Wednesday, December 19, 2012

JABA: Anne Hathaway vs. Olivia Williams

Old-Fashioned Charm
As you all may have seen in my reviews of Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets, I'm not entirely fond of either of Anne Hathaway's or Olivia William's Jane Austen. There were always something about both of them that struck a bad cord with me. But they did have their good points to them. So here, I'm comparing the two Miss Austens!

Anne Hathaway's Jane Austen (Becoming Jane)
Positives: It was nice to see a youthful portrayal of Jane Austen. Usually, if we think of Jane Austen, we usually think of the more mature Jane that is writing and publishing her books. Anne Hathaway shows us a youthful Jane that could give us an idea of what a younger Jane could have been like.
Negatives: There were a couple of things I disliked about Anne Hathaway's Jane. While her accent itself I didn't mind all that much (though I have heard many complain of it), her voice was too high and forced for my tastes. But I'm not sure Anne Hathaway's normal voice would have been the answer, but her raising her voice so that it was higher wasn't the answer either. The other thing I didn't like was that her behavior and actions were pretty much unbelievable. There were times watching Becoming Jane where I thought, "Oh, c'mon! The real Jane Austen wouldn't have done that!" (for example, the attempted elopement). She also acted more catty than I would have pictured Jane Austen.

Olivia Williams's Jane Austen (Miss Austen Regrets)
Positives: Olivia Williams portrays a mature Jane Austen with the dignity that Jane would have had throughout her life. Her portrayal of Jane Austen wasn't exactly unrealistic: though I wouldn't say I was convinced by her portrayal, between Anne Hathaway and her Jane Austen, Olivia Williams had the more realistic Jane.
Negatives: There were two major things that I disliked about Olivia Williams's Jane Austen. One, her ill-humor personality as Jane. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on Jane Austen's life, but I have read around (and this picture has a quote that illustrates this point more) that among family, Jane was very agreeable and lively. I didn't get that with Olivia Williams's Jane Austen. What I saw was a bitter Jane Austen that always had some snide remark about her without a trace of warmhearted humor. Now, could Jane have used ironic or sarcastic remarks and still be agreeable or funny? Sure. But it didn't come off that way here. The second thing I didn't like was Jane's indulgences in drink. It seemed like for a good part of the movie, she had wine about her.

My Recommendation: Personally, I think Olivia Williams was more Jane Austen than Anne Hathaway, though I do like Anne Hathaway's youthfulness. It would be great if we could take parts of each of their performance and create a better Jane Austen. With Olivia William's dignity and voice and Anne Hathaway's youthfulness and better humor, it would create a better Jane Austen (though I'm not sure if it would be a perfect Jane Austen).

What do you think? Who did you prefer as Jane Austen? How do you think Anne Hathaway or Olivia Williams could have improved their Jane?

 God Bless,
God Bless, Miss Elizabeth Bennet


  1. Ok, coming from someone who doesn't even pretend to be any kind of expert on JA...I am genuinely wondering where you can prove that Jane would *not* have done any of the things she did in Becoming Jane. I just hear that a lot from Janeites and was wondering whether there was documented evidence or whether its just something that Janeites would like to think she wouldn't do. Because there is a prt of me that wonders if some of the stuff in her stories (Lydia's elopement for example) could have possibly come from personal experience (we're not all saints after all...even Jane Austen :)). Again, I understand if there is documented evidence or just assumption (Becoming Jane is one of my favorite films, I might add :))

    1. Good points! I guess with me, it seemed like a lot of things in Becoming Jane seemed out of Jane Austen's character (at least the way I pictured it). I guess the elopement could have been possible (if not with Tom Lefroy, someone else), but it just seems to be out of her character. I think a lot of her earlier life remains a mystery since Cassandra Austen destroyed a lot of Jane's letters after she died, so most guesses may be as good as any.

  2. well...I've never seen either movies, but at first glance I admit I'm partial to Anne Hathaway's performance because she looks rather like I'd always pictured Jane Austen to look. I have seen some clips of Becoming Jane, and though I had heard some not-so-good things about the movie, I actually liked what I saw, so I think I may try to watch it sometime.
    Although I admit from what I know about her I can't really imagine her doing any sort of elopement :)
    I haven't seen much of anything from Jane Austen Regrets (although I haven't heard many good things about that movie, either) but I may have to try watching that one, too!

  3. It was great to see a young Jane, and I think they could have really gone somewhere with Becoming Jane if they'd either tried to be more biographical or just decided to do a Regency romcom with fictional characters (but they needed to pick one or the other, and the implication that some of her most famous lines were just copied from life was awful), but yeah, I prefer Miss Austen Regrets.

    I liked how Olivia Williams's Jane was a bit biting. After her death Jane was made out to be sweet and modest and kind, to fit in with early Victorian ideals, but her surviving letters can be downright mean at times. There were more than a few quotes in that movie as well, but at least they used quotes from the letters and had Jane say them as a way to increase authenticity rather than having her jotting down what other people are saying.

  4. I remember I was looking forward to seeing Anne Hathaway's Jane Austen and I was totally disappointed. I found the film, the costumes and other characters absurd and awful and "Jane Austen" there silly to the extreme. Young or not I don't believe that Jane Austen was ever silly and I doubt that she ever though of elopement. It's not about being a saint, it's about having common sense and following a certain order of things and from what I've read of Jane Austen's novels, letters and memoirs, she struck me as a very sensible and practical person. I've never wanted to come back and re-watch this film again.

    As for the film with Olivia Williams as Jane Austen, I confess I'm rather partial to it. I do think that they portrayed her too bitter - I don't believe that Jane Austen regretted not being married quite so ostentatiously or so angrily - but, in general, I liked this film and I've watched it many times.


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