BECOMING JANE (Alliance, 2007) D: Julian Jarrold, w/ Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
The people who made Becoming Jane are very keen on Jane Austen and spend a good deal of time in the making-of doc telling us about period recreation and bits lifted from the celebrated novels to shape this film about a romance the real Austen probably never had. It’s fun, but you don’t need to know the first thing about Austen to enjoy this on its own merits.
Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) makes a credible Austen, sharp-minded and tart-tongued. She and James McAvoy, as the penniless young lawyer she falls for, have a fine time with their verbal jousting. So do Maggie Smith and Ian Richardson as the obligatory disapproving establishment figures.
Sadly, a brisk beginning is followed by a midpoint sag, and the film never quite recovers. Director Julian Jarrold tries hard, but his conventionally handsome visuals are too tied to his television roots, and the story is too constricted by the real Austen’s life.
EXTRAS Director, writer, producer commentary, making-of doc, pop-up facts track. Widescreen. English, French audio and subtitles.