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I thought it was a great story and very well cast. I didn't enter the theatre with expectations of learning the truth about Jane Austen's world, who was in it and what made her tick. I understood the movie was loosely based on the life of Jane Austen. The writers have simply devised a beautiful and clever story from only a small shred of evidence that there was a true love in her life. From what I gather the movie was really meant to be an fictional intervention in her life devised from what was known of her. I thought Becoming Jane was funny, beautifully shot and it made me giddy with lust over McEvoy. I loved the sexual energy and meeting of the minds between the love interests. I saw quite a few parallels between this story and Jane's novels. I really believe that Jane would absolutely adore this version, if not find it amusing how it was crafted. I do agree that to create a story about a much loved female author is risky territory, as there are devoted fans of Austen's who are looking for a representation that they personally feel fits their idea of what motivated her as a writer.
Hollywood can't seem to get enough of dead female English writers. Hot
on the heels of Miss Potter, and in advance of films about the Brontes,
we have this romantic confection about Jane Austen's youthful fling
with Irish barrister Tom Lefroy.
There have already been howls of criticism from outraged Janeites that the film is historically inaccurate. It's true that English teachers will have a fit at some elements of the story: at best speculative and unsubstantiated, at worst downright erroneous. The filmmakers admittedly didn't have a lot of historical material to work from. The true background to the story is contained in a couple of letters written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, and an admission by Tom Lefroy in old age that he had once been in 'boyish love' with the writer. On this slightly shaky platform, the filmmakers have built a story of repressed passion and defiance of social mores that is a work of fiction worthy of a novel in its own right.
This doesn't really matter. Nobody in their right mind would ever accept the version of events presented by a Hollywood biopic as historical gospel. The only viewers who will be taken in by the story seen here will be those who are too lazy, too uninterested or too credulous to do the modicum of research needed to find out the real facts, and who cares what such people think? This film may be largely untrue, but what really matters is whether it works on its own terms, qua film.
Unfortunately, it doesn't, or at least not entirely. The main reason for this is the underlying premise. It is implied that without Jane and Tom's youthful affair Jane Austen would never have written her six great novels, and in particular (perhaps because it's the most familiar to audiences) Pride and Prejudice. We see Jane angrily destroying a juvenile story criticized by Tom, and later, in the throes of love, bashing out the first draft of P & P (in a single night, which shows an impressive turn of speed). It's plain that, as Tom tells her, 'experience is vital'.
The same clunkingly literal idea that an artist must experience emotions in order to write about them successfully - underscored Shakespeare in Love, but there it was handled with a rather lighter touch. Here we are asked to believe that Pride and Prejudice was not a distillation of all Jane Austen's youthful experiences enlivened by a vivid imagination, a sharp sense of humour and a dollop of literary genius, but the next best thing to a true story. The reasons for this approach are obvious: cinema can dramatize Johnny Cash learning the guitar, or Picasso experimenting with paint, but the spectacle of a writer sitting at a desk dreaming and scribbling palls pretty rapidly.
The irony of a film that takes such wild liberties with the facts relying upon this trite old idea would certainly have been apparent to Jane Austen, whose mastery of irony is emphasized rather unsubtly throughout. Moreover, it's intellectually dishonest; lacking the ability to create a Mr Darcy, the filmmakers borrow freely from Jane Austen's characterisation in creating Tom, and thereby cheekily suggest that the author was the one who lacked the imagination to make such a person up.
These reservations aside, does the film have anything going for it? Yes. The script has some witty moments and at least makes a decent stab at realistic 18th century dialogue. Ireland is a surprisingly effective and gorgeous substitute for Hampshire, and the autumnal palette of washed-out greens and greys is appropriately sombre. Anne Hathaway is an attractively skittish and impetuous Jane, and she has excellent chemistry with James McAvoy, whose performance as Tom, by turns mercurial and obsessive, is well up to his usual high standards. Reliable support comes from James Cromwell, Julie Walters, the late great Ian Richardson and Maggie Smith, who essentially reprises her character from Gosford Park. The problem is that the lovers' behaviour never really convinces us that this relationship was the foundation of Jane Austen's later literary success, and ultimately peters out into a series of implausible endings, the number of which gives Hot Fuzz and The Return of the King a run for their money. Becoming Jane isn't an awful film, but it doesn't make the grade as a Regency Brief Encounter.
