The Jane Austen Book Club (12A)

2.00

The multiplex might as well put up a sign in the foyer: blokes this way for American Gangster, ladies that way for The Jane Austen Book Club. This gals-together flick, based on the bestselling book, at least has the good taste to see that Austen and her six novels are worthy of discussion. But did writer-director Robin Swicord have to turn them into such soppy, Californian-therapy mush?

The assembly of the club involves grindingly obvious box-ticking: there's the single woman (Maria Bello), the recently separated one (Amy Brenneman), the lesbian one (Maggie Grace), the unhappily married one (Emily Blunt), the multiply divorced one (Kathy Baker), plus an obligatory beefcake (Hugh Dancy).

The mishaps of the plot echo those from the Austen novels, which the group seem bent on reading less for their literary interest than for their potential as life lessons. The contrivance is horrible, the schmaltz unpardonable.

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