This isn’t the first time I’ve watched Becoming Jane and I’m probably likely to watch it again several times in the future. It’s a typical Austenesque period drama: a tangled love story, a bit of social satire, some humour and wit, beautiful cinematography. The casting was good: Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy did a great job. Period-drama lovers will not be disappointed.
You will, however, be mistaken if you expect this film to tell a true story of the life of Jane Austen. Although there was a real Tom LeFroy present at some point in Jane Austen’s life, there is little evidence to prove that anything of great significance existed between the two – at least not to the extent that this film suggests. Personally, I don’t believe Jane Austen was anything like how she is depicted in the film; I can’t imagine her being the romantic sort, having her heart broken and definitely not eloping with her lover. Becoming Jane is more like Pride and Prejudice 2 with Jane Austen taking a lead role in one of her own stories.
The film, then, is a wistful fantasy conjured up more for the entertainment of hopeless romantics rather than to satisfy a literary audience. And since I consider myself – occasionally – of the former as well as the latter, it’s a sweet film to watch on a lonely night with a big bar of chocolate. As long as I remind myself that this is not the real Jane Austen.
The film does highlight a number of the issues that might have affected Austen, especially on the subject of women without fortune who were required to marry well in order to secure their futures. The marriage and spinsterhood issues discussed in the film actually made me cringe a little as it reminded me, however vaguely, of the marriage-crisis suffered by Muslims in this day and age! In fact, Austen’s mother sounds like my own mother sometimes!!
As a side-note, as much as I like him, does anyone else think McAvoy looks like Smeagol at times??