Becoming Jane (Miramax, PG)

film_jane_smUnderstanding that women are complex, unique individuals, I can appreciate how one woman can embody several different emotional states.







Being a fan of Julian Jarrold's directing in the 2005 comedy Kinky Boots, I was excited to see what his take would be on Jane Austen's life in the flick Becoming Jane. Austen's body of work is among the best that England has to offer and her life was inherently interesting which should have made for a compelling story. Unfortunately, Jarrold's tale never really gets airborne.

While I have been impressed with Anne Hathaway in her previous movies (The Devil Wears Prada, Brokeback Mountain), the role of Jane Austen may have been a bit much for her to tackle. Not only did her emotions fall flat, her English accent was suspect through most of the movie. Additionally, her onscreen romance with James McAvoy, who played Austen's real-life lover Tom Lefroy, was pretty much nonexistent. There was no heat, no excitement, and no chemistry between the two actors.

Where Hathaway may have failed in bringing the acclaimed writer to life, her supporting cast did a fine job in breathing life into their roles. As always, Maggie Smith (as Lady Gresham) shines every time she hits the screen. Additionally, Julie Waters and James Cromwell both turned in strong performances as Austen's parental unit.

The story seems to take several different directions at odd intervals. Sometimes Austen is portrayed as a woman's lib advocate as she barrels her way into a male-dominated cricket game, then her vulnerable side is highlighted as she pines for Lefroy's affection, and then other times she comes off as indifferent about life in general while she dances the night away. Understanding that women are complex, unique individuals, I can appreciate how one woman can embody several different emotional states, but Jarrold take each side to the extreme, creating a disconnected emotional storyline.

Another aspect I didn't particularly care for was the story's pacing. Becoming Jane is a long, draining movie. Clocking in at two hours, the pacing of the film makes it seem more like five to six hours. Jarrold takes too long in developing the torrid love affair between Austen and Lefroy, which in turn makes for a long, drawn-out, predictable ending.

The visual aspect is one of the highlights of the film. Filmed primarily in Dublin, the lush countryside and rolling hills are stunning to gawk at and are more fun to watch than Hathaway's performance. The costumes are interesting enough, albeit with a few Hollywood liberties taken here and there.

Jane Austen had a rich, full life which one can glimpse in any of her acclaimed novels. Unfortunately, Becoming Jane falls flat and seems to only be a vehicle for Hathaway to prove her dramatic acting skills aren't a fluke. To that end, I find it interesting that her next role is as Agent 99 in Get Smart. | Jim Campbell

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