Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Overlooked DVD of the month - THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB

THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is remarkably like a Jane Austen novel. It's peopled with a group of women searching for love. Althought the women face obstacles, not least their own inability to see love when it's staring them in the face, everything ends happily and order is restored. The entire process is charming and witty and involving and entirely harmless. The ensemble cast do a great job. I particularly liked Hugh Dancy is his role as a relentlessly optimistic IT-geek called Grigg. I've never been particularly impressed by Dancy before but he utterly won me over with his performance in a role which is hard to take seriously. He makes Grigg more than just a two-dimensional nice guy. The upshot is that I finished the movie in a sunny mood entirely at odds with my usual callous, cyncical demeanour.

Once the optimistic glow had subsided, my usual cynicism kicked in and the house of cards collapsed. The whole movie was contrived from top to bottom. The idea is that five women and one man meet once a month and discuss one of Austen's novels. Such is Austen's universal wit and wisdom that they can draw piquant life lessons from her novels and apply them to their own lives in contemporary California. Problem is that a lot of the lessons seem misapplied, or stretched to say the least.

Consider PERSUASION - a wonderful novel about second chances. The lessons are applied to Prudie and Dean. Prudie has delusions of a Left-Bank life; Dean is a neanderthal. Apparently having him read PERSUASION will lead to a rekindling of their romance. Sorry. Not buying it. The whole set up of the film is that they are congenitally unsuited. Reading a novel won't change that. And what about the relationship at the core of the film - between a repressed older woman, Jocelyn, and the younger man determined to win her love - Grigg. Apart from the completely predictable way in which they come together, I really hated the fact that the reasons for Joceyln to be so closed off were never explained. This made it hard to sympathise with her. She just seemed mean.

Apparently these issues are dealt with at more length in the novel and I look forward to reading it. And I suppose any movie can't be all bad if it makes you want to spend more time with its characters....?

THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB played Toronto 2007 and was released last year. It's now available on DVD.

1 comment:

  1. For a moment I thought I'd clicked on the wrong blog....

    I too was taken in by Hugh Dancy and the rest of the cast, enough that I managed to overlook most of the problems with the film.

    Sadly, I can't say the book was any better. To be honest, I liked the film more than the book...mostly because it was much more romanticized. That being the case, you may enjoy the book better.