Jane Austen sits toiling with her pen at the break of day and then proceeds to raucously awaken the whole house out of a sound sleep with a joyful tune played vigorously on the pianoforte! “Jane!” With that, we are propelled hand-in-hand with Jane Austen into a great adventure that leads to love and the birth of an authoress.
Such a noisy beginning to Becoming Jane and to the dawn’s silent day leads to the introduction of Jane’s beloved sister Cassandra and Cassandra’s betrothed, as Jane’s playing causes them to collide with each other in alarm in the upstairs hall, both attired only in their nightshirts—a most unseemly situation.
We learn that Cassandra’s and Robert Fowle’s betrothal is being celebrated with a gathering of friends and a reading of the composition Jane was triumphing over at day break. [Robert Fowle represents Cassandra’s real fiancé Thomas Fowle who died of Yellow Fever in the Caribbean before they could be wed.] Into this celebratory gathering walks a young man from London who has been sent down to the country to reform his wastrel ways. He—Tom Lefroy—has no appreciation for Jane’s reading nor for her writing and makes this unpleasantly apparent. Thus meet Jane and Tom.
From the extant Jane Austen letters, it is known that Jane truly had a flirtation with one Tom Lefroy who was too poor at the time to marry, though he later attained the rank of Chief Justice of Ireland. An unnamed man whom Jane met at Lyme was the love of her life, though he died before what some suspect was a secretly arranged engagement could be made known.
From the time of meeting Tom Lefroy, Jane’s adventures in life and love begin, which include prejudicially scorning and rejecting the ardent love of Mr. Wisely; rejecting the supplicating affections of yet another admirer; a misadventure on a coach that is saved by the reading of a letter that is not hers to read.
Becoming Jane is a splendid movie. The directing by Julian Jarrold is faultless. The depiction of Jane’s mother rings true to life as opposed to the Dickensian caricature mothers usually generated by Jane Austen movie productions. The father is blissfully oblivious enough to have happily reduced his family to financial straits through gleefully spreading his love without thought of consequence to mother and children. The two rivals, Lefroy and Wisely, are perfect and charming.
Anne Hathaway is, as always, a marvel to watch. However, in Becoming Jane she falls a little short of achieving an authentic Jane Austen. Anne Hathaway lacks the iron independence and the tenaciousness of unique thought that were Jane Austen’s greatest legacy. But even so, Anne Hathaway is a delight even though she falls a little short of becoming Jane.
Becoming Jane is definitely a DVD worth owning or renting. A great story with quality acting—including Maggie Smith and Julie Walters—with some stellar moments, like the conversation between Jane and her mother, “Yes. Affection is desirable. Money is absolutely indispensable,” Becoming Jane is perfect for the whole family, with perhaps one or two hands-over-the-eyes spots for youngsters.
Director – Julian Jarrold (2007)
Writer – Kenvin Hood
Jane – Anne Hathaway
Tom Lefroy – James McAvoy
Mr. Wisely – Laurence Fox
Lady Gresham – Maggie Smith
Mrs. Austen – Julie Walters
James Cromwell – Rev. Austen
Becoming Jane DVD: Available at Amazon.com
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen (Wordsworth Library Collection) Book: Available at Amazon.com