through threaten to weigh down the movie. And some of the parallels drawn between Austen's books and the characters' lives feel forced. Plus, with so many people to keep track of, it's all too easy to get distracted. And if you've never read Austen, prepare to be somewhat lost.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the connections drawn between Jane Austen's work and the movie characters: What are the differences and similarities between them? Has romance changed so much since Austen's time, or is it just Hollywood that makes love seem more complicated than it truly is? If so, why are filmmakers drawn to the subject? Do the complex relationships in the movie seem believable?

Movie details

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