They get it

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How lovely and refreshing to read a mature and intelligent take on Jane Austen’s work from a columnist at Washington State University’s Daily Evergreen. And she’s not even a Janeite!

After the final credits rolled past and the theater was once again lit well enough to find the exit, my mom, my sister and I were gushing about how we loved the movie and laughing at certain quotes and claiming our favorite characters as we typically do after a chick movie. Once we got home, I went to my room to get ready for bed and despite my best efforts to fall asleep, I started thinking about how much the themes of Jane Austen’s six novels are still so relevant today, 200 years later.

Should love be unbound and wild, or constrained and orderly?

Can marriages really stay happy and fulfilling for “as long as we both shall live”?

These timeless questions and several other themes including friendship, romance and social manners are still the issues perplexing us today.

Nicely said. We hope Ms. Miley goes on to read some of Jane Austen’s novels now, or at least learns to appreciate them! We know that there are smart and mature teenagers and college students out there, and some of them even read this blog. 🙂 Always good to have proof of it.

Indeed

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Alert Janeite Lisa sent us a rather amusing summary of The Jane Austen Book Club:

The Jane Austen Book Club’: A flick for the erudite chick. “Pride & Prejudice,” infidelity, amazing jewelry, lesbian skydiving, bottles and bottles of wine, and dogs. What’s not to like?

Pretty much sums it up, yeah.

Girly, yes, but D.Wade likes it too

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TheHype* is concerned that just by mentioning the name *whispers* Jane Austen he might start leaking testosterone out of his ears.

Well, we’ve got two words for you, plebe:

Dwyane Wade.

We believe the proper term to be used at the present juncture would be “pwn3d.”

*Ungentlemanlike language warning.

TJABC News Roundup: Be Jealous of Us Edition

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One of the events we attended at the JASNA AGM in Vancouver was a screening of The Jane Austen Book Club, attended by Karen Joy Fowler, author of the novel from which the film was adapted, and Robin Swicord, the director. (And it IS pronounced Swy-cord, after all.) Robin gave away some props and stuff from the film, and we scored, from our neighbor who was more proactive about getting swag than we were, one of Grigg’s business cards! La! (and no, we are NOT giving it away. It’s ours, precious!)

So, on to the news!

There’s a new interview with Karen Joy Fowler at Amazon, in which she talks about the process of having one of your novels adapted.

I didn’t really see how it could be made into a movie so I didn’t expect anyone else would either. I’ve had options on other books so I wasn’t surprised by that part, but the way options seemed to work was that the option period ran out and you never heard another word about it. That’s what I expected.

Robin Swicord discusses the film and Jane Austen with the Montreal Mirror.

Infidelity and other romantic complications were an Austen specialty, and Swicord saw the author’s ruminations on codes of human behaviour as even more invigorating when applied to contemporary characters. “Her father was an Anglican pastor. The Anglican values were really upheld in her family. This was an underpinning of all of her novels. She was very much concerned with moral and ethical behaviour. She believed in the rational mind over the impulsive.”

The Orlando Sentinel also has an article about the film in which they talk to the directors and to Hugh Dancy.

“I was looking for somebody who was Darcy-like (the snob who melts in Pride & Prejudice), somebody whose appearance could be deceptive, ” Swicord says. “He’s too good-looking, too smart to be funny. But you start to re-evaluate him. Just like so many of Austen’s young gentlemen, like Mr. Darcy.”

And while Dancy relished the chance to play “the sort of Austen character women swoon over,” he acknowledges that there’s still that label “chick picture” on any film concerning the late Ms. Jane.

“She’s been marketed as ‘chick lit,’ I think,” Dancy says. “She’s very unsentimental, very dry and very funny. I think that’s why she’s still around, not that she’s a nice way to kill a rainy afternoon.”

Did we mention we have Grigg’s business card? 😉

And lastly, Alert Janeite Amy sent us news of a possible sequel to the film. 😉

Adaptation

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The San Jose Mercury News has a great article about Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, including her initial reaction to watching the film adaptation of her novel.

Swicord made many changes to Fowler’s book, including reassigning specific Austen novels to different members of the book club. That made for a somewhat disorienting experience for Fowler when she saw an early print of the film.

“I just sort of sat there the whole time thinking, well, I didn’t write that,” she said.

