Friday, July 5, 2013

Becoming Jane (2007) [PG-13] ***

It is the late 1790s in rural Hampshire, and a young Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is developing her talent for writing. Jane dreams of doing the nearly impossible - marrying for love and earning her living as a writer. Her parents (played by James Cromwell and Julie Walters) understand that while romantic love is desirable, money is absolutely essential, and they encourage Jane to marry wealthy young Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox). But Jane is not interested. Wisley is a dull, uncultured booby, and the nephew of rich, arrogant local aristocrat Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith).

And then Jane meets the roguish, non-aristocratic Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). Although Tom is from Limerick, Ireland, he lives in the London household of his wealthy uncle Judge Langlois (Ian Richardson) while he studies to be a lawyer. Tom's intellect and arrogance, as well as his penchant for bare-knuckle boxing, both irritate and fascinate Jane. The two soon find themselves romantically attracted to one another. But without Tom's uncle's blessing and financial support, if Tom and Jane marry they risk losing everything of importance in life – their family, friends and future fortune.

In order for Becoming Jane to work, we must be convinced that Jane Austen had a great unrequited love in her life – the reason she never married. While Anne Hathaway is convincing as Jane Austen, her chemistry with James McAvoy is not, and we find ourselves comparing the film and its leads with the 2005 major studio release of Pride & Prejudice, and its leads - Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. Inevitably this film suffers by comparison. Admirers of Jane Austen's novels, and films based on her novels, as well as fans of Hathaway and McAvoy, will enjoy Becoming Jane. Others may want to pass. 

Labels: biography, drama, romance 
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 55/100     
Tomatometer (critics=57, viewers=74)     

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