Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Becoming Jane: a review

Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen

I have finally gotten round to watching Becoming Jane! (Thanks, Bec!) Surely I must be one of the last Janeites on earth to have seen this!

As I'm sure most of you will know, Becoming Jane is loosely (emphasis on the word loosely) based upon the life of Jane Austen, more particularly her supposed romance with Tom Lefroy. I had of course heard a lot about this movie, and how it had enraged so many Janeites. . . It was for this reason that I have been a little hesitant to watch it, afraid that I would dislike it, and its depiction of Jane. But, today, feeling in a relatively open-minded, non-judgmental mood (in fact, feeling just plain sick and miserable with a cold, and in want of some pleasant diversion), I finally got out my headphones and my sister's laptop and sat down to watch. [I wrote most of this review a couple of weeks ago, and am now quite recovered from my cold. :-) ~Elise]

I loved it! Well, I didn't love it, but I liked it very much indeed.

Julie Walters as Mrs. Austen

I know a bit about Jane Austen's life - I've seen a couple of documentaries, and read a little bit here and there - but I haven't read any full-length biographies or done any serious research (yet). I think this was probably a good thing in this instance - while I knew that this was not necessarily a very accurate depiction of Jane's early life, I was able to (mostly) just enjoy the movie for what it was, without nitpicking over inaccurate or unconfirmed details. I knew just enough, however, to relish seeing Jane and her family brought to life on the screen - particularly Jane's parents, her brother Henry, and sister Cassandra. . . Though they didn't show as much of Cassandra here as I thought they might - perhaps there'll be more emphasis put on Jane's and Cassandra's relationship in Miss Austen Regrets (next on my to-watch list). And last but not least, a brief cameo from Mrs. Radcliffe (Helen McCrory) herself!

James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy

Acting-wise, all the costume drama veterans present were excellent, as usual. Anne Hathaway was also surprisingly good. James McAvoy was VERY good, and there was great chemistry between him and Ms Hathaway.

The cinematography was gorgeous. . . I was pleasantly surprised, the film was much more artistically done (and less Hollywood-ised) than I had expected. I liked the costumes, too - more subdued than those in Pride & Prejudice 2005, and yet just original and unconventional enough to be interesting - besides being very pretty. (I daresay they aren't historically accurate or consistent, but I'm no historical clothing expert, so that didn't bother me too much!) Becoming Jane is now possibly in my top five Regency films for costumes - and that's saying a lot, considering how many I've seen!

The score - often a deal-breaker with me, I love a good movie soundtrack - was lovely. Not too flowery, just subtly complementing the film. Composer Adrian Johnston is also the man behind the deliciously dark score of my fave Dickens adaptation - Our Mutual Friend!

Cassandra Austen (left) - brilliantly played by Anna Maxwell Martin

Interestingly enough, Becoming Jane smacks more of Bronte-ism than Jane-ism. The script is not as witty as one might expect of a movie about that wittiest and most ironic of all authors, Jane Austen. Most of the wit here comes directly from Jane Austen's novels, with various familiar lines interspersed throughout the film - some feeling rather out place. In some respects, I think the semi-biographical Mansfield Park 1999 does a better job of capturing Jane and her sense of humour - though that film was certainly not without its flaws, either.

Becoming Jane is. . . imaginative, impressionistic, sad, poignant, beautiful. Recommended if you feel you can just enjoy it as a bittersweet period romance, rather than a Jane Austen biopic.

Recommended for mature teens and up. It only received a PG rating in Australia and America, but be warned that it is quite a "mature" PG! Christian movie reviews of Becoming Jane:

Charity's Place | Christianity Today | Plugged In

Now, to watch Miss Austen Regrets!

Just a couple of random thoughts to finish - do comment and let me know whether you agree with me or not!

Laurence Fox as Mr. Wisley

-Poor Mr. Wisley! Was he really all that bad? I thought he might have been alright beneath the cold, "boring" exterior.

-As I watched Becoming Jane, I thought there was something different in the atmosphere of the film - I mean different to the oodles of Austen adaptations shot in beautiful English pastoral settings - but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. After I finished, I found out that Becoming Jane was shot in Ireland! Maybe that's what it was! It's hard to explain, and it's possibly just my imagination, but there was just something subtly different about the countryside, that lent the film a more "fairytale-ish", less prosaic air. And yes, I know that much of Northanger Abbey 2007 was shot in Northern Ireland, but NA tended to have more of an "urban" setting, so the effect was less pronounced.

-"Old" Jane's hairstyle at the very end. . . (!!!) Seemed more 1930s than 1810s to me!

All pictures from


Kristen said...

