The Jane Austen Book Club * *1/2

Posted: September 28, 2007

Directed by Robin Swicord, with Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker and Hugh Dancy. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 1 hour, 45 mins. PG-13 (discreet sexual content, brief drugs, brief profanity). Playing at: Ritz East.

The Jane Austen Book Club is where Sex and the City meets Sense and Sensibility. Wildness is tempered by hard-won wisdom. The process of reading and talking about an Austen classic enables members to learn to live and to love more fully.

Robin Swicord's likeable and breezy adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler's novel is about how six people reading the same book have six different interpretations. For the reader, the book is a hand mirror reflecting personal experience.

It follows that the five Jane freaks and one sci-fi geek who transcend their romantic binds while considering Miss Austen's novels learn much about themselves individually and as a community. For while much has changed in the two centuries since Austen died, the human heart remains very much the same.

The acting ensemble is as colorful, and thorny, as a garden of Austen archetypes. There is the much-married matron, Bernadette (Kathy Baker), who creates the club as a diversion for Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), lately separated from her longtime husband, Daniel (Jimmy Smits).

Those who know Austen novels will recognize how much each character resembles a figure in one of them. Those who do not will enjoy the amusing types. Men, this means you.

- Carrie Rickey

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