The only portrait I ever saw of Jane Austen appears on countless spines of the Modern Library edition of "Pride and Prejudice." Drawn by her sister Cassandra, Jane looks, well, like one would expect the witty Miss Austen to look: poised, civilized, reflective and intelligent. With some imagination and forgiveness with regard to the talent of the artist, she could even be conceived as pretty with her large dark eyes and ringlet fringe peeking out from the typical gentlewoman's cap of that time period. How ingenious for Hollywood to cast the sumptuous Anne Hathaway with her silky brown hair, curvaceous figure, deer-in-the-headlights eyes and perfect lips as the young burgeoning author? Let's face it---no one wants to be a plain Jane - and plain she is not--she's pretty much got it all: not only is she innocently stunning, she's independent, wants to work, exhibits impeccable manners, loves her family, acts upon noble ideals all of which along with her cricket skills results in attracting and snaring the deliciously boyish James McAvoy ( Last King of Scotland) as supposed ill-fated lover, Tom Lefroy.
As a film, all of this romanticism works wonderfully. The verdant countryside shimmers in the sunshine. The period clothing---all empire waists, beribboned hair, top hats and velvet frockcoats----sway and rustle delightfully as the couples dance and speak in clever well-mannered innuendo as expectant matchmaking parents play chaperone and contemplate lucrative alliances that will set their children up for life. The dialogue sufficiently reflects that Austenian repartee which the educated audience delights in as it makes them feel they are on an even keel with one of the greatest satirists in the English language. The notion of Austin's relationship with Lefroy as presented first in Jon Spence's biography from which the film gets its name, suggests that many of Austin's dream partnerships as presented in her novels were based on actual, personal and emotional incidents that although painful, gave her characters so much flesh and blood poignancy, we still discuss them today.
Whether or not any of this is actually true matters naught. The film seduces with the same charming intensity of McAvoy's blue-eyed stare as he quite openly undresses Hathaway in his mind. Is Lefroy the basis for Mr. Darcy? This is difficult to say, but I wouldn't mind bumping into this film's Tom Lefroy while I was taking my daily constitutional. Of course, I'd have to go back in time to become a few years younger---or perhaps not as flirty cousin Eliza de Feuillide certainly does have her way with Jane's rakish brother, Henry Austen (Joe Anderson)---oh, what money can buy!
With that in mind, leave the historical authenticity to the Austen scholars and enjoy the film for its performances and its visual delights. Secondary players congregate to form a veritable Austen menagerie of characters that for the most part plays a bit too conveniently to reflect reality. But take it all in fun ---the film leads one to believe that Austen needed little imagination to conceptualize her personalities; rather they were all there under her nose, just waiting to be captured on paper. Nevertheless, Maggie Smith as the formidable Lady Gresham never fails to elicit a chuckle as does her fictional counterpart Lady Catherine de Bourgh from "Pride and Prejudice." Julie Walters and James Cromwell as Jane's parents seem the perfect Mr. and Mrs Bennett clones while Laurence Fox, as Mr. Wisley (Mr. Collins again from "Pride and Prejudice") interjects just the right 21st century computer geek persona to the mix to act the perfect foil for the more glamorous but definitely shallower Tom Lefroy character.
Bottom line: After countless Masterpiece Theatre adaptations of all six of Jane Austen's novels as well as a herd of popular films set to popular music (Bride and Prejudice was one Bollywood version) it is not surprising that the author herself has come into scrutiny in this charming albeit fictionalized biopic. If you are not tired of yet another Darcy/Bennett rendition, you will most likely find "Becoming Jane" two hours worth of Jane Austen's world lovingly preserved. Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
on December 12, 2007
The DVD for this movie will be coming out Feb 12, 2008 and will feature deleted scenes, commentary with director Julian Jarrold, writer Kevin Hood and producer Robert Bernstein, becoming Jane Pop-Up Facts & Footnotes(ok, this is enough to make me want to buy it)and a Discovering the Real Jane Austen featurette
The actors were wonderful in this movie and it was well staged. The movie is supposed to be based on a few months of Jane's life when she was 20. H Some scenes were added to make her life more dramatic. There isn't very many facts known about Jane so any biographical movie about her will contain fiction, but I think what most people criticized about this film is it borrows too much from Pride & Prejudice.
