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Lacking History, Becoming Jane Still Charms

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2007 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Lacking History, <i>Becoming Jane</i> Still Charms

DVD Release Date:  February 12, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  August 10, 2007
Rating: PG (brief nudity, mild language)
Genre: Drama/Romance
Run Time: 120 min.
Director: Julian Jarrold
Actors: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith, Jessica Ashworth

Unlike Miss Potter, the whimsical biopic that centered around the little-known love life that inspired Beatrix Potter’s work, Becoming Jane doesn’t have much in the way of actual history to back up its premise.

In fact, the Jane Austen faithful haven’t exactly kept their disdain about the script’s accuracy (or lack thereof) a secret. If you’re curious, just check out a few online message boards for some rather entertaining musings on the subject. These ladies—and a few guys, too—are nothing short of passionate.

And while these fans’ enthusiasm is certainly noteworthy, those hoping for an entertaining romantic escape, rather than a historically accurate account of Miss Austen’s love life, will still find plenty to rave about in Becoming Jane.

Although the casting of last summer’s The Devil Wears Prada lead Anne Hathaway was questioned, she surprisingly holds her own here, even if she’s a bit too pretty for the role of a no-frills girl who’d rather write than be too concerned about her appearance.

Aside from that minor detail, however, Hathaway nails the accent much like you’d expect from a more seasoned actress like Kate Winslet or Reneé Zellweger. As impressive as she is with dialogue, though, the real clincher is Hathaway’s playful, enchanting chemistry with James McAvoy, who plays the supposed object of her affection, Tom. From the moment these two lay eyes on each other, you’re immediately intrigued by the pair. Ultimately, it’s their witty banter and the eventual heartbreak that comes later on in the story that makes the movie a true delight from start to finish.

But even with a stellar cast that also includes Maggie Smith and James Cromwell, the film is still not without its flaws. First off, there’s the crucial matter of pacing. Instead of hooking you from the outset, it starts off at a simmer and takes a good, long while to really heat up. And unlike the recent 2005 adaptation of Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice or even 1996’s Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow, there’s a certain sparkle that’s missing from the final product. While you can’t exactly pinpoint what it is, you get the feeling the script’s potential wasn’t fully reached.

Despite a few shortcomings, though, one can’t help but root for a gutsy heroine like Miss Austen—a young woman who isn’t afraid to live her life by her own set of rules. And thanks to the work of this original chick-flick author, stories filled with romantic dreams and unrequited love will always have a captive audience.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Tom enjoys having beer with his buddies. Wine is also consumed in a few scenes.
  • Language/Profanity: A couple of minor profanities.
  • Sex/Nudity: When Tom and Jane are flirting, there are a few sexual innuendos and double entendres that an older audience certainly will pick up on. When Tom a friend run to the river to skinny-dip, their bare bottoms are briefly shown.
  • Violence: Tom is into boxing, so naturally, fighting is a result of that. But things don’t get overly violent.