Becoming Jane **
Directed by Julian Jarrold
Written by Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams
Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen
James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy
Julie Walters as Mrs. Austen
James Cromwell as Rev Austen
Maggie Smith as Lady Gresham
Joe Anderson as Henry Austen
Lucy Cohu as Eliza De Feuillide
Laurence Fox as Mr. Wisley
120 Minutes(Rated PG for brief nudity and mild language. (edited for re-rating; was PG-13) )
"Becoming Jane" is clearly fresh off the heels of the very good version of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" that was released in 2005. That film was fresh and funny and sexy and romantic and full of life. "Becoming Jane" is dull and has no energy whatsoever. I found myself constantly bored by what was going on the screen, and none of the leads seemed to even be trying very hard to made a good finished product. This is not one of the worst films of the year, but it is not needed and virtually useless. While it is supposed to be a story about parts of the life of female author Jane Austen, it takes its structure and story cues from the classic stories that she wrote-"Emma," "Pride and Prejudice," etc. Playing Jane is beautiful actress Anne Hathaway, whose filmography is getting into more independant features, but she has not been proving herself to me.
Hathaway plays Jane, a young woman that does not seem to want to get married. She would rather live by her pen and by herself. This is much to the chagrin of her mother and father who want her to settle down. They claim all they want is what is best for her. When Jane does a reading at an event she is angered by her brothers friend Tom, who pretends that he was falling asleep during the reading, and claims that it is accomplished by nothing special. Jane and Tom do not get along at all, and Jane is being eyed by a very wealthy suitor whose mother Lady Gresham-played by Maggie Smith in the role that could have also been played by Judi Dench-is a rich and nasty one. Eventually Jane and Tom begin to understand their differences, and their hate begins to change into something else.
In the end, "Becoming Jane" is just an adaptation of an Austen novel, only it is pretending to be a biography into her life. There are all the same scenes from the 2005 film. There is the scene where Austen and Tom are doing a large dance at a fancy ball, and they end up having an argument as they dance-although they do it subtly so that nobody else will catch on. There is the scene where they first kiss, usually after a heated scene before. There is the scene where the female character is shot down by the person of higher social status. This is just a Jane Austen social class romance in disguise. It was pointless and not needed. Hathaway is decent, but nothing special. Her performance was pretty much like watching Keira Knightly in the last movie, and I did not see anything original or unique in her interprtation of the author. None of the actors really seemed to be giving it their best, and they are all just working at Period Film 101-phoning in all their work because their characters are nothing new. They have plenty of other actors to look back on and copy from, and that is what they do. There was just no life in this production, and it was deary and dull instead of having energy like "Pride" did.
One last bit is that the film is overlong and somewhat dull. It never seemed to want to end, and for a while I could not tell if it would be a happy ending or a sad ending or a just right ending. It was a mixture of the three in the end, and while all needed to do was research the life of Austen to find out how the film would end, I did not and was assuming what would happen but wanted something else. I suppose the ending did work out for me in the end, even though it was too extended. You'll understand what I mean if you see the film, only I hope you don't. "Becoming Jane" is a story that is becoming overdone. This is the type of film I see in the art house world where I am reminded of formula, and in the art house world I do not want to be reminded to formula.