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  Publicity Stills of
"Becoming Jane"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Romance/Drama
Director: Julian Jarrold
Cast: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.becomingjane-themovie.com/

Opening Day: 27 March 2008


"Becoming Jane" is the story of the great, untold romance that inspired a young Jane Austen, played by Anne Hathaway. Willful and spirited, Jane is not ready to be tied down to anything but her writing. That is until she meets Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a charming rogue from London who spends more time drinking and socializing than on his law studies.

Movie Review:

Becoming Jane as a biopic does little to instruct and educate the audience on the finer details of Jane's emotional and mental maturation in her days, it is in fact a film of rapidly paced dialogue, action with apparently witting and slightly comical overtones. Should one replace the name Jane with, perhaps Kate, and brand it an adaptation, it will easily pass off as another fictional text by the English literary heroine.

Perhaps Becoming Jane is the strongest, most representative example of the modern trends and perception of Jane Austen and her works. As modern adaptations of Pride and Prejudice (think Colin Firth), Emma (not too recent), and Renee Zellweger's almost campy Bridget Jones' Diaries, Hollywood has made Austen geared towards a modern audience with a shorter attention span. Becoming Jane the same, engaging in dramatising the life and story of Jane Austen in a way the audience would suspect - surely her life isn't that crazy after all?

Anne Hathaway plays Austen in a typically dependable performance, performing the title character as a vivacious, strong-minded woman who mother declares "needs a husband". Her love interest, Thomas Lefroy, plays an equally free-spirited character whose love for fun and the free life renders him unbecoming to his uncle expectations - "dissipation wild enough to glut the imaginings of a Hottentot braggadocio" - he answers to the question of what kind of a lawyer is he with his behaviour with a humourous "Typical." McAvoy excelled as the heroic, admirable protagonist with almost painful fatal character flaws however, in Becoming Jane, he is shoehorned into a almost uninspiring character of a charming rich boy, successful yet playful.

Austen engages in a disdain-love (chronogically) interaction with Lefroy, not dissimilar in on a macro level to Darcy and Elizabeth. But of course, it is improper to expect a biopic to be subjugated to the whims of imitating plot devices of some of her greatest works. As such, Becoming Jane becomes a film lacking in character, one that engages the classic tools, methods and feel of modern Hollywood perception of Austen's works as such unable to tear itself away from reminding the audience of adaptations of her work.

In the end, Becoming Jane doesn't disturb, provoke or inspire the audience in a way a biopic, perhaps done with a less commercial mindset, would have a achieved. However, Atonement has proved how excellent British work partnered with a mainstream audience direction can actually find sensible, admirable middle-ground compromise.

Becoming Jane doesn't do justice to the great British author - it almost relegates her to a bland, light and campy tale that is lesser than her great works. This despite the modern dramatisation and exaggerations of British life in the day. However, who's to say Austen's life isn't a less dramatic experience compared to her fictional works? In fact, it has to be - fiction by Austen were portrayals and excellent discussions of life of the female in her times, both empowering and moving.

The fault of Becoming Jane, unfortunately, was in how the plot, script and screen play were crafted the exact modern Hollywood dramatisation of her works, putting it on the same artistic platform of comparision and cross-reference with her adaptations, which in all probability shouldn't have been the case. Where the opportunity for a incisive, intellectual dissection on mind, heart and life of a woman who crafted these works was there for the taking, for example the much heralded "The Hours" with Virginia Woolf, Becoming Jane unfortunately chooses to take the path of what was essentially a dramatic adaption of Austen's romantic life and romantic life only. How is that easy to separate from- and subsequently fail to match- her great fictional works? Unless the writers and director were modern Janes of their times.

Movie Rating:

(Becoming Jane doesn't so much trivialises but under-represents the dramatisation of Austen)

Review by Daniel Lim


. Atonement (2007)

. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

. Silk (2007)

. Pride & Prejudice (2005)

. Kinky Boots (2005)

. Bride & Prejudice (2004)

. The Notebook (2004)



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