You've been warned.
So, since it is my custom to begin movie reviews with a story, here is the story of Becoming Jane. ;-D
Once upon a time, there was a twelve-year-old little girl named Emma. Emma loved reading and writing and pretty much everything old-fashioned, and she was at a time in her life that she would later look back on as her 'awakening'. She had just discovered how much she loved historical fiction and was reading her first Lynn Austin book, and she was also beginning to discover that there were more period dramas out there besides Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. One day she went to the video rental place (I was going to say 'store', but it's not really a store, so I'll just keep it generic and say place ;-P) and amid all the trashy movies that lined the shelves, one particular cover caught her her eye. On the cover was Anne Hathaway, and some terribly handsome youngster with her, and it said it was a movie about Jane Austen. Emma didn't know very much about Jane Austen-- she had heard the name, of course (she didn't live under a rock), and she knew that Jane Austen had lived in the early nineteenth century and written novels, but she really had no knowledge beyond that. Then she remembered that her parents had gone to see a movie a few years earlier about an author by the same name (guess what, they're one and the same!) and when she asked her mama about it, wallah! It was the same movie! So Emma happily picked the movie off the shelf, realized to her disappointment that she had to take one of the copies without the pretty cover, and took it home. And watched it.
Emma didn't love it at first. At first she thought it was boring, but after she finished it, she kept thinking about it and pondering it and pretty soon came to the conclusion that it was a purty good movie. Then after a while she watched it again, and that settled it. It was her all-time favorite film. :-)
She decided that she wanted to be just like Jane Austen and write novels, and play the piano early in the morning, and fall in love with an Irish boy like Tom Lefroy. (But of course, he wouldn't ask her to elope.) Young as she was, she didn't realize what an absolute jerk Tom Lefroy is, and she quickly dubbed James McAvoy her favorite actor. And of course Anne Hathaway was her favorite actress, so basically this movie just couldn't get more awesome.
Alright, now I'm going to stop talking about myself in third-person. :-P
Becoming Jane was my favorite movie for a long time-- that is, a few years. Then I discovered the internet and read on several period drama-themed blogs about how inaccurate it was, and that knowledge, coupled with the fact that I had found so many period dramas that were even better, began to lower it in my estimation. And while I still love it, it's not my favorite. It's not really even among my top favorites anymore, but I still love it dearly and will always have fond feelings for it. ;-)
Plus, she's absolutely gorgeous, and I like to imagine that Jane Austen looked just like this. She's not pretty in a conventional regency-ish way, either, and her face is actually very unique. I've been told that our expressions are similar, which I take as high praise. ;-)
Now let's talk about Tom Lefroy.
One word that aptly describes Tom's character is rascal. He's a mischievous rabble-rouser with loose morals and not a whole lot of conscience, and yet, somehow he's still likeable. At least, I can't help but like him. (What is it with me and Irish men named Tom? :-P) Even though he is a rascal, I maintain that Tom Lefroy does have some decency, and his casual, happy-go-lucky outlook on life does change considerably during the course of the story. He's not your ideal hero, and he's not really anyone to draw an example from. For a while he's not serious about anything, and he goes around beating people up and kissing random girls in the middle of the streets. But other times he can be a gentleman, and a very charming one too. Also, James McAvoy is very handsome.
|I love this. :-)|
However, the character portrayal of Tom Lefroy is another case of the screenwriters deviating from the facts. In real life, Jane Austen's suitor Tom Lefroy was a well-behaved young man who wanted to be a clergyman, and who was said to have"everything in his temper and character that can conciliate affections. A good heart , a good mind, good sense and as little to correcting him as ever I saw in one of his age" by his great-uncle. Okay. That is NOT the Tom Lefroy that James McAvoy depicts. I suppose they thought it would be more dramatic and romantic if the character was naughtier and edgier (and the hopeless romantic in me has to agree with them-- it IS more dramatic), but it turns the whole story around. As I have said many times, I love this movie, but I don't think it's a fair interpretation of Jane Austen's relationship with Mr. Lefroy. It's very improvised and glamorized and while I personally don't mind it a whole lot, I understand why lots of Jane Austen admirers do.
|I really couldn't resist. ;-P|
I really don't know a whole lot about the real Tom Lefroy, but Miss Laurie has written an excellent post about him that you can read right here.
|"What is she trying to say?"|
Jane's sister Cassandra is a sweetheart. Anna Maxwell Martin is such a lovely actress, and she always seems to play lovely characters. Cassandra is one of my favorite characters in the movie, and I think her relationship with Jane is very sweet. It's so tragic when *SPOILER* her fiancé Robert dies *END OF SPOILER*, but I love the scene when Jane and her mother are comforting her, and the scene where Cassandra wakes up and Jane's writing, and Cassandra asks her what it's about.
"How does it begin?"
"And how does it end?"
"They both make triumphant happy endings."
"Incandescent marriages. To very rich men."
Jane Austen had many siblings (although I can't remember exactly how many), but the only ones shown very much are Cassandra and her younger brother Henry. I know she had an older brother Edward, who Cassandra goes to stay with for a while, although he's never actually shown. There's also George, but I still can't figure out if he's actually her brother or if he's just a neighbor. Jane Austen did have a mentally challenged younger brother, though, so maybe that's him.
Henry's hair is so annoying that it's enough to make me dislike the character altogether. Of course, I don't really like him very much in the first place. He's a rascal, a flirt, and he doesn't seem to take anything seriously. Also, I think it's kind of strange that he marries his cousin who is obviously close to ten years older than he is. Now, to me, that's just weird. I'm not too terribly fond of Eliza either. She's also a flirt, and it just seems strange to me that she's interested in her young cousin.
