Becoming Jane is a 2007 film based on the life of Jane Austen. However, I feel this period drama is best viewed as fiction rather than an insight into who Jane Austen was. If you want to know who Jane Austen is, best not to watch this film. It is very loosely based on actual history, and is more fiction than anything else. In reality Tom Lefroy was only mentioned briefly in a few letters of Jane to Cassandra. Yes, they were friends. How deep their friendship was we do not know. It is highly ironic that although Jane Austen was one of the greatest romance writers of all time, we know very little about her own romantic life.
This being the case, I didn’t feel it was fair to capitalise on Jane Austen’s name when it barely adhered to solid truth and so many things were speculated or made up.
Anyway, that aside, James McAvoy is super handsome in this role and I didn’t care what else happened in the movie, I just wanted to keep getting glimpses of him. His acting was superb and the chemistry was definitely there between him and Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway’s performance was alright, but wasn’t amazing.
While this is a romance, unlike Jane Austen’s novels which are determined to leave the reader with a feel good ending, this movie holds no such ‘happily ever after’ conclusion. In fact, the viewer is left down right miserable (had the same feeling in ‘Miss Austen Regrets.’). Perhaps this is understandable since rather than being a ‘fairy-tale’, this is a film trying to explore the reality of her life – the real world, where there are no writers to fix a bad ending. There were lots of realistic things in this film like Jane’s mother digging potatoes, alluding to her family’s financial situation, and Cassandra’s grief at her fiancé dying – as well as the portrayal of Jane’s deaf, mute brother. Think Pride and Prejudice without a happy ending and no Pemberley.
The script was admittedly, well written. There was a lot of cleverness and wit in the script, which I could attribute to a mind like Jane Austen.
The scenery was lush, the costumes were fitting. The music was beautifully emotive which just added to this film being achingly romantic. It was a bit Cliché in parts. I watched it feeling like they tried to merge aspects of all her books into her life to try and ‘explain’ her writings. As if everything she wrote about was from real life, and not from a clever imagination. The suggestion throughout the film that Jane could only write about love and romance if she had experienced it I felt was a bit wishy-washy. Do I have to commit a murder to know how to write a mystery? It was suggested that it was because of a man that she became the great author, Jane Austen. That’s all speculation.
Oh, and poor Wesley! He was so sweet, and all his talk about affection being a ‘shy flower that takes time to blossom,’ was super cute. I was left feeling sorry she refused him.
All in all, it’s worth a watch, but not a favourite. I cried when I watched it by the way, it did grab me. But for what it’s claiming to be, a recounting of how Jane became a great novelist, I wasn’t impressed. If it was just an ordinary period drama story film, I would have loved it more. But don’t call something Jane Austen when it just isn’t.
What did you think of this representation of Jane Austen? Leave a comment below 🙂