The facts about Jane are she was a witty and lively person. We know this from her letters and her writings. She was sort of a tomboy when she was young and played baseball and cricket. She had a handsome and adventurous brother named Henry who helped publish two of her novels after her death. He did marry their cousin. Tom Lefroy was a person she knew and she did flirt with him when she was 20. Many years later he said he did love Jane but it was a "boyish love". His first daughter was named Jane. When she was 27 she was proposed to by a weathly but awkward man named Harry Bigg-Whithers, who she at first accepted but changed her mind the next day.
For people with children, there is some brief nudity (male backsides), some women that appear to be prostitutes, fist fighting and some suggestive language.
Other people have criticized this movie because they see it as another way to cash in on Jane Austen's popularity. I feel that the film does try to shed a little light on her real personality.
on April 24, 2009
Unable to overcome the attachment in spite of my best endeavours, I purchased this dvd. Not in an excusable way--on impulse, perhaps, from a bargain bin, on a rainy day, with a cold coming on. No. Having seen it in the theater and knowing exactly what I was getting, I looked up the release date and pre-ordered it.
You can't think how difficult it is for such a nit-picker as I to swallow my pride (which is considerable) and my prejudice (even greater) and admit that I like this film. Even knowing just how much of the story is true (a very little bit), I enjoy imagining myself in Jane Austen's world and family. Anne Hathaway does a lovely job as Jane; likewise Anna Maxwell Martin as Cassandra. And, oh, yes, despite my disgust with Hollywood's obligatory but unfounded portrayal of Tom Lefroy as a rake, I completely fell for James McAvoy's devasting charm.
Why, then, only three stars for this sweet story, my guilty pleasure? The low rating is due to the greatest irony in a film greatly concerned with irony (if not, perhaps, with a good definition of same). That while the creators eagerly depicted Jane Austen as a courageous, intelligent, forward-thinking young woman, struggling against archaic societal constraints, they completely belittle her creative genius. The portrayals of her family and acquaintences suggest that she drew most of her characters directly from them. Even her most famous phrase, "It is a truth universally acknowledged," is uttered in the movie not by Jane, but by one of her suitors. Perhaps this was intended simply as an allusion for the Austen fans in the audience; but I find any hint that she couldn't write it on her own quite insulting indeed--much worse than any other liberty taken with her biography.
Enjoy the period romance, the lovely soundtrack, the literary allusions, as I do. Just remember that it is only a story.
on November 29, 2007
My new all-time favorite movie. Some people may not like it because "it's not 100% true to Jane Austen's life"... Can you say that with 100% certainty though? No. Even if you can, just enjoy the movie for what it is, a beautiful love story! James McAvoy is so convincing as Mr. LeFroy, you can't help but fall in love with him! I already have the Region 2 UK DVD (because I simply couldn't wait forever for the movie to come out on DVD in the US), but it only plays on my laptop, so I intend on buying this DVD when it's released. :) It's worth it!
"Becoming Jane" is an unexpected cinematic treasure, and one which deserves attention not only from Jane Austen fans, but from a wider audience as well. Much to my amazement, this film is remarkably true to Jane Austen's spirit, portraying her as a thoughtful, willful, almost modern, woman. I wasn't expecting a tour de force performance from Anne Hathaway, but she's absolutely perfect as Jane Austen, having successfully immersed herself in this role; perhaps her finest bit of film acting to date. James McAvoy has garnered some well-earned critical acclaim for his fine performances in "The Last King of Scotland" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". His portrayal of the young Irish barrister Tom Lefroy, who befriends Jane, is also right on the mark, that's a very compelling portrayal of someone who could have been Jane's intellectual and romantic soul mate for a brief time in the late 1790s. While Hathaway's and McAvoy's performances are the best reasons to see "Becoming Jane", there's also excellent acting from the rest of the cast, most notably James Cromwell's Reverend Austen, Jane's father. If you're at all curious wondering why Jane Austen's fiction has endured, then "Becoming Jane" might offer some tantalizing cinematic answers.
Just like `Shakespeare in Love' before it and more recently with `Moliere,' `Becoming Jane' speculates on real life persons and events that explain the inspiration of hallmark British author, Jane Austin. More true and less mirthful than the other two movies, this film is handsome and engaging from start to finish.
