Movie Review for Becoming Jane (2007)

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Review #504 of 365
Movie Review of Becoming Jane (2007) [PG-13] 120 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.00
Where Viewed: AMC Westminster Promenade 24, Westminster, CO
When 1st Seen: 11 August 2007
Time: 7:15 pm
DVD Release Date: 12 February 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: Download now from Adrian Johnston - Becoming Jane (Original Score By Adrian Johnston) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots)
Screenplay by: Kevin Hood (Man and Boy) • Sarah Williams (The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) • James McAvoy (Starter for 10) • Julie Walters (HP: Order of the Phoenix) • James Cromwell (Spider-Man 3) • Maggie Smith (HP: Order of the Phoenix) • Joe Anderson (Little Box of Sweets) • Lucy Cohu (Coup!) • Laurence Fox (Marple: The Sittaford Mystery) • Ian Richardson (Joyeux Noël) • Anna Maxwell Martin (The Other Man)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Not being a Janeite, it was with great disappointment that I discovered upon doing subsequent research for this review of the Julian Jarrold film, Becoming Jane, that, pretty much, the entire film supposedly, so I thought, about the life of Jane Austen, represents a very grand stretch of the imagination at best and complete poppycock tomfoolery at worst. The film uses as it's central premise that Jane Austen became the writer, if not the woman, she was based on a complicated romance between her and Tom Lefroy.

"…close to being as enjoyable as one of Jane Austen's novels but not quite."
The historical support for this relationship comes from two letters the real Jane Austen wrote to her real sister Cassandra in which she mentions having had flirtations with him over a period of time that was probably less than two weeks. The actual letters and dates are a matter of historical record as they were not among those destroyed by her sister upon Jane's death. It's difficult to begrudge the filmmakers their decisions to amplify and create this fictional life to help 'suggest' how she came to be the writer she became, however, in fairness and out of honesty, this should have been stated in the opening statements about the film rather than historical data that tends to make people feel what follows is also historically accurate. Janeites will know the film is balderdash, as they know probably as much as there is to know about her life, but those who've read her books and admired her writing, but did not care to press further into the woman behind the characters may be unwittingly misled by this film.

Setting the historical make-believe aside, then, how's the film otherwise? Quite honestly, it's darling, and nearly so actually, as a real Jane Austen story. It all begins with Jane (Anne Hathaway) writing passages to be read to her rather sizeable family on special occasions such as that of the announcement of her sister, Cassandra's (Anna Maxwell Martin) engagement. Surrounding this event, of course, are conversations and arranged meetings mostly conducted by Jane's mother all with the intention to set Jane up with a proper suitor and husband to be. Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters) has her eyes firmly focused on Mr. Wisely (Laurence Fox) the nephew and solitary heir of Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith). He is awkward and a man of few words, but Jane's mother is willing to overlook these traits vs. the size of his eventually inherited estate. Reverend Austen (James Cromwell), Jane's father, however, sees things differently. He really wants Jane to marry for love as he feels he did. He endures his wife's scathing comments about the importance of money vs. love, and how disgusted she seems at the thought of having to dig up her own potatoes. Jane finds Mr. Wisley utterly boring and far from her dream man. Out of thin air, a miracle of sorts happens. Judge Langlois (Ian Richardson), a distant relative of the Austens, sends his nephew, Tom Lefory (James McAvoy) to the 'country' for a spell hoping against all hope that he will return more stable and eager to settle down and focus on his future career in the law. He arrives at the Austen's home just in time to hear Jane's reading during Cassandra's engagement announcement. He finds it difficult, however, to keep alert during her prose not making the best first impression on her. Over the course of the next few weeks, the two meet time and again, mostly with her ignoring him. He manages to get in a few words edgewise, as the two eventually share favorite books and long walks together. To make matters worse for Jane, her mother approves not of Tom, for she sees him as a penniless lawyer, and though she's not thrilled at the thought of her nephew marrying such a common girl, Lady Gresham does begin to soften and promote the notion of Mr. Wisely proposing to Jane. Which he does. And to which she politely declines to respond favorably sort of avoiding the issue. For it seems her heart has begun to fall for Lefroy. Well, this wouldn't be a good, Jane Austen-like story, if there were not a few more twists and turns to come, which there were. In the end, though, it should surprise no one, Jane ends up alone, just as she did in real life.

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With bright eyes and incredible sensibility, Anne Hathaway, brings much to Jane Austen as a character—though bearing no resemblance to the one portrait in existence of her. The degree of early feminism in Jane and her excellent use of language and irony are all part of Ms Hathaway's repertoire to be sure. James McAvoy continues to work to establish himself as the one of the liveliest, most inventive, and charming young actors of his generation with this portrayal complimenting his recent spectacular performance in The Last King of Scotland. Here he blends his dashing good nature effectively with his adoration and attraction for lovely young women into a performance that is truly romantic. It is there chemistry that fuels this film. Without it, well, Jane's pride and the prejudice of the times against her as a writer (women were just not taken seriously as novelists) would not have been enough to really carry this film. Julian Jarrold, director, admirably marries the fact and fiction together creating a film that, upon accepting that it is truly not the real life of Jane Austen but a 'rebooted' version, is close to being as enjoyable as one of Jane Austen's novels but not quite.

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Other Projects Featuring Becoming Jane (2007)
Cast Members
Anne HathawayJames McAvoyJulie Walters
James CromwellMaggie SmithJoe Anderson
Lucy CohuLaurence FoxIan Richardson
Anna Maxwell Martin
Julian Jarrold
Kevin HoodSarah Williams
CD Sountrack

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Review-lite Becoming Jane (2007) [max of 150 words]
Be forewarned, Janeites, this film takes great liberties with hints from Jane Austen's letters to her sister, Cassandra, in extrapolating an entire affair between her and Tom Lefroy for which there is very little historical evidence. Nonetheless, the film is quite darling with Anne Hathaway in the lead role opposite the dashing James McAvoy as Lefroy. Director Julian Jarrold admirably marries the fact and fiction together creating a film that, upon accepting that it is truly not the real life of Jane Austen but a 'rebooted' version, is close to being as enjoyable as one of Jane Austen's novels but not quite.

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