A likeable cast helps lift this conversational dramedy with manners, even though some of its target group might find it more contrived than anything the bright feminist author brought to her novels.
Robin Swicord (writer of Memoirs of a Geisha) pens and directs The Jane Austen Book Club which looks into the pentagonal group formed to comment on said author's lauded works.
Starring Emily Blunt, Maria Bello, Maggie Grace, Amy Brenneman, and Kathy Baker, Blunt's Prudie as a weary French teacher comes across the most interesting. Baker's Bernadette has been a bride six times, Brenneman's Sylvia has just divorced her husband (Jimmy Smits) after twenty years, and brings along her extreme-sports minded daughter Allegra (Grace). While Bello's relationship-phobic Jocelyn lures the engaging sci-fi guy played by English thespian Hugh Dancy (Evening) to make Sylvia feel better. But, of course, he has interest in Jocelyn.
Overrall, Swicord hasn't fashioned a real high-minded chick flick, one that connects like a Divine Secrets of Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but there is a sense and sensibility that these characters are cognizant of the meaning from the telling tomes that comment on their technology-ladened lives. As mentioned, Blunt (a standout in The Devil Wears Prada) shows much wit and has chemistry with Kevin Zegers who plays her over-attentive student. Lynn Redgrave has a cameo part as Prudie's wacky mother, while Bello and Dancy generate some odd sparks. The film is mostly about the conversation so action is lilted, so it's up to the characters to make something of the simplistic script and more often than not, they do.