The premise of The Jane Austen Club essentially lives or dies on the gamble that you can perform a dramatic transplant of the Austen moral and cultural sensibility from the surface prim and proper elite etiquette of 19th century drawing room England to the contemporary flighty swingers of LA. Writer/director Robin Swicord (screen adaptations of Memoirs Of A Geisha, Little Women and The Perez Family), laces the conceit of a tight Austen narrative format, with her conventional sentimentality. The story is schematically shaped to conform to a structure of six Sacramento burb book club members convening at the local Starbucks, six Austen books, and six overlapping miserable miraculously rebounding lives over the course of six months.
Included in this busy mix are the betrayed and abandoned wife, the lesbian, the aging party girl, and the repressed and depressed daughter of a free spirit mom. Though Austen’s classic literary sense of dramatic conflict doesn’t quite transfer here to on across the board happy endings all around. Hey, we’re talking California, the land of short term serial monogamy, and proud of it. The strict period constraints back then of arranged marriages based on financial arrangements and inheritance matters, don’t go down so easy in the self-actualizing here and now.
The Jane Austen Book Club does get some helpful resuscitation from witty one liners that get tossed about. The most enlightening and instructive one of all perhaps, is when one club member admonishes another that you’d have a better understanding of Austen if you read the book instead of watching the movie. I believe Austen would have been utterly delighted with that bit of well spoken, droll advice.
SONY Picture Home Entertainment
DVD Features: Cast and Crew Commentary; Deleted Scenes. Featurettes: The Life Of Jane Austen; The Book Club Deconstructed. Behind-The-Scenes; Los Angeles Premiere.