A film about Jane Austen, one of the greatest writers of English
literature, will garner expectations and hopes, especially with a
cascade of stars newly discovered (James McAvoy, Anne Hathaway) and
well-established (Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, James Cromwell). That it
focuses on her life before she becomes a writer certainly had not
dulled my appetite.
The 22 yr old Austen is played by the very pretty Anne Hathaway, who you'll know from Brokeback Mountain and The Devil Wears Prada. We meet her family when her older sister is happily married. The cash-strapped parents have the pressing problem of finding eligible young Jane a husband. A promising offer is the stuck-up relative of wealthy Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith), who Jane rejects.
Let's meet Tom Lefroy. He's a penniless, charming, intelligent, apprentice lawyer. He also loves boxing, drinking and the fairer sex. These latter hobbies, mind you, do not endear him to his uncle, the imperious Judge Langlois, who promptly sentences him to a summer in Hampshire as punishment. In a rustic backdrop of dancing and match-making, Jane and Tom develop a teasing, flirtatious rapport. Unlike the other men in her life, Tom presents Jane with intellectual company as well as dashing good looks and a flair for the odd chat-up. As they grow more serious about each other, they become equally aware of how doomed their relationship is - something their elders twigged on page one. But Tom has given Jane something she needs - the knowledge of the heart that will impassion her writing.
Firstly be warned. If you are expecting a nice feel-good movie, don't bother. This made me thoroughly miserable. Not just because a poignant lonely destiny is too much to bear, but because it's a wasted opportunity to bring a great life to the screen. Our ultimate theme Austen's writing, yet we see little to convince that this bland and photogenic girl has much between the ears. In Devil Wears Prada, an outstanding script enabled Hathaway to suggest hidden brainpower. In Becoming Jane, the occasionally erudite lines sound leaden and false. Her body language, meant to portray a rebel, seems a bit anachronistic. Although she looks quite resplendent, dashing across the hills in a billowing red dress to watch the lads skinny-dipping, the film is a sad disappointment in the development of Hathaway's otherwise promising career. Kate Winslet or Natalie Portman (who were apparently also considered for the role) might well have fared better: they have a depth and experience that could perhaps have compensated for such a clunky script. Maggie Smith and other strong actors are reduced to ciphers and little more than icing on a badly made cake.
On the other hand, James McAvoy (fresh from The Last King of Scotland) is a revelation. In what seems like a flash of brilliance in the generally myopic casting, he shines in every scene. A talented actor, he also brings his skills in boxing and sport to imbue Lefroy with vibrancy and charisma. It is when he works his seductive charms on Jane that he also brings out the best in his co-star. After her first adult kiss, Jane trembles, wondering if she has done it well. Hathaway does gooey-eyed emotion much better than persuading us she is a genius about to happen. The film gathers pace as we are drawn into an emotional cat and mouse. Jane's 'experience of the heart' that will inspire her, is the one of the best things about the film, second only to the large and constantly moist dollops of budget-saving Irish countryside.
But how does the film reflect on Jane Austen the author? Austen's possible flirtations with Mr Thomas Langlois Lefroy are more speculative than fact. Historian Jon Spence worked as a consultant on the film and has written a book of the same name, which is probably a must-have for Austen fans. He gives attention to the inspiration he feels Lefroy gave to Jane, and this is developed into actual events in the movie.
Austen is one of the most influential and revered novelists of the early nineteenth century and her social commentary is marked with a strong sense of irony. Devotees will no doubt enjoy scenes such as the one where she corrects Tom's uncle on the definition of the word 'irony'. But the transition from girlishness to mastery with words is so contrived that it could almost be two parallel scripts.
