I will admit, I am one of the first to jump at a new Jane Austen flick. Whether it is the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice or the big screen hit Sense and Sensibility, there is arguably no better love storywriter than Jane. She, to me, originated the classic love story themes of rich versus poor, integrity versus wealth and power.
So it was no surprise that I immediately scheduled a Mom's Night Out with my friends when I first heard about the new movie Becoming Jane, a fictional back-story of the author Jane Austen and her ill-fated romance with the arrogant Tom Lefroy. The relationship between the characters, played by Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy, is meant to be the inspiration behind the classical banter between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. McAvoy does remind the viewer of a real life Mr. Darcy, with his tousled hair and a flicker of danger behind his large, blue eyes. And Anne’s classical beauty is the perfect canvas for Jane’s clever wit and fiery emotions.
The movie provides the avid Jane Austen follower with just the right amount of mist and English fog in order to whimsically carry us off to another time. We first seen Jane struggling to become a respected writer, and even though it was uncommon for a woman of her time, Jane is revered as a budding talent. However, her brother's friend, Tom Lefroy, is less than convinced that she is deserving of such early acclaim. In this classic struggle between tradition and female ambition, Becoming Jane succeeds in merging Jane Austen's fantasies and her own (fictional) romances seamlessly.
The unfortunate fact, however, is that Jane Austen could write far better than most of today’s screenwriters, and the storyline and dialogue of Becoming Jane falls short of expectations. Hathaway's Jane becomes mean rather than witty, one of the most amicable character traits of her heroines. In the end, the initially clever plot, decent acting, and gorgeous landscapes are not enough to save this movie from dullness.
Overall, Becoming Jane will satisfy any romantic’s longing for a period flick, but you may find yourself running home to rent 2005’s Pride and Prejudice to see a more enlivened version of Jane Austen’s literary masterpieces.
Image: Becoming Jane