Becoming Jane

"Weak"

Becoming Jane Review


Newly minted young star Anne Hathaway stars as a twentysomething Jane Austen in Becoming Jane, and the real excitement of the film is not her actual performance -- which is basically perfunctory -- but the fact that at least one cast member is not a member of Britain's acting-in-semi-retirement community. It may seem as if Julie Walters and Maggie Smith, who both have supporting roles here, are far from retired; they collectively appear in about half of the Shakespeare and Austen-related films that are released every year (divided up evenly with Judi Dench and Helen Mirren), and they both have lucrative gigs in the Harry Potter series, as well as whatever nutty, life-loving oldie roles that come their way.

But that's just the problem: These actresses have to wait ages between actual roles, biding their time with supporting roles that might as well have them standing in a pasture. So in Becoming Jane we're treated to Smith doing her umpteenth haughty old bat and Walters overplaying another frazzled mum figure. If we're still supposed to find this shtick delightful, I suggest the British Film Board start scouring actual retirement homes for some fresh blood.

Alongside veteran scenery-chewers (Walters plays Jane's mother while Smith plays a more direct antagonist), Hathaway takes a more studied approach, sporting a crisp accent, teacher's-pet diction, and a vaguely humorless purity. She's not a bad actress, but her performance is too respectful by half, as if she must tread carefully when playing a mostly-fictionalized version of the author.

The whole film has more respect than brains or charm; it tells the at least partially fabricated story of Austen's first love, which may have inspired her work in, apparently, the most obvious and contrived ways possible. As young Jane is irritated by, and then smitten with, roguish suitor Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), she learns more about the harsh realities of class lines, struggling for the opportunity to live on her own, marry for love if at all, and concentrate on her writing.

Of course, this is one of those movies about creative people that assumes that a vital ingredient in the creative process is literal transcriptions from the creator's own life. This wouldn't be a problem if the movie were a bit more playful, but it hits all of the expected notes without much urgency or invention, like a spiritless cover of Shakespeare in Love. The screenplay doesn't explore Austen's timeless themes so much as innumerate them; the film takes less from the depth of Austen's work and more from the familiar rhythms of its countless imitations. It only achieves some dramatic tension when, towards the end, the focus shifts to the messier deviations in Austen's (fictionalized) real life.

Hathaway and McAvoy are easy on the eyes and Becoming Jane is, admittedly, an attractive film to match its appealing leads. Director Julian Jarrold previously made the forgettable Brit-com Kinky Boots with similar smooth professionalism. But absent consistent sparks from the writing or performances, his shot choices -- handheld bits, wide shots of gorgeous scenery, expressive close-ups -- start to feel mechanical. His film is pleasant, inoffensive, and a little depressing to watch -- in other words, the cinematic equivalent of a nice retirement facility.

I'd kill for a gin and tonic.



Becoming Jane

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 10th August 2007

Box Office USA: $18.6M

Budget: $12M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: Ecosse Films, 2 Entertain, Bueprint Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 78 Rotten: 59

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Julian Jarrold

Producer: Robert Bernstein, ,

Starring: as Jane Austen, as Tom Lefroy, as Mrs. Austen, as Mr. Austen, as Lady Gresham, as Henry Austen, Lucy Cohu as Eliza de Feuillide, as Mr. Wisley, as Richter Langlois, as Cassandra Austen, as John Warren, Jessica Ashworth as Lucy Lefroy, Michael James Ford as Mr. Lefroy, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Robert Fowle, Chris McHallem as Mr. Curtis

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.