34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Delightful, charming and romantic..........
, December 31, 2007
This review is from: Becoming Jane (DVD)
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.
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