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  Becoming Jane

Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith

Directed by: Julian Jarrold

Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae
Written by: Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams

Distributor: Miramax Films

 

     Becoming Jane is a biography of the life of author Jane Austen, fictionalized in the way that Austen herself mightíve told it. Many devout fans of the writer have expressed their discontent in the pictureís supposed historical inaccuracies and, for all I know, they may be justified in doing so. However, despite my limited exposure to Austenís body of work, I still very much realize that Becoming Jane is of its subjectís spirit. Austen wrote many stories of this filmís nature, and it does a solid job of staying true to her personality.

     Unfortunately, Becoming Janeís aforementioned adherence to the conventions of the Austenís work becomes both a blessing and a curse for the picture. While the film invigoratingly captures the authorís air, it also becomes externally quite derivative. On the surface, Becoming Jane plays nearly identically to countless Austen film-adaptations, primarily the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. As Jane (Anne Hathaway) finds trouble in the social expectations surrounding her forbidden relationship with a social lesser, Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), the whole affair seems all too familiar. In many respects, Becoming Jane is a flat-out thematic copy of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, rendering its narrative oftentimes tiresome.

     With this in mind, I find myself in a bit of a critical dilemma. Despite the fact that Becoming Janeís external plot is somewhat unoriginal, I admire many of the filmís subtler qualities too much to not recommend it. In the leading roles, Hathaway and McAvoy brilliantly internalize their characters. It almost seems irrational of me to complain about the storyís shortcomings because, frankly, Becoming Jane isnít about story. Itís about watching Jane and Tom live two entirely different lives and, somewhere in the midst of this, discover a true but impossible love for each other. When it comes to representing this, Becoming Jane is honest and unrelenting. Hathaway and McAvoy are perfect in the roles; both performers are especially effective in their nuanced face-work.

     Another thing I deeply admire about Becoming Jane is that it never becomes overly showy. Too many period pictures of this sort derive their entire moods from heavy-handed dialogue and meaninglessly detailed art direction. Despite implementing a few technical flourishes (there are a few needless jump-cutting sequences, in particular), director Julian Jarrold and editor Emma E. Hickox tone the material down in a way that best showcases the pictureís greatest asset: the lead performances. Eigyl Brlydís cinematography, also, is ethereal and beautifully clear, further setting the stage for Hathaway and McAvoy to lucidly take internal command over the audience.

     Predictable as it may be on the exterior, Becoming Jane works on the whole. Hathaway and McAvoy alone had me captivated for the vast majority of the duration and, thanks to their great performances, the picture was able to affect me. Whatever its flaws, Becoming Jane is a film that I think Austen herself would have approved of.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 8.7.2007

Screened on: 8.6.2007 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.

 

Becoming Jane is rated PG-13 and runs 112 minutes.


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