Emily Blunt plays a flirtatious French teacher in <em>The Jane Austen Book Club</em>.

Emily Blunt plays a flirtatious French teacher in The Jane Austen Book Club.

The Jane Austen Book Club

Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, and Hugh Dancy star in a film written and directed by Robin Swicord, based on the novel by Karen Joy Fowler.

The film version of The Jane Austen Book Club is an entertaining fairytale in which wandering spouses see the error of their ways, tech millionaires live in Sacramento tract homes, and book club members show up for meetings having actually finished the book. Fans of the novel will probably also enjoy the movie, but may be troubled by some of its modifications.

Bernadette (Kathy Baker) starts a book club devoted to Austen’s work as a way of cheering up her circle of friends, who are all mourning various losses: dog-breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello), bereft over the death of one of her prize ridgebacks; high school French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt), disappointed over a cancelled trip to Paris; and librarian Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), whose husband has left her for another woman. Jocelyn also invites Grigg (Hugh Dancy)-who’s never read Austen-to join, in hopes he’ll provide a romantic distraction for Sylvia.

Even those unfamiliar with Austen’s oeuvre will find the group’s discussions of her novels lively and engaging, but the literary analysis is really just a running commentary on the tangled relationships of the club’s members. Grigg is a true 21st-century romantic hero: sensitive, intellectually curious, eco-conscious, and a good dancer; but Prudie’s flirtation with a student may make some viewers a bit queasy-even though pains are taken to show he’s not a minor.

It’s a pleasure to see onscreen characters making emotional connections by sharing cherished novels with each other, but some of the choices made in adapting the book are vexing. Although the film provides a vehicle for several talented actresses, most of the main characters are at least 10 years younger than their novelistic counterparts. And if marital discord for Prudie’s character had to be invented, was it necessary to make her husband (Marc Blucas) such an oaf? Finally, one wonders whether Grigg was portrayed as a wealthy man because viewers wouldn’t regard a man of modest means as a suitable romantic partner-and any true Austen fan can tell you the answer to that question.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

New Insights on Butterfly Migration Revealed

Monarch migrating from Oregon to Santa Barbara found to be breeding out of season, a first in ...

Water Managers, County Wrangle Over Lake Cachuma Supply

In some ways, the South Coast is in a worse drought fix than in 2014.

Brooks Is Back

UCSB PaCE to offer two Brooks courses this winter.

Heroin Bust in Santa Barbara

Three men were detained at three locations, one arrested.

Woolsey Fire Grows, Two Reported Dead

Highway 101 remains closed between Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village; Highway 1 also closed at Pt. Mugu; ...