BECOMING JANE (Julian Jarrold). 120 minutes. Opens Friday (August 3). Rating: NN
Becoming Jane is a beautifully costumed insult to the writer's imagination. It argues that Jane Austen ( Anne Hathaway ) needed to find love, then lose it, to pen her Regency-era chick lit novels.
She's got suitors aplenty, but the object of her affections is Tom Lefroy ( James McAvoy ), an Irish lawyer from London who lives a dissolute life until he's exiled to the provinces by his stern, judgmental uncle ( Ian Richardson ), who holds the family purse strings.
Fun with Tom and Jane means discussing passages from Tom Jones, which obviously got the hormones raging back in the 18th century.
As for Jane, not only can she write, but she also wields a mean cricket bat! Who knew?
The script is both patronizing in its obviousness and thin in its character development. A few scenes stand out, like the one in which Jane visits the Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe (a chillingly neurotic Helen McCrory ) and learns about the costs exacted by being both a writer and a wife.
Maggie Smith plays her umpteenth pinched period dame with suitable hauteur, and McAvoy delivers yet another flawed character with intensity, but Julie Walters and James Cromwell are wasted as Jane's parents.
As for Miss Alabaster Skin, Hathaway, despite that literary name, seems out of place, as if she's wandered in from a shopping spree at Malabar.
At two hours, Becoming Jane will quickly have you Becoming Bored.