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RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
• Behind the scenes featurette
• Into the world of Jane Austen featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Sneak Peeks
It’s the I Spit on your Grave of Jane Austen films.
In the Elizabethan version of the Archie comics, principal Weatherbee
didn’t take any shit from Catholics.
Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith
In Becoming Jane, director Julian Jarrold explores Jane Austen’s emotional journey into womanhood as she faces a fierce (yet somehow familiar!) internal battle between love and family duty. Living with her family in the English countryside, aspiring novelist Austen (Hathaway) meets roguish, dashing Thomas Lefroy (McAvoy), a young relative of a neighbor, who both entrances and infuriates her. After a rocky courtship, the pair falls in love; however, multiple forces test their relationship, as Lefroy’s duty as a young barrister and Austen’s duty to her family threaten to drive them apart.
James Cromwell co-stars as Jane’s father, and Maggie Smith supports as the nefarious Lady Gresham, who draws plans to betroth her drab nephew to the charming Austen.
A screenshot of the ineffective yet dramatic ‘McAvoid’ Spectacular Miss move from
Becoming Jane’s PS3 exclusive tie-in, Deft Jane: Icon. Take that, 360 owners!
(‘Chud Cheaterz’ insider tip: tap <– <– circle when your opponent
is dazed to perform Jane’s finishing move, the devastating 1000 FISTS OF IRON-Y!)
Director Julian Jerrold isn’t a stranger to the great works of English literature. His resume reads almost like a summer reading list, with Canterbury Tales, Great Expectations, and Brideshead, Revisited making appearances. In Becoming Jane, he approaches the realm English literature with a pseudo-biopic lens rather than an adaptive one, and the result is a mixed bag of beautiful imagery, decent performances, pacing problems, and historical wishful thinking.
SCENE: A BARN, 1805
Jebediah Cochrane: “Who left my carriage wheels out in the rain?
Now they’re too warped to use properly.”
Annabelle Cochrane: “I don’t know, papa! How will you get into town today?”
Jebediah Cochrane: “I suppose I’ll have to figure out a way to drive
a carriage with warped wheels; in essence, I’ll have to somehow develop ‘Warp Drive.'”
Annabelle Cochrane: “Woah, NERD ALERT!”
Visually, there’s plenty to like about Becoming Jane. Cinematographer Eigil Bryld successfully highlights the lush emerald greens of the Irish countryside, which contrasts nicely with the subdued blacks, grays, and browns of the costumes. Jane displays a great attention to detail, from elaborately designed clothing to baroque ballroom interiors, and it all pays off nicely.
The performances are also mostly great, although there are a few problems. Maggie Smith is a clear highlight as the stern, possibly cruel Lady Gresham, and although she’s not given nearly enough screen time, she gives her character enough gravity to create the necessary ripples throughout the rest of the film. James Cromwell anchors the Austin family nicely, as he’s really the only sympathetic and kind “elder” in the film. Scottish boy wonder James McAvoy does a great job, and continues a streak of respectable performances. While his upcoming role in the questionable-looking bullet twirler Wanted!!! [exclamations added by reviewer] may threaten this streak, his work here helps sustain the film, as he gives a funny, charming warmth to an otherwise humorless exercise.
As a lady, I don’t often get a chance to enjoy games of an outdoor nature, as they excite the humors, but I’ll make an exception this afternoon, since dear cousin has arrived from the city and has left one team with a player too few. What must I do? Hold this little stick and await the toss? Shall I strike at the ball? Oh, I don’t know if I can hit it if you throw it too *crack* BOO YAH KAHN! FUCK YEAH! HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW? YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME? I LIKE YOU! OH, I LIKE YOU NOW! YOU WATCH ME!
Which brings me to the first of one of Jane‘s several flaws, which is, unfortunately for Jane, Jane. Anne Hathaway doesn’t seem like the best fit for this film, as she seems to randomly shift in and out of accent, and rarely gives us a glimpse of the wit and cleverness that Jane Austen is generally known for. I’m not sure why they selected an American actor to portray one of the great English writers, but it hurts the film. Perhaps Kiera Knightley had already reached her “MINIMUM OF 10 ENGLISH PERIOD FILMS PER YEAR” contract-with-Satan quota.
Jane also spends a lot of time dragging. It’s a thoughtful film, that’s for sure, but it’s a very bloated 120 minutes. After an hour an a half of lazy long shots of Austen walking along the beach or standing by a reflecting pool, Bryld’s well-framed images lose their potency. After Lefroy returns to work in the city and Austen contemplates married life, the film hits a cinematic doldrum. Jane‘s fairly dramatic last act compensates for this a little, but if you’re looking for high energy drama, look elsewhere. I should qualify that: if you’re looking for high energy drama in a film called Becoming Jane, you should just piss off.
James’ decision to attend the period costume party as a “freshly-out-of-the-
shower longshoreman” was greeted warmly by some.
Lastly, Becoming Jane‘s history is less than accurate. It depicts Austen as, late in life, a successful and renowned author, although her novels weren’t published using her name until well after her death. It also takes spoiler-ish liberties with the ultimate resolution to Austen and Lefroy’s relationship. This twist is sure to make Austen scholars groan, although the film’s version of events might make for better entertainment.
Becoming Jane does many things right, but it doesn’t do any of them well enough to offset its flaws. It’s worth a viewing if you’re a casual fan of Jane Austen, or just enjoy really, really, really long walks on the beach.
It’s a surprisingly well populated release, with commentary, deleted scenes, and a behind the scenes featurette.
The audio is a hearty Dolby 3/2.1, and the video transfer highlights the film’s buoyant colors. The box art isn’t very interesting, although it captures the essence of Becoming Jane by featuring a long walk on the beach.