Friday, August 03, 2007

Becoming Jane Who?

The first review that I've seen of Becoming Jane reflects some of the same concerns and thoughts that were expressed in comments to my original post about the movie. According to Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, the movie is "not as good as the books." But when has that ever been the case?

Taking its storyline almost whole cloth from "Pride and Prejudice," it sees Jane (Anne Hathaway, with a more than passable Brit accent), bursting with an energy frowned upon by her dour mum (Julie Walters) and much admired by her reverend father (James Cromwell). She's resisting her mother's efforts to marry her off to the dullard Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), nephew of wealthy and crabby Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith).
A larger issue for those of us who would like to empathize is that none of this has any of the emotional intrigue or depth of character found in the mostly excellent Austen screen adaptations, be it the 1995 miniseries or the 2005 film of "Pride and Prejudice," Emma Thompson's and Ang Lee's terrific 1995 version of "Sense & Sensibility" or Roger Michell's wonderful if overlooked "Persuasion" from the same year. Even the musty old 1940 "Pride and Prejudice" starring a too-old Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson has more snap, bite and style than "Becoming Jane."

Director Julian Jerrold ("Kinky Boots") has a potentially enchanting, very alive Austen in Hathaway, but gives her little to work with. He does even worse by his fine supporting cast, who whisk in and out of the film with little to do.

"Becoming Jane" is also visually drab, lit so dimly that it is a relief when we are finally released into Jane's beloved countryside.

Here, Ireland stands in for Hampshire, but this is the least bothersome of the film inauthenticities.
Let's face it. A movie about the life of Jane Austen was never destined to be a blockbuster of a movie in the first place. A movie like this one, one that appeals to a relatively limited audience in a society dominated by trash movies, is highly dependent on word-of-mouth if it is to do well in the market place. But I have yet to read or hear anything very positive about Becoming Jane, so things are not starting off very well for it. I'm starting to think that I'll wait for the DVD on this one.
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