This is not one of Maggie Smith's best roles. (Well, duh, because we all know what her best role is! *wink, wink*) She's plays her part well, but it's nothing earth-shattering. Lady Gresham is just not nice at all. Her manners are sorely lacking and she has basically no redeeming qualities. And that hooded cape thing she wears is a monstrosity. I'm certain the Dowager Countess would not approve.
Mr. Wisley, however, is very nice. He's dull as paint and acts like he's made of wood, so his kindness is pretty much the only thing he's got going for himself. I couldn't like him enough to want Jane to marry him-- and besides, she didn't love him, duh-- but I was glad that they became friends in the end.
Mrs. Austen isn't very nice either, and like her illustrious neighbor, she doesn't really have any redeeming qualities. Mrs. Austen is obviously the inspiration behind Mrs. Bennett, although she is less hysterical and more just plain mean. All she seems to care about is money, and she doesn't give a thought to Jane's happiness, or anyone else's, really; her biggest goal is financial security. The only times I like Mrs. Austen are when *SPOILER* she's comforting Cassandra after her fiancé dies *END OF SPOILER* and when Jane comes back home after leaving with Tom and her mother says, "You came back to us." (*sniffle* That scene always makes me cry. Actually by that time I'm usually sobbing anyway.) And I like it when Mrs. Austen defends Jane's reputation to Lady Grouchy. So she isn't all bad, and like most people in the movie, she seems like a better person and a more affectionate mother by the end.
|Look at his hair. Bwahahaha.|
There are several other secondary characters, but they're not that important so I'm not going to take the time to mention them.
The costumes in this movie have some serious issues. Some of them are lovely, especially Jane's, but most of them are sadly inaccurate. For instance, why is Jane the only one wearing a Regency dress, and everyone else is dressed Georgian?
And what is this?????
|I lurve this coat. ;-)|
Many of the costumes are beautiful, though, and Jane's wardrobe is one of my very favorites. I especially love her pink and white gown that she wears to the Basingstroke assembly when she dances with Tom, her cream-colored ball gown, her green and brown dress, and the brown dress she wears when she comes back from London. She also has several gorgeous blue dresses. Actually, considering the fact that the Austens were not well-to-do, Jane may have just a few too many dresses for it to be accurate....but we'll let that slide 'cause they're just all so purty.
|GREEN VELVET COAT!!!|
The men's costumes are quite nice indeed. :-) Especially Tom Lefroy's, which is only to be expected. His wardrobe is very fashionable and reflects his extravagant, spend-all personality. Also he seems to wear a lot of green-- random observation.
|Should I apologize for using so many gifs? No, I think not.|
Besides the glaring inaccuracy of some of the costumes, most everything else in the movie seems relatively on par with the period, although Jane's posture could use a bit of work. The ladies always wear their hair up, so that's an improvement from P&P. ;-D The dialogue is pretty historical, but sometimes I think they added just a few too many adjectives in their attempt to make it fitting for the period-- in the scene where Jane and Tom meet in the woods, Jane seems to have swallowed a dictionary, as Mrs. Patmore would say. Also there is a distinct overuse of the word 'vastly'-- it seems to be everyone's favorite word. Especially in the scene where Jane is reading to her family and Tom first arrives; I think they use it about four times. Vastly this, vastly that. "Green velvet coat-- vastly fashionable."
The ball scene at Lady Gresham's is one of my very favorites. First of all, the music is hauntingly gorgeous, the costumes are scrumptious, and I love love LOVE this dance. Possibly my favorite part in the whole movie is when Jane starts dancing with Mr. Wisley, and then suddenly Tom is there dancing with her, wearing that adorable smirk of his. It's soooooooo romantic. :-)
Speaking of romantic....
Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy are just so epic together. Jane and Tom are one of the most romantic doomed couples I've ever seen. Normally doomed couples get on my nerves (like Rose and Jack in Titanic...cough, cough), but Jane and Tom don't. I'm not saying there's nothing melodramatic about their relationship; quite the contrary, it's VERY melodramatic. But not in a way that it's annoying-- I want them to be able to be together and live happily ever after, and yet it's not such a terrible disappointment when they don't. I'm probably not making a lick of sense, am I? Well, suffice to say that I love these two, 'kay?
This movie doesn't have a happy ending. Why are we not surprised. ;-P As most of us know, Jane Austen never marries, and Tom goes back to Ireland, marries someone else, and becomes a very prominent attorney. (And he names his eldest daughter Jane. SOB.) But even though Jane and Tom don't end up together and the ending is tragic, it's also beautiful. I love the way it ends with Jane reading Pride and Prejudice, and then everyone claps, and THEY LOOK AT EACH OTHER and time stands still and the universe stops.....
Also I think they did a real good job of making the actors look old without making them look artificial. Actually I think James McAvoy almost looks more handsome with gray hair and sideburns. ;-P
As far as content (a word which here means anything inappropriate), there really isn't much to worry about in Becoming Jane. There is some language, but nothing shocking and it's not very frequent-- just the usual of what is to be expected in movies about this period. There's also one brief scene where Tom and Henry go swimming, but that can easily be avoided by turning one's head away, and it's pretty easy to see coming.
The soundtrack of Becoming Jane is simply gorgeous. It used to be one of my favorite soundtracks, and I still love listening to it. The music is composed by Adrian Johnston, the same composer who did the music to Our Mutual Friend (1998). Here's one of my favorite tracks, called 'A Last Reading'.
There are so many gorgeous trailers for this movie, so here's one of them:
So this isn't the best period drama I've ever seen, and if you're looking for an accurate depiction of Jane Austen's young life, you'll probably be disappointed. But it's a beautiful movie and a very romantic story, with excellent acting and gorgeous music, and I'm very fond of it. :-)
"Will all your stories have happy endings?"
"My characters will have, after a little bit of trouble, all that they desire."