Monday, February 25, 2008

Because It's About Austen...

...I'd consider it neglectful of me if I failed to mention that I finally saw the DVD of The Jane Austen Book Club this weekend. Quite enjoyable!

Yes, I should've seen the film in the theaters back in the fall. In fact, I'd fully intended to. But life happens and, by the time I could swing a free weekend afternoon, I'd missed my chance.

I'd read the Karen Joy Fowler novel it was based up some years back and found it, well...an interesting, if not wholly enjoyable, experience. I immediately loved the premise: 5 women and 1 man get together once a month to discuss each of Jane's 6 published books, but the real drama enfolds when the characters aren't at their book club, and certain Austen-centric issues appear in these characters' lives and relationships. However, Fowler presented to readers a few characters whose attitudes and personal journeys somehow depressed me, despite a terrific setup and the cleverness of the narrative. The film succeeded in softening these aspects of the story (in 2 out of 3 cases, anyway) and, as a result, the ironic/comedic elements were able to bloom onscreen for me a bit better than in the novel.

I'm a fan enough of drama when the author's intent is to craft a serious work. But, if someone's going to bill a production as a comedy, hadn't it best come across as funny and have the requisite happy ending? Well, that's my bias. So, to her credit, I thought the film's screenwriter and director (Robin Swicord) managed this task rather well and--for me--she improved upon the book. Watching the adorable Hugh Dancy onscreen didn't hurt one bit, either.


L.A. Mitchell said...

I've wanted to see this but was afraid I'd miss all the references. I'm not as hard-core Jane Austin as you, my dear. Would I still enjoy it?

Now I have to pop over to imdb to find a photo of Hugh Dancy. Next time, links, honey. We want graphics. Ha ha.

Nadine said...

I have to confess... I could not finish that book. Life's too short for books that don't hook me (this is a new attitude, and I can't quite shake off the guilt of not finishing a book, but honestly, there are just too many interesting-looking novels on my shelf to bother with the not-so-good-ones).

You're right that all the characters were just a little too depressing. The book plodded along despite a lackluster plot, and I guess that might be due to some deep, insightful characterization, but if a writer is going to make wallowing in the mundaness of life her focus, she needs something else to keep me going... keen social commentary, historical perspective, a good plot... I felt the author of this one used the Jane Austen thing as a plot device that never quite materialized.

Marilyn Brant said...

L.A., I thought the screenwriter kept the references easily accessible. My less-Austen-obsessive friends told me they found the film "fun"...and I doubt YOU'D miss anything! Next time, though, I promise to include links to the cute guys :).

Nadine, in regards to the book, you said it far better than I did. Thank you! In particular, I felt the lack of that "keen social commentary" you mentioned and the dramatic irony so integral to the original Austen novels. Yeah, it was hard to read. I finished it...but I also found myself skimming more than I would've liked.