Becoming Jane

Becoming Jane

***1/2

Reviewed by: The Exile

Trudging dutifully along the accepted career path for young Hollywood actresses too classy to get knocked up, tortured or paired with Orlando Bloom, Anne Hathaway pops her Austen cherry with Becoming Jane, a wispy romance as ripe as a Regency virgin and twice as fanciful.

Kick-started by Jon Spence’s recent biography, Becoming Jane Austen, the movie takes as many liberties with the author’s life as the rakish Tom Lefroy (The Last King of Scotland’s James McAvoy) takes with Hathaway’s fictional Jane. A cocky Irish lawyer who fights bare-knuckled and smooches whores between bouts, Lefroy is just the diversion our country girl needs. Though Mum (a sly Julie Walters) disagrees - “That girl needs a husband!” she sniffs, hoping for a wealthy one - Jane is smitten; faced with a choice between Lefroy’s rippling pecs and the attentions of dull-but-honorable Mr Wisley (Laurence Fox), our heroine is doomed long before Lefroy slides a copy of Tom Jones into her sweating palms.

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Steeped in bucolic images of rutting pigs and rustling leaves (the movie was shot in Ireland), Becoming Jane needs not a shred of evidence to suggest this ill-fated romance was the catalyst for the writing of Pride And Prejudice. More likely, however, is the studio’s desire to rehash yet again the most successful of Austen’s six novels (immortalised most recently by another toothy, gangly brunette, Keira Knightley), even if it means braving the ire of the 12 Austen fanatics who have actually discovered talking pictures.

Yet despite Hathaway’s horsey jaw and 21st-century demeanor, Becoming Jane is lively, earthy, sweet and well-acted. James Cromwell is perfect as Jane’s horny-cleric father, and Maggie Smith is at her most regal as the terrifying Lady Gresham. And after embarrassing himself with 2005’s Kinky Boots, Julian Jarrold directs with quietly graceful compositions filled with soft light and muted color. As for those Austen fanatics, they’ll soon have another target when The Jane Austen Book Club is released this autumn.

Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2007
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A young Jane Austen learns the rules of the marriage game before her pen displays a pride in its prejudice.
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Chris **1/2

Director: Julian Jarrold

Writer: Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams

Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, James Cromwell, Ian Richardson, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Helen McCrory, Joe Anderson, Laurence Fox, Anna Maxwell Martin, Jessica Ashworth

Year: 2007

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK/USA

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