This past weekend I saw Julian Jarrold‘s Becoming Jane, a fictionalized retelling of Jane Austen’s becoming a novelist. Here’s the trailer:
The movie stars Anne Hathaway as Austen and James McAvoy as the penniless man she falls in love with but, due to his penury, cannot marry. McAvoy’s Tom LeFroy is dependent on his uncle for an allowance. When his uncle demands that he marry well, LeFroy’s hope of marrying his true love, whom he’s recently met after being banished by said uncle to the deep countryside in punishment for his libertine activities in London, becomes impossible.
Meanwhile, every man in the country seems to fall in love with Jane, including the heir to Lady Gresham’s estate, Mr. Wisley, played by Laurence Fox. Lady Gresham is played by the incomparable Maggie Smith. Poor Jane must decide which beau to marry: the penniless LeFroy, the heir, or one of her other suitors.
The film also shows us Austen’s home life. Her impoverished parents, played by James Cromwell and Julie Walters, debate the roles of love and money in marriage while trying to make sure that their daughter marries as happily as possible. Her sister, Cassandra, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, is happily engaged to her fiance, who must make one last voyage abroad before he’s able to marry her. And the Austens’ cousin, Eliza De Feuillide, played by Lucy Cohu, a widowed emigrant from Revolutionary France, has the money to marry the man of her choice, which turns out to be the Austen’s younger son, Henry, played by the very handsome Joe Anderson.
I have to admit that I didn’t care much for this film. Julian Jarrold also directed Kinky Boots, a movie that I really enjoyed. So, I’m disappointed that I disliked this movie so much. But in this case, I think his direction was rather pedestrian. I didn’t feel like I was seeing anything new or even terribly interesting in this movie. The film that kept coming to mind as a comparison was Pride and Prejudice (2005) directed by Joe Wright. I especially liked Wright’s direction of that movie. A scene that stands out is when Elizabeth and Darcy are dancing together and all of the other dancers disappear, reflecting the couple’s amorous focus on one another. This movie could have used a little more of that romance.