As someone who really loved the book, even though we enjoyed the film very much, there were a few of those moments for us, too. But actually the “assignments” sort of shift–both Sylvia and Prudie are a little bit Mansfield Park, and everyone gets in on the Persuasion action. That’s in keeping with Ms. Fowler’s own writing style, which had the Austen allusions shifting and coming at you in unexpected ways. (We were sad to lose the lone Sanditon reference in the novel, though.)

As for the printed page, Fowler was a trendsetter; new books with Austen themes seem to crop up every month. August alone brought us “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict,” in which a brokenhearted contemporary woman wakes up in 1813 England; as well as the paperback edition of “Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Austen Adventure,” which invites the reader to play games involving Austen plots. For a running list of Austen-related projects in the works, see http://www.Austenblog.com, which has the very aptly named feature: “She’s Everywhere.”

Yes, she is. 😀

Who's Afraid of Jane Austen?

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Movieweb.com has some more videos with various cast members of The Jane Austen Book Club. They are kind of hilarious because the (male) reviewer is so astonished that he liked the movie, and keeps asking the cast members how to convince his audience to see it, other than the fact that Princess Leia’s stepfather is in it. (That would be Jimmy Smits, who played Senator Bail Organa in Star Wars Episodes II and III, which was pretty much the only thing that kept us from opening our jugular vein with a dull spork while watching those films; that, and a sick fascination with how many elaborate outfits Padme managed to extract from her tiny suitcase after she eloped with Anakin.) Really, is Jane Austen that scary?

Then this review, which is rather lukewarm anyway, has a strange misperception about Janeites.

There are some people who are so crazy about Jane Austen that they know everything about the English novelist’s life (like, how she only wrote six novels or that she never married).

These are not the people who should see “The Jane Austen Book Club,” a super oozy chick flick.

It’s the ones who like Austen-inspired movies including “Emma” or even “Clueless” who will enjoy this tale of Sacramento readers who create a book club in which they read only Austen.

Why in the world would they think those two groups are mutually exclusive? Janeites who really know Jane generally love Clueless, because it really gets Jane. Same with TJABC. It’s not intensive Jane Austen content for Janeite geeks, but it’s infused with her work nonetheless. Why wouldn’t the fanatics love that, as long as it’s done well? Which, of course, is the point: it must be done well. It’s not a matter of modern or period work, it’s a matter of quality.

Winners of the Jane Austen Book Club movie poster contest

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The Jane Austen Book Club Poster The winners’ names have been drawn in our The Jane Austen Book Club movie poster contest.

Congratulations to April, who won the grand prize of a poster and a copy of the film tie-in edition of the novel and a signed copy of The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World, and also Liane, Robin, Maisy, Ann, Kate, Jenna, Rebecca, Patrizia, and Brenda, who won posters. Thanks to all who entered!

TJABC News Roundup: Brava Directrice Edition

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Ms. Place at Jane Austen’s World has an exclusive interview with Robin Swicord, screenwriter and director of The Jane Austen Book Club. Part I, Part II.

When John Calley asked me to read Karen Joy Fowler’s novel, The Jane Austen Book Club, I was at work on an original screenplay about a dysfunctional family of Jane Austen scholars, which I planned to direct for Sony Pictures. I had spent years immersed in Austenalia, not only reading Austen’s novels repeatedly, but also absorbing her letters and juvenilia, and making my way through various academic treatises which explored Austen’s life and work from every imaginable angle. I joked to my Sony executive that I was on the way to making the only light Hollywood comedy ever to need a bibliography appended to the credits. However, in reading The Jane Austen Book Club, I found myself no longer in the company of sparring intellectuals. Here were ordinary people more like me; readers, seeking shelter and companionship in books. That contemporary readers have found refuge in Jane Austen’s well-ordered novels isn’t surprising, given what we’re seeking shelter from—congested traffic, ringing cell phones, squealing security wands, waiting rooms with blaring televisions. Recently I noticed that four of Austen’s six novels were for sale at the newsstand at the Seattle airport. Spend a couple of hours trapped in a terminal waiting for a flight that’s been delayed, and you’ll be only too happy to withdraw into a semi-rural English village, two centuries in the past. When you begin to love Austen, her world doesn’t seem that antiquated. Her characters worry about money, deal with embarrassing family members, cringe at social slights, and spend more time than they should hoping to fall in love, even when the local prospects don’t seem that promising. In short, her people are just like us—but without the commute and the twelve-to-fourteen hour workday.

Also, there’s a video at Hollywood.com with several of the actors in the film: Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, and Hugh Dancy (if you’re interested in hearing his real accent).

