Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Becoming Jane (2007)

I had heard about Becoming Jane. From what I've heard, some people like it and others don't. We actually own the DVD, but I've never watched it. I happened to see that it was on TV one night, so I watched it on TV instead of the DVD.

Box Art
Becoming Jane is the untold love story between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy. When Tom Lefroy first meets Jane, he insults her writing abilities and wounds her pride. But she eventually falls in love with him.

There are some actors and actresses that you may recognize in Becoming Jane. Anne Hathaway (Jane Austen) is well known in her role in The Princess Diaries movies. James McAvoy (Tom Lefroy) was in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Maggie Smith (Lady Gresham) has been seen in a number of movies, including Downton Abbey. Anna Maxwell Martin (Cassandra Austen) was also seen in North and South.

I'm sorry, but Anne Hathaway just isn't Jane Austen. There were spots in her character that didn't seem to fit. Spoiler For instance, I honestly don't think that the real Jane Austen would have consented to an elopement. Jane was a very smart, moral person and would know how an elopement would affect her family and her reputation. Even if she was in love with Tom Lefroy, I still don't think that she wouldn't have accepted. And Jane also accepted a proposal from Lady Gresham's nephew (?): from what I know about Jane Austen's life, she was engaged to her friend's brother for one day, but then broke off the engagement when she realized that she didn't love him. I have not heard of her accepting another proposal, so that part in the movie must have been invention. End of Spoiler Another spot which didn't seem to fit was this: Tom Lefroy takes Jane to some dark boxing pit (?) that looks like no respectable lady would be anywhere near, let alone in. Honestly, would Jane have considered going to such a place? No. On another note, I also found Anne Hathaway's voice a little irritating -- it was high and not like what I would have imagined Jane's voice to have been like. She's simply not Jane Austen.

Jane (Anne Hathaway) dancing with Tom Lefroy (James
The other problem I have is with Tom Lefroy. With the way they presented him, would anyone think that Jane Austen would have even considered liking him? The first time we see him, he's in a dark boxing ring (possibly a bar? or inn?), fighting and flirting with some of the women in there. He's not a very serious student in this film (which, from what I've read about the real Tom Lefroy, he was a serious student). I've looked around at some other reviews, and I think a couple of times I've run into reviews that said that he resembled Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility or Wickham from Pride and Prejudice. And the filmmakers were trying to make him look like Mr. Darcy? Something went wrong with him while they were writing the script for the movie.

I did like that they included George Austen, Jane Austen's deaf brother. The scenes when Jane and George interacted were heart-warming. It may not be as accurate as it could have been (read this article from the Jane Austen Center on George Austen to learn more), but I still liked that they included him.

The scenery is very lovely. There are a lot of greens in the outside scenes, so the outdoor scenes look very crisp and fresh. The houses are very nice too. This film is very lovely to look at.

Cassandra Austen (Anna Maxwell Martin) with Jane Austen
As far as construction goes, the costuming was well made and looked great... However, most of it was not Regency era fashions. Many of the dresses were Georgian, so earlier than the Regency era. There are only a couple of ways to get away with characters wearing out of date fashions in a period film: a) the character is poor b) the character is old. For characters like Mrs. Austen, Georgian fashion would be acceptable since she is both poor and older (I wouldn't want to say old exactly). For Lady Gresham, yes she was rich, but she was also an old character. But for the younger characters, it seems like they should have had the Regency attire. Cassandra Austen, though not quite having Georgian-wear, had a dress with a low waist line (see the picture with her and Jane), while Jane, her younger sister by a couple of years, had a fashionable Regency waist on her dresses. Jane's cousin, Eliza, a countess with money, doesn't appear to be that old and yet she doesn't have Regency wear. So, the accuracy of the costuming is off.

My other complaint on the costuming is that for Jane's Regency dresses, the waist-line was not as high as it should have been. The waist line on these Regency dresses seemed to hit the natural waist line -- they did not have the true empire waist that should have been.

Overall: 1.5/5
I'm not convinced by this movie. Anne Hathaway is simply not Jane Austen. Tom Lefroy was all wrong. The costuming looked nice, but wasn't very accurate. The scenery -- very pretty. In summary, if you want an accurate portrayal of Jane Austen and her life, I wouldn't watch this movie. There were a lot of things that were off for this movie and a great deal of it must have been invention. But if you don't know much about Jane Austen's life, you might enjoy this film (though after viewing it, I would recommend that you research Jane Austen's biography to see what is true and what is fiction).

I should also note again that I viewed this movie when it was on TV, so some objectionable content was edited out for TV viewing. I have heard that there are a couple of scenes that you may want to avoid, but I couldn't place where they are in the movie, unfortunately. There was an implication about Eliza de Feuillide and Henry Austen, but nothing was shown (at least on the edited TV version).

Becoming Jane is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It runs for 120 minutes and is rated PG (but originally PG-13).


  1. I'm definitely not trying to defend the movie here...but, I think that it was probably right for them not to have Regency fasions - Jane Austen is supposed to be around 20 in this movie, right? So it would be set around 1795; and the Austens were probably a little behind with the fashions since they weren't very wealthy. ;-) I know Regency starts around then, but at least it's more excusable than P&P 2005 fashions, and some in S&S 2008. Oh and Mansfield Park 2007...they were so 18th century. >.<

    I really wish there was a good movie about Jane Austen...I just watched a documentary about her, with people acting the parts and stuff, and that was really good. =)

  2. Anna Maxwell Martin also played the heroine of Bleak House. =) It would be interesting to see her as Cassandra...but oh well. ha

  3. Melody,
    With the costuming more of my concern was that Jane had a Regency dress on while Cassandra had dresses closer to Georgian Fashions and they are only two years apart. It would seem that Cassandra, being the older sister, would have the Regency fashions before Jane.

    I agree with you: there really isn't a great biopic of Jane Austen. Maybe sometime in the future there will be one...

  4. I didn't enjoy this movie at all... I thought Jane was miscast, Anne's accent didn't fool me and her manners didn't seem very natural to me.
    Also this movie looked like a poorly executed cheesy version of pride and prejudice.


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