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The author Jane Austen
Refused to get lost in
Romance of her own,
Though for that she’s well-known.

(Here’s the full review for the poem I wrote a couple days ago. Since I already have my NaPoWriMo poem for today with X-Men: Days of Future Past, I thought today would be a good day to finish this one.)

Becoming Jane follows in the footsteps of biopics like Cross Creek and Shakespeare in Love in asking, “Why remake an author’s work when you can depict the supposed events in their life that inspired that work?” Anne Hathaway is a lovely Jane Austen, and James McAvoy is a debonair Tom LeFroy, the brief acquaintance from Austen’s life whom the film expands into a full-on would-be love interest. Even if their romance isn’t entirely true to history, Hathaway and McAvoy have all the chemistry they need to make for a heart-throbbing Janeite passion.

It’s a film that seems to have everything going for it: an evocative score, ravishing costumes and production design, compelling cinematography with vivid views of nature and framed scenes shot through corridors, and a cast of renowned thespians, such as James Cromwell, Julie Walters, and Maggie Smith. Its dialogue even bears the eloquent wit and civilized sauciness of Austen’s work, and therein lies an issue for me. As elegant as Austen’s writing is (“accomplished” as McAvoy’s LeFroy judges), its flowery language isn’t as appealing to a modern audience as it once was. Certainly there are plenty of Janeites out there who still swoon over her sophisticated style, and it isn’t as pretentious as The Philadelphia Story, but it takes more effort than usual sometimes to decipher the meaning behind her carefully constructed prose. Perhaps that’s the fault of me, too low-brow to keep up with her urbane language, but I doubt I’m the only one. I keep thinking of Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, rolling his eyes as he slogs through Pride and Prejudice.

Like that film, Becoming Jane borrows the initial setup of her most famous novel, with Jane becoming instantly prejudiced against LeFroy’s arrogance toward her. Scenes involving Jane’s disagreeing parents and a country dance in which she and LeFroy trade polished barbs will certainly remind viewers of past productions of Pride and Prejudice. Yet since Austen is known to have never married, it’s clear that any attraction between the two is doomed to failure; herein lies the film’s uniqueness among Austen-like works. While all of her novels conclude basically with happy endings, such marital felicity was not to be hers, and the film’s final moments highlight the bittersweet sentiments of what-might-have-been. My VC agrees with me about the ornate dialogue but was still brought to tears by the denouement. It’s not necessarily a tragedy, since female independence has its last word over societal convention even if it can’t defy it, but Becoming Jane has its foundation in the real world, a world of desirable affection and indispensable money, a world meant to be perfected by a sadder but wiser novelist.

Best line: (Mrs. Austen, when Jane starts writing instead of attending to a suitor) “Jane!”
(Lady Gresham) “What is she doing?”
(Mr. Wisley, the suitor) “Writing.”
(Lady Gresham) “Can anything be done about it?”
Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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