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:: Becoming Jane

It seems biographies on female literary figures have been the de jour of the moment, right now we’ve got Becoming Jane - the tale of Jane Austen, and we’ve just recently had Miss Potter - a magical biography of Beatrice Potter, and we’re just waiting for the next creative film about Enid Blyton or maybe the Bronte sisters.

Becoming Jane is much like the recent adaptation of Kiera Knightly’s corset panting Victorian era antics in Pride and Prejudice last year for two reasons. 1) Genre. 2) Both are ‘sexed’ up by the original Victorian standards.

Why do Hollywood producers feel it necessary to reassure audiences that female authors who were not married still had a healthy appreciation of romance themselves? Why is it imperative that Jane Austen, a notoriously independent female who famously declined marriage in favour of independence, be portrayed as once being in love? Without highlighting the personal affairs of Jane Austen, is the director Julian Jarrod, scared of an independent and intelligent female character who had no need for romance, only her books and writings?

In any case, the Becoming Jane story unfolds as much like Austen’s most notable work, Pride and Prejudice. With the exception of a slightly bent ending, becoming Jane follows much the format as Pride and Prejudice. Remember Mr Darcy - that initially arrogant and aloof gentleman, well he has surfaced in the form of Irish London based lawyer, Thomas Lefroy (James McAvoy)

Austen herself (Anne Hathaway) is portrayed as much like Pride and Prejudice’s much loved intelligent heroine character, Elizabeth, and the tension between between the arrogant lawyer and the challenging headstrong Hathaway can only be imagined what it might later blossom into. ( Those familiar with Pride and Prejudice have a huge clue here.)

What is most cringe worthy about the film is that other Pride and Prejudice characters are revived in new, though weaker characters. There is the wonderfully pious Mr Collins in the diluted form of Mr Wisely (Laurence Fox). He almost looks the pathetic part that audiences love, the nerdy comb over, the clumsy dancing, but he lacks the dedicated monotonous soliloquies to his patron lady that Mr Collins’ characters amuses for. Similarly, there is a Lady Catherine look alike, the appropriately cast Maggie Smith, but she lacks most of the biting and condescending venom that the Pride and Prejudice Lady Catherine was famous for.

Other characters have obvious connotations with Pride and Prejudice, for examples Jane’s parents are much like the Bennets, and Jane’s sister, Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin) is much like the starry eyed but respectable sister in Pride and Prejudice.

A positive of this movie include, like Miss Potter’s sweeping panoramas, a lovely English countryside atmosphere. Hathaway lacks, at times, to convince her audience that her doe eyed self is a young Jane Austen. She is too pretty, and, perhaps too boring to play the witty Jane Austen. The film is very anti climatical and just when you think there may be some confrontation, there is usually a sweeping of events under the rug.

All in all, Becoming Jane would interest those who can’t get enough of anything to do with Jane Austen or love the Victorian era genre movies, but of course, they will be disappointed if they expected more than an American softening of Austen’s character, and a film that annoyingly mimics the format of Pride and Prejudice. This movie does not compare to the BBC version of Pride and prejudice with Colin Firth, all six hours worth.