Thursday, August 9, 2007

Becoming Jane

“My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire.”

Jane (Anne Hathaway) is a beautiful country girl who enjoys sharing her works with her neighbors. Into her life arrives young Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) an Irish scoundrel from the city sent out into the wilderness by his uncle (Ian Richardson) for his inappropriate behavior. Tom scoffs Anne’s writings and her surroundings, infuriating the young woman.

Fans of Hollywood romances can guess what happens next. A friendship between the pair begins as Tom introduces Jane to new ideas and Jane shows Tom that the city doesn’t hold all of the world’s wonders.

Although the story is rather straight-forward it is well-handled and enjoyable. Hathaway proves more than up to the task in making the role her own and carrying the film, though I do wonder at why an English actor (like say Kiera Knightly) wasn’t chosen for the role. McAvoy provides some good humor to the role and there is nice, if constrained, chemistry between the pair. Add to all this a supporting cast which includes Maggie Smith, James Cromwell, and Julie Waters and you’ve got a good film.

The story for the film is based on the book Becoming Jane Austen by John Spence which takes historical record and speculates on the early romance of Austen and Lefroy (it is not the first to do so). Some have found fault with what they call the film’s artistic liberties, but as a film it works quite well.

One final note. As I have written before I am not a fan of movie epilogues, especially those which jump forward in time to glimpse the results of a character’s decisions. Becoming Jane ends with just such a scene that seems a bit out of place, and although it ties up some loose ends it also dulls some of the movie magic it had built up over the course of the film. Others might disagree, but I feel far too many films rely on them and should do away with these endings.

Like Miss Potter earlier this year (read that review), Becoming Jane gives us a glimpse into the life of a young author before she had found her voice. I slightly preferred Miss Potter to this film, and if it doesn’t come close to the level of Shakespeare in Love (read that review), the film does a good job in presenting one view of the author’s past. Even though the film didn’t wow me, and I’d have rather watched Pride & Prejudice (read that review) than this bipoic, it does provides some straightforward storytelling and good performances that should please most audiences.

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