Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Becoming Jane (2007)

Becoming Jane (2007)
Directed by Julian Jarrold
Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Dame Maggie Smith
Grade: C+

It seems that the British film industry simply will not leave the genre of the period drama alone. Not content with adapting a handful of Jane Austen's novels (Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Pride and Prejudice) to both television and the big screen, Becoming Jane chronicles the romantic flounderings of Austen herself, and chiefly her relationship with trainee lawyer Tom LeFroy.
'The Devil Wears Prada' star Anne Hathaway is installed as the popular literary romanticist, and is one of few Americans in a cast dominated by Britain's tried and trusted thespians, among them Dame Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, and ascending star James McAvoy, who plays Austen's love interest.

I think it would be considerably more favourable to take the film with a pinch of salt -- as an entertaining distraction rather than a social portrait. Many of the plot devices used are very familiar to those within Austen's own novels, questions of love versus finance, the importance of honour and reputation, the meandering status of the couple(s) in question. Additionally Austen's strong, feminist traits; Her writing, which marks her as less dependent than many of the film's other female characters, her reluctance to marry for money, and her charismatic sharp wit that almost instantaneously draws you in, suggests that her literary heroines are partly autobiographical. But as much as the film follows Jane's personal struggles, the basis of the film is in the shaping of her literature rather than her life. There's very little here that we haven't seen before, so if you're looking for an eye-opening insight into the life of Jane Austen, you certainly won't find it in Becoming Jane.

As a melee of Austen's fictional charm and wit, Becoming Jane may be mildly successful, but the work in question doesn't vary enough for us to see much degree of thought or integration in the narrative, and effectively, there's little more to it than replacing Austen with Lizzie Bennet, or Emma Woodhouse, or Elinor Dashwood. But w
hile Jane doesn't vehemently challenge, or offer up anything new, it's very watchable. It's just never great, and never really sure of itself.

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