Becoming Jane

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Review byMatthew Turner7/03/2007

Two out of Five stars

Something of a disappointment, thanks to some dreary photography and a boring, unimaginative script that completely wastes a talented supporting cast.

What's it all about?
Anne Hathaway sports a passable English accent to play aspiring author Jane Austen, whose parents (Julie Walters and James Cromwell) want her to marry a wealthy husband, as is the fashion in late 19th century England. However, Jane has her own ideas, rejecting the nephew (Laurence Fox) of wealthy Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith) and falling instead for charming Irish rogue Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).

Unfortunately, several obstacles stand in the way of Tom and Jane's happiness, not least of which is that he's penniless and in constant danger of being cut off by his wealthy relatives (Ian Richardson in his last screen role), thanks to his penchant for booze and bare-knuckle fighting. But at least their love affair gives Jane plenty to write about.

The Bad
Even allowing for the strongly fictionalised elements, this should have been a lot of fun, with witty references to Austen's as-yet-unwritten novels and loads of sparkling dialogue. Unfortunately, the script fails to include any of Austen's celebrated wit and the plot itself is extremely dull.

The pedestrian dialogue isn't helped by the fact that the film is shot in such a depressingly dismal style – there isn't a single brightly lit scene and the overall effect is to induce the cinematic equivalent of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The Worst
Hathaway and McAvoy do their best under the circumstances and at least there's a certain amount of chemistry between them. However, the script's biggest crime is that it completely wastes a talented supporting cast that includes Julie Walters, James Cromwell and Maggie Smith, each of whom are given next to nothing to do.

Worth seeing?
Becoming Jane would have worked better as either a straight-up biopic or as a witty literary fantasy but instead it's something of a wasted opportunity, entirely devoid of life, wit and colour.

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Content updated: 16/12/2019 05:04

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