When Good People Get Together: a review of The Jane Austen Book Club (film adaptation)

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ja_book_club_movie_poster We were a little surprised when we heard that filming was going forward on The Jane Austen Book Club. Not because we didn’t like the novel that inspired it; on the contrary, we loved the novel, but were at a loss as to how the plot, with its timeshifts and flashbacks, could be rendered on film without severe evisceration, which, if not done with due care (as we Janeites certainly know), can have some ugly results. We were further alarmed by the casting of actors who all were at least a decade younger than the characters in the book. Fortunately, we are delighted to report that The Jane Austen Book Club is a funny and smart film that keeps the spirit of the original even while it takes some severe departures from it.

For the benefit of those who have not read the book, the six members of the group are brought together by mutual acquaintances, each of them grieving or confused or lonely, to read Jane Austen as “the perfect antidote to life.” They read and discuss and argue and flirt and fall in and out of love, using Jane Austen’s novels as emotional touchstones as her stories pop up in their lives in the most surprising ways. It’s not a modern-set version of a Jane Austen novel, like Clueless or Bride and Prejudice; Jane’s work is present and informs the proceedings, but the touch is light, almost ghostly. You probably won’t be getting any new insights into the novels. It’s more like the audience is the seventh member of the book club, listening to the others approach the novels through their own experiences, and, well, prejudices.

For those who, like us, read and loved the novel, we were pleased how much of the original six stories were preserved. The flashback scenes were excised, but in some cases the characters were able to tell part of their backstories. Allegra’s story in particular is almost intact, and Maggie Grace has managed to repeat Kate Winslet’s astonishing feat of making Marianne Dashwood likable. The rest of the cast also is excellent, without a single weak link; no flavor of the month starlet casting, thank Jane. Kathy Baker renders Bernadette almost perfectly from the book as the warm-hearted, sweet-natured, ever so slightly ditzy Earth Mother of the group. We’ve already waxed gushy about Hugh Dancy’s hilarious turn as Grigg, a single geek in possession of a good fortune, who is enthusiastic about reading–especially about reading whatever Jocelyn tells him he should read. Jimmy Smits plays Daniel against type, dumping his wife cruelly and bringing his new love to “her” Whole Foods, and oh! How we detest him for his perfidy! Not unlike how we detest a certain sea captain when he is cruel to a certain Miss A— E—–; but like that other gentleman, he makes up for it. (And when he was sitting on the beach discussing Persuasion both of our ovaries pretty much exploded simultaneously. Ow.)

As in the novel, the Austen references shift and sneak up one. Some will likely go over the heads of non-Janeite audiences, and probably they will never miss them; they are little treats for Janeites. Yes! This film does not forget the Janeites! Shocking, we know, after suffering a series of directors and screenwriters and actors who said publicly that they did not care what Those Austen People thought. Robin Swicord, who wrote the screenplay and directed, is one of us, and we are not forgotten. Although not all members of her cast are Janeites, she gets them to buy into the Janeness, and yet manages to avoid major eggheadedness that would make the Great Unwashed run screaming for the exits. Non-Janeite friends, family, SOs, and spouses need not fear this film. Janeites, for that matter, need not fear this film, even if one has been disappointed by recent efforts in her name. We laughed a lot, we cried a little, and we enjoyed the way the ending wrapped up all the stories harmoniously–just like Jane.

Those who have not read the novel should have no problem following the film, and those who have read the novel will enjoy it, we think, whether or not you liked the book. It’s witty and clever, much like Jane herself, and celebrates her novels and the community of readers who have loved them for 200 years. You, Gentle Reader, are part of that community; go and celebrate.

Win a poster from The Jane Austen Book Club

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The Jane Austen Book Club Poster Sony Pictures Classics will give posters from The Jane Austen Book Club to ten AustenBlog readers. If you would like to be added to the drawing, send your full name and mailing address to editor@austenblog.com by 10 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, September 27, 2007. If you like, tell us about “your private Austen.”

Nine winners will receive a copy of the poster; one grand prize winner will receive a poster, a copy of the movie tie-in edition of the novel, and a copy of The Jane Austen Handbook, A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World signed by the Editrix, which we are including because we are so happy to end our drought of Jane Austen-related films that we didn’t like! (If you would like to be in the drawing for the poster only, just let us know in your e-mail.)

To see a larger version of the poster, click on the smaller version at left.