Robin Swicord's THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB (**) boasts a wonderful cast who elevate this vigorously contrived narrative into a watchable rom-com but on the whole, I wasn't all that impressed. Swicord, who wrote the screen adaptation of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and made her directing debut with this film, doesn't have a grasp of all of her stories and needlessly complicates things with unbelieveable and annoying subplots. The idea is simple: a gaggle of love-starved women who love the works of Jane Austen start a book club with the intent of reading one Austen novel per month, and then relating the book to their struggling love lives. The excellent ensemble cast inludes Mario Bello (one of my personal favorites), Amy Brenneman (she should be in more stuff), Kathy Baker (funny as usual), Emily Blunt (in an awful wig and saddled with the worst plot-line), and Maggie Grace (in the obligatory yet welcome lesbian sub-plot). However, the film is completely stolen by the one male in the book club -- Hugh Dancy, playing a rich, good-looking, computer nerd named Grigg. He's the best thing in the film and the only character I truly cared about; had he not been in the film, I might have turned it off. THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB isn't offensively bad; it's just not all that exciting or surprising. Compared to the recently released and far superior romantic-comedy DEFINITELY, MAYBE, this film feels even more tepid. Also, if I were an avid (or passionate) reader of Austen's works, then I might have enjoyed the film a lot more. So I will close with this: check out this film if you're a huge fan of Jane Austen.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
MINI REVIEWS: THE NINES & THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB
John August, the screenwriter of GO, BIG FISH, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, and CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, made his directorial debut last year with THE NINES (***). It's a stylish, clever little mind-f*ck of a film with three interlocking stories featuring the same trio of actors (Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, and Melissa McCarthy) that sadly didn't completely add up by its conclusion. In the spirit of films like DONNIE DARKO, SOUTHLAND TALES and VANILLA SKY, THE NINES is a fun movie to watch but by the end, I think most people will be left scratching their heads at what they just witnessed. The film pivots on three stories (two of them centered around the entertainment industry) that play off themes of loneliness, desperation, confusion, and potentially, the end of the world. Movies like this probably please their makers more than their audiences but I still had fun with this paranoid little thriller. Ryan Reynolds is excellent and the two female leads are both quite good. I just wished I understood it all a little bit better. Oh well...that's what second viewings are for.