Anne Hathaway takes on Jane Austen and James McAvoy stars in his second period piece of 2007 in Becoming Jane, a harmless Shakespeare in Love wannabe.
Becoming Jane, as you might have surmised, is a PG-rated drama about how Jane Austen became the writer all women love and all guys love to hate. Hathaway plays the rebellious woman from the Victorian era who has to come to terms with - or defy - the fact that women aren't meant to think, but instead just look pretty, socialize and serve their husbands. Her devotions are questioned, however, when she meets a dashing young man (McAvoy, from Atonement) from the city. The story influences her in the creations of some of her famous novels.
As you might expect, Becoming Jane is a lot like Shakespeare in Love, only not nearly as complicated, interesting or romantic. Becoming Jane looks and feels like countless other Victorian-era stories, and that's not a compliment. In a day and age where Joe Wright is directed to wonderful adaptations of Pride & Prejudice, director Julian Jarrold has created an uninspiring tale that breaks no new boundaries, offers an unoriginal romance and is about as memorable as my dinner two weeks ago come Monday.
Becoming Jane is a decent movie, and fans who gobble up everything Austen will find some enjoyment in the movie. It has its moments, and the two leads are decent enough. Hathaway continues to skirt on advancing her career (the closest she came was her surprisingly adult role in Brokeback Mountain a few years back), but her decision to play it safe here is uninspiring. Still, for what it's worth, she does a pretty good job.
Becoming Jane would have benefited from a wittier screenplay that gave Hathaway more depth to her character, and a more intricate story that makes more obvious references to characters in her books. The creators had to know this film was going to be compared to Shakespeare in Love one way or another, and even if that is an unfair comparison, it comes off as looking very dull nonetheless. For a PG-rated drama, Becoming Jane is harmless, but I would have liked to see something that stepped out of the box just a little.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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