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The Jane Austen Book Club - drama DVD review
THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits
Director: Robin Swicord   Studio: Sony Pictures
DVD release: 05 February 2008   Runtime: 106 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Audio Tracks (English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround; French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), Cast and crew commentary, Behind-the-scenes of The Jane Austen Book Club, "The Life of Jane Austen," "The Book Club: Deconstructed," "Walking the Red Carpet: Los Angeles Premiere," Deleted scenes, Previews

Based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is about beginnings, and about beginning again. It is full of hope and love and raw, honest emotions with just a touch of whimsy. In other words, it is everything Jane Austen was known for. THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is a renewal.

A group of friends decide to begin a book club, primarily as a distraction for Amy Brenneman's character, Sylvia, whose husband (played by Jimmy Smits) has left her for another woman after 20-plus years of marriage. The club will read all six of Austen's novels, one a month. Each person in the group is expected to lead the discussion for one of the books. The books seem to be somewhat blatant parallels of their lives as they read together, which is both a wee bit cheesy and downright comforting all at the same time. This one has it all: books, romance, humor, healing and growth.

The circle is comprised of five women and one man. Maria Bello's character runs into a cute, young guy and uses her wiles to herd him into the Jane Austen club, thinking that he could be the ideal pastime for the grieving Sylvia. Hugh Dancy is incredibly charming as Grigg, and endlessly patient with the whole thing. His very manly commentaries on the Austen books are a constant source of amusement - but he is such a good sport that it is easy to like him and sympathize, while he is surrounded by emotional and diverse women. Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, and Maggie Grace are all unique, powerful, and full of contrasts.

It can be very difficult to pull off that big of an ensemble while still maintaining the intimacy needed for each character to make them feel real - especially on film, where we can't delve into their hearts and heads as a reader can in a novel. The perfect balance is there, though, and wholly satisfying. Their commentaries and book discussions are the artistic tools that offer color to each black and white character. The various homes really ought to be noticed, as they are a fascinating glimpse into each one of them, but the thoroughly accomplished acting makes the sets fade into the background; music as well - it simply enhances the feature without taking over and leading the cast, as a good wine ought to do for a meal.

While there is no question that this one will be dubbed just a "chick flick," it leaves a woman feeling so happy and hopeful, that her man would be wise to hang out for the end. This is a superb movie to watch together; the overflow of good will and mushy love will pull him right out of the doghouse. For anyone who is an Austen fan or anyone who loves an Austen fan, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is a must-have movie.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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