There are many that will love Becoming Jane in spite of its imperfections. The rest of us might wish it had been told better.
Seldom does one go to a movie with high expectations and ends up having
them fulfilled, but Becoming Jane is an exception in this case. I was
charmed by Anne Hathaway's turn in Brokeback Mountain and The Devil
Wears Prada and couldn't really understand the outcry resulting in her
being cast as Jane Austen and after having watched the movie I know for
sure Anne Hathaway was the right person for the role.
Hot on the heels of 2005's Pride and Prejudice this movie offers a look into the early years of a spirited Jane Austen and her encounter with a man who could have formed the basis of one of her most famous literary characters Mr Darcy.
I have to say this movie is without a doubt one of the BEST period films I have ever seen. Not only is it visually stunning but the performances from everyone are superb.
Maggie Smith a delightful as the shrewd old Aunt.
Julie Walters excellent as the mother who would give anything to knock some sense into her daughter ( Jane Austen that is ).
Anna Maxwell Martin is also very good as the sister and confidante of Jane Austen.
The director Julian Jarrold has done a wonderful job of making an amazing movie that will appeal to all generations.
And finally the two very charming leads who are the very heart of the movie : Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. In one word both are AWESOME. James although has little screen time then Anne makes you understand the sheer cockiness and arrogance of Tom Lefroy, from his live free attitude in life to his transformation as a man who begins to care for Jane Austen.His chemistry with Anne Hathaway is sizzling and a very important factor in maintaining the movie's momentum.
And at last to the leading lady Anne Hathaway. The lady is a marvel as Jane Austen, her determination and spark is vividly captured by Anne in what can be called a very career defining performance. Not only does one feel the pain for Jane but one does marvel at what holds her together and her writing makes her pull through in life.It is Anne Hathaway's spirited portrayal of the literary icon that forms the essence of the movie.
From her determination to write and her heart break to her feisty attitude to succeed as a writer is uniquely captures by the young actress. One can't really find the exact words to describe the actress's performance as Jane Austen , which is if simply put great.
This movie has the makings to become the period drama of the year. A fine job by the actors and entire crew of the movie for giving us an insight to what could have been very important years in the young authors life.
A delight to watch in every sense 8/10
It is a truth universally acknowledged that reviews of Jane Austen
movies must begin with the phrase 'It is a truth universally
I know very little about Jane Austen's life, although I spotted an error in this movie anyway: her deaf-mute older brother George was NOT raised at home with her (as seen here); he was institutionalised, and the hand-signing which Anne Hathaway briefly uses here is partly anachronistic. I confess that I've very little interest in Miss Austen, nor in her novels. But I'm hugely interested in the Regency period in which she lived. As I watched 'Becoming Jane', I was pleasantly astounded by the incredible period detail throughout the film: the houses (inside and out), the books, the churchyards, the carriages and coaches, the clothing. Even the musical instruments, the music and the dances are authentic! Well done! Of course, all these late 18th-century people have 20th-century orthodontia, and their hair is too clean. And the cricket bats don't look (or sound) as if they were made of willow, as they should have been.
I know that some people will be watching this movie for the costumes, so let me assure you that there are plenty of Empire waists, coal-scuttle bonnets, top boots and Kate Greenaway frocks. Several of the ladies wear delightful gloves.
This movie follows most of the rules for costume-drama chick-flicks. We get the de rigueur scene in which fully-clothed young women surreptitiously watch naked young men. (But not the reverse, of course.) We get the de rigueur scene in which a young woman performs a traditionally male activity and (of course) she beats the men at their own game. At a cricket match, Jane Austen steps into the crease. The bowler gives her an easy one, and (of course) she knocks it for six.
