Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Sense and Cinematography
I saw The Jane Austen Book Club at the cinema tonight, and thought I'd use its various links to literature to excuse a rather more pop-cultural reference than usual... I read Karen Joy Fowler's novel, from which the film was adapted, over the summer - must confess, not very impressed. Lots of unnecessary sex and not enough literary comment. My preference probably puts me in the minority, but with 'Jane Austen' in the title, I hope I'm not alone... Anyway, it was fun to read the novel and spot comparisons and parallels with JA's oeuvre, but that was about where the enjoyment ended, give or take a few quite emotional scenes. Essentially six people meet up to discuss the six JA novels, one chosen by each of them, and the resultant book group is a backdrop for their relationship goings-on - divorcee, lesbian, teacher-with-crush-on-student, woman with Wife of Bath tendencies, dog-loving singleton and convenient token male. With SciFi obsession, like all guys, obviously.
The film hadn't removed any of these elements, but I am more forgiving of modern films than I am modern novels - largely, I imagine, because I've seen hardly any older films. Somehow what seemed rather fatuous and saccharine in prose became sweet and passingly profound on the silver screen. It was refreshing that they anticipated their viewers had read at least some Jane Austen - reminds me of a different experience sitting in the cinema while watching the 2005 Pride and Prejudice; the number of people who laughed uproariously at certain bits suggested they hadn't encountered them in prose beforehand. Literary snobbishness over... for a moment or two, anyway. Where was I? Oh yes - the film laboured the parallels between novels and book group members even more than the novel did, but that was quite entertaining. What really made the film work was the cast - especially the brilliant Emily Blunt as Prudie, the teacher-with-a-crush. Her marriage was falling apart; she joined a book group to avoid thinking about her thoughtless husband, and cannot countenance other members being trivial or unacademic. Oh, and she speaks in French quite a bit - despite having a potentially irritating character, Blunt makes Prudie loveable and endearing. I didn't know the rest of the cast before (except Lynn Redgrave, who makes a fleeting and funny appearance as Prudie's hippy mother) but they are a great ensemble.
Worth a watch, if only because IMDB imaginatively lists the Plot Keywords as 'Book Club / German Shepherd'...