Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Movie Log: Becoming Jane

My wife is not a big reader, as I might have mentioned. But she's a medium-sized Jane Austen fan, so we had to go see Becoming Jane this weekend. I'm not a big enough Austen fan to explain exactly how this movie was hogwash, but I could detect quite a bit of pig-soaping going on, so I'm sure someone already has done that, somewhere on the Internet.

(For just one thing, I'm pretty sure Austen didn't even start to write Sense & Sensibility until a good decade after this movie was set. And, while I in no way begrudge two hours looking at the radiantly lovely Anne Hathaway, I believe Jane was somewhat plainer and less outgoing.)

It follows exactly the well-trodden Period Movie path you expect it to, stealing widely but not well from Austen's best-known books, like the world's prettiest, best-corseted magpie. Every time it has a chance to make its own, idiosyncratic way, it slips back into doing exactly what you thought it was going to do. Every chance it has to try something interesting is studiously ignored.

(For example, Austen's great love -- the young, poor Irish lawyer Thomas LeFroy -- clearly is only interested in seducing her at first, and a cynical viewer like myself has no reason to believe that his protestations of deep and abiding love later on aren't simply another tactic to get her into bed. The real-world Jane Austen would be very familiar with that type, and would have something -- veiled and proper, yes, but cutting -- to say about it. In this movie, we're apparently meant to simply believe that Jane is so amazingly wonderful that his intentions are now purely honorable.)

(And, for another, her other suitor -- whom The Wife and I have taken to calling "Lurch," since we forgot the character's name -- is actually much more interesting, and seems closer to what little I know of the historical Austen's character. But he's not a great talker and doesn't like to dance, which means he's doomed in a Period Movie.)

This is a very pretty movie, and looking at Anne Hathaway for two hours is a very pleasant way to spend time. Serious Janeites will probably hate the liberties the plot has taken, but, for those of us married to people who love Period Movies in all their splendor, this is a decent example of that not-particularly-exalted form.

1 comment:

Mags said...

Hi there!

Actually, Jane had written Elinor and Marianne, a novel in letters that she later reshaped into Sense and Sensibility, at the time that the events portrayed, sort of, in this film takes place (1795-6). That being said, in my opinion as a dedicated Janeite, the story was almost entirely fictional, and in many places defied logic, particularly the final scene. Tom Lefroy was a studious and religious young man, not the rake he was portrayed in the film. And his daughter was, one presumes, named for her maternal grandmother, Jane Paul. You may not be a Jane Austen fan, but your instincts are excellent. :-)

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