Able to become that Jane is Anne Hathaway, who certainly is less tart and assertive than Keira Knightly who perennial plays characters from her novels. Very human in import, she borrows those mannerisms she perfected in `Brokeback Mountain' to good effect here. For subtlety is needed for the brilliant wordsmith who needed her novels as a vicarious method to live out the romantic elements she only partly afforded in her own life. As we read volumes written on her face, we see her absorb her source material as her own love interest seems to slip from her fingers.
Her most potential suitor is an Irish pugilist, Tom Lefroy, played with skill by James McAvoy (who in a subjective way may be suffering from overexposure as the leading romantic man, but has shown an acting repertoire that has been impressive since the `Narnia' days, playing an enchanting and vulnerable Mr. Tumnus, and an equally vulnerable, but more nuanced protagonist, Nicholas, in `The Last King of Scotland'). Despite that minor objection, he plays the leading romantic man assertively, even if we've seen that suit so often recently with the likes of `Atonement' and `Starter for Ten'. With supporting performances by James Chromwell, Maggie Smith, and Julie Walters, the tension of her dilemma is properly delivered and the chemistry is measurable indeed.
Here Jane lives precariously. She is in danger of losing her priority, which is love. As was common in her time, her chosen suitor was of little interest to her, but of great practical import for her family. "Affection is desirable, but money is absolutely indispensible," Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters) asserts. It seems that between the limitations of her love interest and the covetousness of her suitor, she historically will take her pen to live out the romantic interests of others. With her pen, she obtained the autonomy that few of her peers attained. Her loss has been our gain.
`Becoming Jane' is an absorbing account that has enough historical evidence (albeit her letters) to back it up. If you love movies with similar subject matter, then this one quickly gets your interest and keeps it going until the last frame.
I'll make this short and sweet: You need to see this film. But not for the reason you think. I won't go into the ethical quandries of fictionalizing a real person's life, and whether it is right to make a film about a real person and have that person do things for which there is only speculation and no hard evidence. I don't know if Jane Austen would like this. But I do know what she would like. His name is James McAvoy. More on him in a moment.
"Becoming Jane" is based on some historical detective work that suggests Jane Austen loved a man named Tom Defroy, and took her creative inspiration from their love. It can't be proven because Jane's sister Cassandra burned all of Jane's more private letters. It is thought among some that Jane must have had romance in her life to be able to so beautifully write about it, but still we can't ever really know.
The film itself is lovingly shot and well written dialogue-wise, with characters talking convincingly for the time period and spouting Austian observations that most of the time manage to be witty. There are proto-types of Austen's most famous characters, a Lady DeBourgh-type and a really irritating Lydia forerunner. Anne Hathaway plays the lady herself, and here is a sticking point: If you don't particularly like Hathaway (I don't), she won't win you over. She isn't embarassing, but she doesn't hit it out of the ball park the way Keira Knightly unexpectantly did in "Pride and Prejudice" a while back. She's okay. Everyone else does their job well. And then there is James McAvoy.
I went to this film for James. He is the most alive actor working in film today; every second he is onscreen he's is doing something, reacting to something, letting us see his thoughts. He's sexy, charming, and heartbreaking. He embodies Tom Lefroy to perfection, even when the screenplay and Hathaway don't help him out much. His scene with Hathaway in the inn is stunning: he makes us feel the panic of a man about to lose his reason for breathing. When he is onscreen the film crackles, when he is off it goes flat and we miss him (this is used to delightful effect in the ball scene) and I will buy the film for him.
The movie has narrative problems (it's almost as if scenes in the middle were cut) and occasional cheesy obviousness (lots of famous Austen lines spoken by her friends and family), but overall it's well done; a flawed movie worth seeing for a great performance. It might have happened, you never know. The theater I was at had two hundred people lined up to see it. The idea that "Pride and Prejudice" was a love letter to a man the author adored is an fascinating one. Maybe that's why the story endures.
