Friday, March 09, 2007

BECOMING JANE - lacking in wit, passion or style

Affection is desirable. Money is absolutely indispensable!BECOMING JANE is a flimsy little costume drama that shamelessly cashes in on the Jane Austen fanbase and has far too little wit, character, plot, intelligence or style to sustain its 120 minute run time.

I say this as an impartial observer. I am not one of those rabid Austen fans who resents an American lead actress (Anne Hathaway - accent and performance both fine by me.) I am rather intrigued by the idea that Austen's novels found a base in a thwarted love affair with a gallant but impoverished Irish lawyer (James McAvoy in yet another charming role). I have also read and re-read all Austen's novels - an essential prerequisite to watchng this film. For BECOMING JANE panders to people like me who can recognise protypes of famous characters in Jane's family, friends and suitors. But after a while this becomes a rather lazy means to engage our interest and I despair for any viewers who don't even have the background hum of recognition to fall back on.

We watch a young Jane feel affronted by an arrogant Lefroy at a ball, before falling in love with the one person who takes her writing seriously. The obstacle to the match is their poverty: each must marry well. The screenwriters - Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams - try to conjure a little excitement with an elopment - but it feels like what it is: padding.

In the end, we are left with the fact that Jane Austen wrote a couple of marvellous novels, but lived a rather quiet life that was clearly insufficient in excitement to fill a film. Worst of all, the simplistic structure and banal dialogue of BECOMING JANE look all the more mediocre when the film is constantly referring our attention to the superior art of Austen.

BECOMING JANE is on release in the UK. It opens in Australia on March 29th, in Sweden on March 30th, in Finland on June 29th, in the US on August 3rd, in the Netherlands on August 16th, in Norway on September 14th, in Germany on October 4th and in Spain on October 19th.

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