Jane Austen (Anna Hathaway) is a romantic and unwilling to buckle under the pressure her parents (Julie Walters and James Cromwell), to marry well and for money. Lady Gresham's (Maggie Smith) nephew Mr Wisley (Laurence Fox) is the most desirable candidate, but 20 year old Jane becomes infatuated by the dashing, arrogant Irishman Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). In 1795 England, there are few choices for a young woman, and Jane is adamant that she wants to defy social convention and write romantic novels.
Review by Louise Keller:
Marriage and propriety are the themes of Becoming Jane, a romantic drama whose corsets symbolise the restraint of the era. Many of the story elements are familiar - after all, when Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, she was writing about her own experiences. So, while there is little that is fresh in this costume drama, it is well done and Anne Hathaway makes a delightful Jane, who is unafraid to defy convention. My only reservation lies in the casting of James McAvoy as the romantic lead, who has every credential except dashing charisma. Mr Darcy he is not.
Can anything be done about it, asks Maggie Smith's buttoned up wealthy matriarch Lady Gresham, when told that Jane writes novels. It is matters of the heart about which Jane wants to write, and there is plenty that is troubling hers. Love is what she craves, but there is the mounting pressure of being suitably matched for matrimony. 'Affection may be desirable, but money is absolutely indisputable.'
Set in the verdant countryside of Somerset, Jane's heart begins to flutter when she meets McAvoy's young lawyer Tom Lefroy, who is sent on a visit by his well-to-do uncle (Ian Richardson) in a bid to teach him a lesson in humour and restraint. Jane's pastor father (James Cromwell) and mother (Julie Walters) are penniless and remain hopeful their daughter will accept the affections of Lady Gresham's favourite nephew (played with appealing complexity by xx). I almost willed Jane to come to her senses, marry the tall, blond heir and live happily ever after. There are various story strands that weave together, including that of Jane's relationship with her sister Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin) who has a love interest of her own.
The film certainly looks beautiful with its manicured gardens, gorgeous landscapes, authentic costumes and detailed production design. Director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) brings integrity to the proceedings and we get a real sense of the life and times of the young Jane Austen whose passion for writing is irrefutably fuelled by her heart.
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BECOMING JANE (PG)
CAST: Anne Hathaway, Dame Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, James McAvoy, James Cromwell, Jessica Ashworth, Anna Maxwell Martin, Donal O'Farrell
PRODUCER: Robert Bernstein, Graham Broadbent, Dougla Rae
DIRECTOR: Julian Jarrold
SCRIPT: Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eigil Byrld
EDITOR: Emma E. Hickox
MUSIC: Adrian Johnston
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Eve Stewart
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 29, 2007