on January 23, 2012
I think not. Jane Austin was a brilliant woman that saw though cheap tricks and shallow men, just read her book. She watched the games and thought very little of the people who played them. This movie portrayed her as a silly young woman that was wooed by a man of little character and was a TOTAL GAMER. Mr. Wickham was nothing compared to this young man. Granted history tells of a boyish love and a girlish romance, but the way both characters are portrayed in this film you would think that there was only one thing on Mr Lefroy's mind and that Jane was a complete idiot when it came to men. (Which as I said before is highly unlikely with several brothers and a keen eye for falseness in others.) It was more about how young lovers now behave. I didn't enjoy it. We have enough of that kind of romance. I love Jane's books because they move past silliness and towards mutual respect and affection and then love.
on December 31, 2007
Regardless of what others may lead you to believe, "Becoming Jane" is NOT a biography of Jane Austen. Rather, it is a re-imagining of what Jane Austen's life may have been and how her love life may have shaped her novels. I'd like to think of "Becoming Jane" as 50% fiction and 50% fact. And if you come to accept it as such, then you will find much to enjoy in this film.
I am a Jane Austen fanatic in many ways. I've read and re-read all her books, watched every single adaptation that is available on dvd or video, and even read many so-called 'sequels' based on her novels. Seeing "Becoming Jane" was pretty much a given, if only out of curiosity to see what the fuss was all about.
And yet despite my initial misgivings, I walked out of the movie as if on a cloud. Sure, I didn't have high expectations for the film but I found "Becoming Jane" thoroughly delightful and enjoyable. For one, the glorious score by Adrian Johnston stayed in my head that I just had to go out and buy the soundtrack. Secondly, I became totally immersed in the love story of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, played beautifully by Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. And lastly, (once I got past the fact that this isn't a biography and just enjoyed it for what it is) I found it to be a wonderful period drama filled with fine acting, beautiful cinematography and an engaging story.
The story opens with Jane Austen at home in Hampshire as she attempts to write her first novel. When her brother Henry (Joe Anderson) comes home to visit, he is followed by his friend Tom Lefroy - a young lawyer who is forced by his rich uncle to visit his country relatives as punishment for his troublesome pursuits in London. It is dislike-at-first-sight for Jane and Tom, but as they get thrown together and learn more about each other, their dislike turns to friendship and then love. Conflicts arise, however, as Tom cannot afford to marry without his uncle's consent and Jane is being pressured to marry wealthy Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox). And so Jane and Tom must make the decision whether to marry for money or to marry for love.
Anne Hathaway would not have been my first choice to play Jane. In fact, I had British actresses like Sophia Myles and Romola Garai in mind to play my favorite author. My qualms aside, I found Anne to be a creditable Jane Austen and even handled the language and accent (surprisingly) well. James McAvoy was a perfect Tom Lefroy. He infused the character with just the right blend of youthful mischief, sensitivity and charisma that makes him likeable and sympathetic. James and Anne have a chemistry that works and is totally believable. Also excellent are the supporting cast led by Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Anna Maxwell Martin (North & South), Lucy Cohu and Laurence Fox (son of actor James Fox).
The production values are also excellent. Locations, cinematography, costumes and the screenplay are all topnotch. I am pleased that the screenwriters remain faithful to the language of the time and did not feel the need to "dumb it down" to appeal to modern audiences. What we get is clever and witty interplay between the characters, and some memorable lines that would make the real Jane proud. Most importantly, watching this was like watching another one of Jane Austen's brilliant novels come to life, and what could be more fulfilling to an Austen fan than that.
In my mind, "Becoming Jane" is a perfect companion to my other Jane Austen adaptations on dvd. It is apt perhaps that this will be released towards the end of PBS Masterpiece Theater's "Complete Jane Austen" season (and just before Valentine Day - as romantic as it is), so that Jane Austen fans can purchase this dvd along with those of the new versions of "Northanger Abbey," "Persuasion," "Mansfield Park" and "Sense and Sensibility." I'm looking forward to owning this on dvd. It will make a wonderful addition to the dvd library of Regency, romance or British period drama fans and I highly recommend it.
on May 27, 2008
I really disliked this movie! It didn't ring true at all. I'm surprised by the favorable reviews! Jane Austen running off with somebody? Tom is a jerk, milk sop and loser! The nice guy gets spurned, and she likes the 'bad-boy'??? This would be like Elizabeth running off with Wickham... Come on--this was a modern-day movie using Jane Austen's time period. I will never watch it again--once was more than enough!