I suspect that most of this movie is fiction, and there is indeed one of those 'based on facts' disclaimers in the end credits. I was annoyed that various characters in this film constantly tell Jane Austen that, as a woman, she cannot hope to be the equal of a man, nor can she expect a happy life without a husband. These may indeed have been the accepted realities of Austen's time, but I had difficulty believing that so many people (especially young men who hope to win her) would make a point of making these comments so explicitly and so often.
Also, everyone in this movie keeps telling Jane that she cannot possibly write about anything which she hasn't experienced. (So she can't write about sexual passion unless ... nudge, nudge.) However, even in Austen's day, this premise was demonstrably untrue. If I want to write a murder mystery, do I need to commit a murder?
The performances in this film are universally excellent. Any movie with Dame Maggie Smith in it, I'm there. Ian Richardson (in his last role) is superb, wringing the full value from some succulent dialogue. James Cromwell has matured into one of the finest character actors I've ever seen, progressing light-years beyond the infantile Norman Lear sitcom roles of his early career.
As Jane Austen, Anne Hathaway has the sense to attempt only a very slight English accent, but she is far too pretty for this role. The real Jane Austen was apparently not pretty, and this was a major reason for why she never married. It beggars belief that the Jane Austen seen here -- the one who looks like Anne Hathaway -- would have so much difficulty attracting suitors. However, I'm a realist: there's simply no way that any production company would spend this much money on a costume romance and then cast an unattractive actress in the lead role.
Evidence indicates that Jane Austen's sister Cassandra was the prettier of the two, and that this discrepancy strongly shaped their relationship. But, again, there's no way that the makers of this film would upstage their own star actress by casting someone more beautiful as her sister. Anna Maxwell Martin, cast here as Cassandra, is a splendid actress and fairly attractive but certainly no beauty in Hathaway's league.
At the end of the film, a title card alludes to Jane Austen's 'short life'. She actually lived to age 41: a longer lifespan than any of the Brontë sisters', and fairly normal for Regency England. In the last scenes of this film, we see Hathaway in some dodgy 'age' make-up which makes her look rather more sixtyish than fortyish. Near the end of her life, the real Jane Austen had an unidentified illness which darkened her skin: again, I have no expectations of a big-budget film doing anything to compromise the beauty of its leading actress.
This film's title 'Becoming Jane' is a subtle pun, since Hathaway's embodiment of Jane Austen is so very 'becoming'. Geddit?
The makers of 'Becoming Jane' have gone to considerable trouble to give their target audience precisely what that audience want, which is only marginally related to the facts. On that score, they have succeeded. And the art direction in this movie is astonishingly thorough, and good. I'll rate 'Becoming Jane' 8 out of 10 as an excellent FICTION film.
I was fortunate to come across an article explaining this film. It is a
speculative fiction based upon a few facts. Speculation was aroused by
the fact that a woman who never married and apparently never had a love
affair came to have such a deep and intelligent understanding of
relationships. I shan't expand on how potentially offensive that is.
But story line is based on a few simple facts. While he was in the
country Jane Austen would have almost certainly met Mr Lefroy; while on
a journey to see her sister she had a rather long stop off in London
during which time she began writing Pride and Prejudice and there was
the mention of some letters.
It started out so well; the stifling quiet of a country life broken by our future genius at work. The structure of this opening sequence was very effective. I was thinking I'm going to love this film. But there was a niggling in the back of my mind. None of the reviews had been great, but I didn't know why (I hadn't actually read any only seen the 2 ½ or 3 stars).
I continued thinking it was wonderful through most of the film. James McAvoy was beautifully intense, Anne Hathaway was solid, Maggie Smith delightfully amusing and Anna Maxwell Martin underused. There were some beautiful scenes, some so intense. For example a scene in a ball when they are both standing back to back apparently to talking other people but having a very deep conversation.
But then, as with far too many movies we moved through the climax to an ending of this story line and that story line oh and we'd better conclude this one as well and now everything is tied up in a neat little bundle.
