August 2, 2007

First Impressions

I got to see a screening of Becoming Jane last night, and came home with very mixed emotions about it. I started out hopeful, thinking it might be a good, fun movie even if it wasn't quite Jane's life. And by the end, it had nearly won me over. But for most of the intervening hour and ten minutes, I was just uncomfortable. There was so much that didn't seem right either for Jane or for that era.

The movie feels to me like a blatant marketing attempt to get all those Jane Austen fans back into the theatre. They've taken elements of her stories--Mrs. Austen was more Mrs. Bennet than anything else, and Tom Lefroy is part Darcy (the bad part) and part Willoughby, and they've taken lines from the movies -- movies! -- which were not ever in the books to begin with. And they took much of the feel of the movie from the 2005 Focus Features Pride & Prejudice -- the one with Keira Knightley -- so there are plenty of barn animals.

Most of it just simply didn't ring true. Jane would never, ever have fallen for a guy like that. She valued character too much. She would never have run off with anyone. And as smart as they tried to make her, she was smarter than that. And was surrounded by a loving, intelligent family. Her father is one of my favorite characters in her life, but I really didn't like the portrayal of him. I liked Anna Maxwell Martin's Cassandra and I thought Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy did a good job with the script they were given ... I just really didn't like the script. (sigh.)

I would love to see a movie that more accurately tried to capture Jane's life. Perhaps the Miss Austen Regrets biopic that's coming from Masterpiece Theatre will be better. There are so many interesting stories in her life, it's a shame to make things up. But it takes an eye that can focus on the small things Jane wrote about, and make them compelling the way she did.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I get your feed at livejournal, came over from there.

I saw this movie in England two months ago and had a similar reaction - I hoped to enjoy it despite its inaccuracies, but was disappointed. What bugged me most was Tom's attitude that Jane couldn't be a good writer unless she learned more about "real life" and had experiences beyond her class and social circle. When of course, the genius of Austen was her razor-sharp perceptions of her own small world. And of course, her "irony"! Yeesh, I cringed to hear Anne Hathaway's weirdly meta critical defense her style.

Generally, my problem with the movie wasn't that it wasn't a true story - it was the story they created had none of Austen's wit or individual flare at all. It was just any bland writer's improbably love story.

8/02/2007 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Yes -- and she was exposed to many levels of society through her brothers and friends.

8/02/2007 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I did research on the movie. This is what I found, the movie was taken from what they found on Tom LeFroy and ran with it.
It was true but it wasn't.
There was more Tom LeFroy then we think.
My Godmother is a history buzz, she did a LOT of research on Jane Austen.
So she filled me in on what was true and what wasn't.

8/14/2007 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Cyberpenguin said...

I LOVE your blog! It's one of the best blogs I've read in a LONG while, by far.

Not only is the content of your blog more interesting than the majority of blogs out there, but you write superbly & communicate the essence of your thoughts in a pointed & concise manner.

I find that reading your posts frequently gives me that "a-ha" experience, which comes from recognizing certain truths in your words that resonate from deep within, that until now perhaps haven't yet been verbalized by myself or others, but that I certainly understand intuitively.

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9/03/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you!

9/04/2007 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lori, I'm in the process of starting my own movie-related blog and came across yours. I like your blog and the topic definitely interests me.

I agree with your comments about the movie. I too was hopeful about it before I see it because I'm a JA fan, but I wasn't impressed. Though it was an okay film overall, there are parts that didn't feel right. Anne Hathaway's loose British accent aside, her portrayal just wasn't how I imagined the real Jane would be. Yes, I too felt that Jane's way smarter than the film version, and when she suddenly kissed Tom I was flabbergasted. I don't think she would have lost control of her emotion in that way, no matter how enamored she was with him.

In any case, I don't think the movie is a failure. If it were a love story that had nothing to do with JA then it'd have worked better. Still, if it gets more people interested in her literary work then I guess that's a good thing.

By the way, I envy you for being able to devote a whole month to *study* Austen. Good for you, and please keep writing!

4/30/2008 09:57:00 AM  

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