Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Another nice review from New Zealand

The following is a review from Times New Zealand (!) with a four-star credit for Becoming Jane by Barbara Weil. Short, but nice.

Becoming Jane

IF your partner or whatever is a SNAG it would be a grave error to take him to see Becoming Jane.

It’s not exactly a chick movie in the usual sense, but it’s more likely to attract women, especially avid readers of Jane Austen. In 1795 Britain was class obsessed. One never never married for love or affection (although it was vaguely desirable)—one married for money and a position in society.

Twenty-year-old Jane lives with her family in a country parsonage (which these days would be described as a manor house). Her father (Cromwell) is the vicar who preaches on Sundays on the duty of women in society. The mother (Walters), played with her usual panache is more tolerant, or at least as far as she can be in the confines of the late 18th Century.

Then there is Lady Gresham (Smith) who has eyes on Jane as a marriage prospect for her rich but bumbling nephew. Although Smith, all in grey with a large bonnet only makes a few appearances in Becoming Jane she dominates the screen when she’s there.

The clumsy nephew has no appeal for the very independent Jane who spends most of her time writing, making lots of ink blots) and playing the piano (very loudly—a sign of frustration perhaps). The last straw when the erstwhile suitor steps on Jane’s foot during a dance at the many parties held at the vicarage.

Lady Gresham remonstrates with Jane, telling her that nephew may be her last chance for marriage. “Do you want to end up an old maid scribbling your life away?”

In this fictionalised biography Jane has already met the love of her life, an impoverished Irish lawyer Tom Lefroy (McAvoy, playing a much more sympathetic role than he did as the ambitious doctor in The Last King of Scotland). Their relationship is a bit frosty at first. Tom cannot understand Jane’s obsession with writing, warning her that she must experience ‘life’ before she can write about it.

In an inspired gesture he presents Jane with a copy of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. This inspires Jane’s novel writing career with books that still enthral legions of dedicated fans.

There’s not much more to say about this film. It is beautifully presented, the casting is inspirational and the scenery stunning. Recommended (but not for action men).

– Barbara Weil

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