I've always avoided this movie too becuase of all the things I've heard about it not being 'true.' It looks as if I'll have to give a try! Thanks for the great review and pictures.

Emily said...

Interesting! I watched this a while ago and am still sitting on the fence as to whether I like it or not. I think it's one of those that you are either going to really like it or really dislike it.

Lou said...

Hi Elise

Glad to hear that you enjoyed it!
I might have to re-watch it.

Btw Mum says you are most welcome :)


Ruth said...

Oh I adore this movie! It has never bothered me that it is a fictionalized account of Jane's life - I think it is such a wonderful, marvelous, heart-wrenching love story. So happy you enjoyed it!

Rebekah said...

I haven't seen the movie either. I've been rather "scared" of it, since I heard some things about the content and I'm really not a fan of Anne Hathaway's English acting. I might have to look into it again after your review. Hmm...

To the KING be all the glory!

Marian said...

I thought the movie was disappointing, but I didn't hate it--in fact, I liked it better than Miss Austen Regrets. I can't judge its accuracy, having never read any Austen biographies or letters, but I prefer the portrayal of Jane Austen in this movie. She seems sweeter, more wistful, and more elegant than the Jane Austen in Miss Austen Regrets.

Agreed about the costumes, cinematography, and soundtrack! :)

Frankly, I thought Mr Wisley was far more Darcy-ish than Tom! Tom reminded me more of a Mr Wickham or Wiloughby. :P

The Editrix said...

Frankly, I thought Mr Wisley was far more Darcy-ish than Tom! Tom reminded me more of a Mr Wickham or Wiloughby. :P

Exactly, Marian!

Jessica - thanks! :-)

Milena March said...

I must admit I watched this film a long time ago, just after it was released on DVD. I'd just finished a big school project on the life of Jane Austen, which is perhaps the reason I remember the film as being supremely disappointing.

I agree with you completely, though, in saying that the best thing to do with this film is just enjoy it as a period drama, rather than an account of Jane Austen's life. As far as I'm concerned, the film has very little to do with the woman herself. The acting is fairly good, from memory, as are the costumes and set. My biggest problem was in the oversimplifying of Jane Austen's character. I think the film, in a huge way, wants to give Jane Austen a romantic history to somehow validate her right to write about falling in love, rather than looking at the more immediate and material situations which forced and/or prompted her to write.

I just have one other grievance; whose bright idea was it to cast an American actress (irrespective of talent - there are some incredible British actresses who are constantly overlooked) as one of England's most famous authors? That part irked me throughout the film.

Ah, Ok. I'll stop ranting now. Sorry to have taken up so much comment space. :D

Alexandra said...

This is one that I've debated watching over and over. Looks like I might have to give it a try despite the inaccuracies - I've been on a biopic roll here with first The Young Victoria, then Miss Potter, then Amazing Grace...:-) Great review!!!

Elizabeth said...

I am one of the few people who have not see this movie either. :) I am really glad to read your review of it. Thanks!! I hope to watch it soon!


guitargirl said...

Nice pictures!

It's been a while since I've been on your blog. I love your new background, and I love that you've got "The Ice Dance" on your playlist! :D

ACM said...


I had just read Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane not too long before I saw "Becoming Jane," and I didn't find it terribly off-base, historically.

The biggest problem we have is that Cassandra burned most of Jane's letters from that period upon Jane's death. This includes all correspondence from the Tom LeFoy period. LeFoy is supposed to have told a young relative when in old age that he had been in love with Jane at that time, but that it was a young love. He did, in fact, name his daughter "Jane." And he did go on to become Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

The loves of Austen's life are a great mystery. And "Miss Austen Regrets" will pick up on this a little bit later in Jane's life. (You're going to love it!)

The biggest historical problem for me was that they left out four of Jane's six brothers, all of whom were important in her life, although she was definitely closest with Henry.

It's difficult to keep track of Regency waistlines. Apparently they moved up gradually, rather than jumping from a circa 1775/Marie Antoinette waist to a proper empire waist.

I wasn't sure what to think when I heard Anne Hathaway was playing Jane. I had only seen in her in "The Princess Diaries." But I thought she was excellent. And she's something of a Janeite herself. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on Austen, and according to the DVD special features, became adept at imitating Jane's handwriting for the film.

My appreciation for McAvoy's acting abilities is ever-increasing. And together, they portray young love very well, which is I believe, probably what this was for Jane. Not the deep, considered love of an Anne Elliot and a Frederick Wentworth, for instance.

Anyway, enjoy "Miss Austen Regrets." It has become one of my favorite films of all time. It's based on Jane's surviving letters, so much of her original wit and insight makes it to the screen!


Miss Jen said...

Thanks for the review!

Love you!

~ Jen