This is a film that would have benefited from an ambivalent ending, because, aside from the fact that we know she ends up the Western World's highest selling female author the film wasn't actually about that. The film was about the journey toward it. To have left us hanging when, perhaps, she was leaving Lefroy or back in her stiflingly quiet house would have been much more effective in terms of the story and strengthened the film. It simply is not a happy ending but they tried their damned well hardest to make it one.
I'm afraid I must give this a very generous 7 rather than what could have been a deserving 8 had the film makers (or the studio or whoever the twats are that decide on these things) the courage to make this a film, not Hollywood.
I have to say that I enjoyed it. I think there were some problems with it, but overall a nice film. Hathaway's accent is very good apart from a couple of very minor slips that could almost go unnoticed. The film, the person I went with said, was a little too slow in places, but I did not find this so. I think that the director perhaps put a little too much emphasis on Austen's inspirations for her novels and in particular Pride and Prejudice, but I did not mind this too much as that is my favourite novel. The acting all round was very good. MaCavoy played it nicely, giving a lot of energy. I thought that the opening and closing were perhaps a little weak. I don't want to say too much in case others have not seen it yet (though of course most know the ending, they may not know the films interpretation of it). Perhaps the only few weaknesses to the film was the fact that perhaps Hathaway was too pretty to play Austen, though she did a very competent job indeed. I think that Anna Maxwell Martin may perhaps have been more suited?! The other is that I would have liked to have seen slightly more quick wittedness on the part of Jane. She was shown as competent, but not as cutting and quick as I and, I imagine, many believe she was. However, despite this I quite enjoyed the film, and wouldn't mind watching it again. It is better that Pride and Prejudice 2005 adaptation in my opinion. 8/10.
I knew very little about this film before I went to see it - I think
the trailer was the sum total of what I had heard. Now, I know very
little about Jane Austen or her life so am considering Becoming Jane
simply as a film loosely based on/inspired by her life.
The film tells the story of a young woman, Jane, who refuses to marry purely for money and embarks on writing to support herself rather than relying on a husband.
The story is well told, with excellent performances all round (especially Anne Hathaway and the always brilliant James Cromwell). The pace is maybe a little slow at times and Jane herself can be rather annoying and contradictory but that simply shows the flaws of human nature rather than being a criticism of the film per se.
Visually the film was stunning. Brilliant scenery, excellent costumes. All used to great effect to enhance the film without ever becoming overpowering or distracting from the story.
Overall, this was an enjoyable film, if not up there with Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility in my opinion. Well worth a watch (unless you are going to be annoyed by every little inaccuracy) but probably not worth adding to the DVD collection.
I saw this film on March 28th, 2007 in Indianapolis. I am one of the
judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A
Truly Moving Picture "
explores the human journey by artistically
expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland
gave that award to this film.
The "Jane" is Jane Austen and this is a fictional depiction of her young adult life before her novel writing career. I suppose half of the tale is based on fact such as she rejected a marriage proposal, and half the tale is made up to create engaging story-telling. But that's not important.
The essence of the story is the mores of proper English society around 1800. Woman had their place. And that place was to give oneself to an arranged marriage and become a dutiful wife and mother. It was even more important to be in these roles if you were a daughter of a minister of modest means who had lots of children to care for. Jane was one of those children.
But Jane has spunk and smarts and a stubbornness to live her own life as she sees fit. Anne Hathaway plays young Jane convincingly and Anne's good looks are played down as much as possible. It's Jane's inner self that makes her attractive and not her exterior appearance.
And she is so attractive that she has three suitors; the rich and dull one, the poor and roguish one, and a secret and nefarious one. This circumstance allows us to see England from the various social strata, which is fun and informative.
Jane, 200 years ahead of her time, shows beauty and grace and charm and spirit, and will not buckle to her day's lot in life. We should all have such courage " to follow our bliss" knowing we have but one life to live.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
Of all truths to be universally acknowledged, I am, admittedly and with
all possible pride, a nerd of the Jane Austen variety. Lovingly I have
scanned the pages of each novel, appreciating the irony and humor.
