Written by Pollo Misterioso
Becoming Jane wants to play out like a Jane Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice, Emma), with fierce wit, integrity, and romance; however, this isn’t a film about one of her characters, but about the authoress and her life, which doesn’t always translate to screen the way her novels do.
Directed by Julian Jarrold, Becoming Jane is a historical film based on Jane Austen’s life before she achieves her literary fame. Like one of her stories, Jane (Anne Hathaway) comes from a lower class family, where marriage is important in the security of a young woman’s future. Her father, played by James Cromwell, is the local reverend but never preaches at her to change her outspoken tongue and manner.
Jane is a fierce writer, always seen with a pen or book in hand, but she still searches for the inspiration to write from the heart, about the heart. Through family relations, the Austens are made to welcome Mr. Tom Lefroy, played by James McAvoy, after he has been made to spend his summer away from London and in the countryside as punishment for his lifestyle in the city.
Tom and Jane’s relationship begins in competition over the written word but grows into an ardent love for one another. But money, social status, and family will not allow them to be together. Like her novels, she is pursued by unworthy suitors, men that can promise her a comfortable life, but without passion. Even for Jane, a life without passion is not a life at all.
She wrote such complex and interesting novels that commented on society and gave women a voice, always having strong female characters. For Austen fans Becoming Jane turns into a guessing game, spotting her inspirations for her novels. Her close relationship with her sister in real life could be the basis for the strong bonds of sisterhood in her stories. Her playing cricket is explored in her writings as well.
Becoming Jane plays down the radical impact of Jane Austen being a female author. There are many references to her living off of her pen, but the film focuses on her relationship with Lefroy, making it out to be the most influential and traumatizing relationship of her life.
The problem with historical narratives is that real human drama does not always translate to the screen. As the title suggests Becoming Jane is a transformation into the person that will eventually write some of the most influential works to date, but the film only focuses on her love interests—not carrying the same weight that she writes about.
If you are an admirer of Jane Austen’s books, Becoming Jane is a fun and interesting look into her life, giving the viewer the satisfactory notion that even her life played out as a great read. But if one knows nothing of Jane, then don’t bother starting with this; pick up one of her novels instead. Becoming Jane is about getting to know the author behind the pen and Jane Austen’s immense talent cannot be overshadowed; for even the dullest moments of her real life became the foundation for her characters that found true happiness and lived with passion.
The DVD extras on the film are informative and very interesting to watch. The most appealing is the “Discovering the Real Jane Austen” which is a 16-minute piece on the creation of the film. It has interviews with the cast and crew, explaining the choices in costumes, cast, location, etc. There are deleted scenes and a feature that can be played during the film called “Pop up facts and footnotes” so that during the movie facts about Austen’s life and the period in which she was living appear.