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.


  1. I always take a movie separately from any book it might be based on, because movies and books are such different animals. I've often heard it said that really, short stories and movies are far more comparable media than books and movies, and I believe that's true.

    However, that movie still has to be good when taken on its own, and it sounds like this one really doesn't make the grade.

  2. I'll watch any movie with Julie Walters in it. And dresses like that one in the picture. Even with the Uggs it looks gorgeous.

  3. And I'll watch any movie with James McAvoy in it! :) I really don't know much about the film itself, though, so I can't say anything more.

  4. I wouldn't ever expect any movie to be as good as her novels. I think just the subject matter is doomed to be criticized as Jane Austen is so well loved by people. I will Netflix it when it comes out on DVD, but that's only because I never get to movies much anymore. I think it will be worth a watch. In any case, I think I would rather make up my own mind.

  5. I never thought of it that way before, Heather, but I suppose that it would be much easier for a movie to do justice to a short story than to a novel. Makes sense.

    USA Today actually gave the movie a pretty good review today, so maybe the word of mouth will change a little.

  6. Did you watch the clips, Sylvia? It looks pretty well done to me. I may try to sneak into an afternoon showing to see it. Either that or DVD because my wife has no interest in this one.

  7. Ashlee, sounds like you have a reason for showing up to support this one. :-)

  8. People do seem to be very protective of Jane Austen, don't they, Danielle? She has some really hardcore fans out there and they are watching out for her best interest, without a doubt.

    I suppose this one will be on DVD around Christmas time?

  9. I saw the one clip you linked to, and some commercials. Her accent seems to slip in some places, though it's probably good enough for US audiences. (No offense--we just hear the real thing all the time in Canada due to our close connection with the UK. Where I live we actually have a neighbourhood that is described as being "behind the tweed curtain.")

    In the clip I noticed the cricket--in "Northanger Abbey" Austen mentions that Catherine likes cricket. Sounds like the movie is based on the notion that she based her books on her life. I'm not sure that's true, though I'm no expert.

    If you want to know the opinion of the hardest of hardcore Janeites, go to the Republic of Pemberley. :)

  10. Good point about her accent, Sylvia. I thought the same thing...that it didn't seem to be totally consistent from clip to clip.

    Thanks for the link...can't wait to see what they have to say about the movie.