Adamantly I have viewed every film adaptation (that I am aware of),
from Lee's Sense and Sensibility to Chadha's Bride and Prejudice, and,
little by little, screenwriter's have slowly hacked away at her genius
sometimes successfully. I have borne scenes of Hugh Grant play sword
fighting, of Keira Knightly stroking Matthew Macfadyen's calf, and of
Colin Firth half nude admirably well (perhaps the latter more well than
others), but occasionally a writer crosses that very fine line between
revering the most beloved authoress and destroying all that which she
I do not pretend to be an Austen purist by any means; I understand that adaptations of her novels can't all be five hours long and follow her dialogue word for word. We, the Austen lovers of the world, must surrender that movies are not books, and cannot, therefore, be identical to them. Emma Thompson, for example, made countless changes in writing her version of Sense and Sensibility, yet the alterations which she made were necessary. To me, it would be just as much a disservice to Jane Austen to follow one of her novels word for word in the screenplay and produce a dull piece of cinema than it would be to add a sex scene to Persuasion. What is important, in my opinion, is that the finished film retain the spirit of the novel, the humor, the vivacity, all that which makes her works as timeless as they are. This noted, I must express my disappointment, perhaps even disgust, in Becoming Jane, or as I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed it, Kidnapping, Raping and Murdering Jane, which is neither accurate nor entertaining.
With Shakespeare in Love and Finding Neverland as models of success, Hollywood has pumped out disappointing flicks like Miss Potter, and now Becoming Jane, expecting viewers to lap it up, but what the first two are that the latter two are not is clever. They intermingle inspiration with biography, presenting the plot of the writer's lives almost as an ode to their work. Becoming Jane occasionally alluded to Pride and Prejudice, the most famous of Austen's six completed novels, but when it did so the allusions were weak and clearly forced. It was as though the screenwriters (Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams) were only familiar with Pride and Prejudice, ignoring her other five masterpieces. What is must frustrating about this is that it would have been so simple to allude to the other works. Have Cassandra (Jane's older sister) encourage Jane to be more sensible with regards to her romance, and voilà! Sense and Sensibility! Throw in a young character that introduces Jane to bachelors in hopes of making a match, and you've got Emma! But no, all that Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams could think to do was make Tom Lefroy, Jane's love interest, seemingly arrogant, but ultimately lovable.
Similarly, the film spends so much time expressing the tragedy of Jane Austen's situation that one forgets that Anne Hathaway is meant to be the clever, witty woman that has hypnotized so many modern readers. I do not mean to scorn the movie's somewhat unhappy ending, so unlike those in Austen novels, but the way in which it ignores her character. Finding Neverland, for example, expresses the sadness of J. M. Barry's life, yet at the same time presents the story in such a way that the viewer feels as though they are watching something as magical as Peter Pan. Though Becoming Jane is certainly inaccurate, even inaccuracies would be tolerable if they were done in the name of preserving the spirit of Jane Austen's works. Instead, we the viewer are presented with a poor composition of infrequent wit and mildly appealing romance, hardly reminiscent of any of Austen's books.
Apart from the abominable screenplay, the direction was mediocre and predictable at best. Julian Jarrold does produce a pretty shot here and there, but seems to have just discovered how to shoot an aerial view, and so puts them in practically every other scene.
In spite of this negativity, I must admit that some of the acting was unexpectedly good. Anne Hathaway as Jane has a fine British accent and acts much better than I would have predicted (this is, after all, the first movie I've ever seen her in that she doesn't start out a homely geek and end up a fashion-forward bombshell). It is James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy, however, that puts in the show stealing performance. Maggie Smith is, as usual, good, as are Julie Walters and James Cromwell, even if those blasphemists Hood and Williams chose to throw in a scene of a, well, questionable, nature between them.
Even with decent acting and direction, it is hard to produce a good movie based on a monstrous screenplay. The effect, all in all, is extremely disappointing. I would not recommend this movie to anyone who truly appreciates Jane Austen or good cinema.
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