Who Bought It? Megan!
Why? I had an unhealthy obsession with James McAvoy which started after I saw him in “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Being sexually attracted to a half-goat man is pretty heavy, so I grabbed this one knowing he would play a full human and probably say romantic things.
Non-Buyer’s response: Spoiler alert. This movie sucked.
Max is wrong, but if I’m being honest I’m not sure how wrong he is. It’s been several days since we watched Becoming Jane and it has taken me this long to write a post because I was not sure if I would toss or keep this movie.
Becoming Jane is a bio-pic of a pre-fame Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and her romance with a young Irishman (James McAvoy). Set in 1795, the young Miss Austen dreams to “live by her pen” and marry for love (the shock, the horror!) Mama and Papa Austen (Julie Walters and James Cromwell, respectively and most admirably) are worried for her future and try to marry Jane to a well-off suitor.
But into Jane’s quiet life waltzs the roughishly handsome and devilishly charming Tom LeFroy (Mr. McAvoy, I’ve been waiting.) After some initial annoyance and disagreement, the two fall madly in love with each other but struggle to find their happily ever after, as LeFroy is broke and lives off his uncle who will not accept Jane’s lack of status and wealth as a contribution to the family. Sadness follows.
I do not believe in “spoiler alerts” when it comes to biopics. The information from this movie has been available for literal centuries so I feel no remorse if I let slip a couple details.
Things don’t go well. They try to elope, Jane realizes Tom has family he must provide for that will surely starve if his uncle cuts him off as he and Jane have very few prospects for financial gain. And neither of them feel they can accept their actions determining the fate of so many others. Devastated, but secure in their decision, they part ways and Austen remains a single woman for the rest of her life. Which I thought was pretty badass. She got to live one of her dreams, as she became a famous author.
And the epilogue really tugged at my heartstrings.
I thought the story was touching, the performances were beautiful and I’m always a sucker for a period piece, dreaming of those drafty houses and rolling meadows and no cell phones. It was so very pleasant.
Now all that being said this movie, as Austen’s writing, is drawn out, long, and occasionally seems a bit pointless. It’s slower than any of the movies we’ve watched so far, and since my go-to review has been that I could cut out 20 minutes you can only imagine what I could do with that one. But all of this aside, I’m still not sure how I feel about the movie because…
Max was a typical “dude” about it.
He fidgeted and sighed heavily and rolled his eyes every five minutes. I didn’t think he’d enjoy the movie per say but it seemed to downright offend him. Which effected my experience. Thinking back on it, I remember it more and more fondly (though that can be the case for many things. The most distance you have, the less the shit stinks.) But I can’t toss some good McAvoy romance moments because Max rolled his eyes a bunch, and I’d like to see if I enjoy the movie if I watch it alone, or with some girlfriends. So for now, it’ll stay in the collection.
Oh right and you see McAvoy’s butt. Yeah, I’ll keep it for the butt.
Let’s clear something up. I wasn’t offended by the movie, so much as I was offended by the overwrought way the characters said just about everything. Right off the bat, Hathaway performs some kind of letter she wrote to her sister’s fiancee about how great her sister was. Everyone was entranced. But it was exactly as you’d expect something written by “Jane-Austen-When-She-Was-Young-And-Nobody” to be: florid, long and dancing around a point. I guess in this aspect Jane, the overbearing wordiness of it all, mirrors the writing style of the real Jane Austen, so maybe there’s a meta-ness to the thing that made me hate this movie. But that doesn’t change how sleepy this whole thing made me feel.
It’s so freaking “by-the-numbers-period-piece.” You’ve got your love story between two people from different enough classes that it’s uncouth that they should marry (though it’s worth noting for all of you who aren’t landed gentry, that all of the people in this movie will appear to be degrees of rich+white, which they are), you’ve got an impressively large family and young, well to-do Brits just prancing around having a great time.
I don’t really have a ton to say. Becoming Jane bored me and surprised me in just two ways.
1) A movie about Jane Austen is somehow about her desire to marry a man rather than the writing she produced that changed the world.
2) SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS: The love story doesn’t end with our hero and heroine together.
BACK TO SPOILER FREE: Those two thoughts aside, all I could think was “Why am I supposed to care about this person? Just because you tell me she’s Jane Austen?” She doesn’t do anything to propel herself toward her goals (we don’t even see how she goes from “ahahahahah you think you can write? You’re a woman, stupid” to “you’re the Jane Austen? The novelist?”), she just pines away after James McAvoy all movie. Not that I can blame her.
Hard TOSS IT! from me on this one. Call me when they make a biopic about how Jane Austen even got her work published in such a patriarchal society.
And you can see James McAvoy’s butt any time you want on the Internet.
Verdict: Keep it (for now.)
Loved reading this – what a great idea for a site. I agree with both your verdicts. The film does ‘suck’, as Max puts it, but at the same time I love it because I’m a ‘sucker for a good period piece’ as Megan puts it. It is formulaic, although not as offensive as some. It clearly decided it was going to tell the story of Pride & Prejudice by other means. Yes, this was her first novel and her association with Tom Lefroy may have triggered this, I don’t know. As far as fact goes, the film embellishes this with dramatic license as it’s not even clear she had a relationship with the guy?! Max is totally right that it is galling that a film about Jane Austen ‘Becoming herself’ should in fact suggest that her blossoming and evolution as a writer is all down to a man! Given Austen’s contribution to English Literature and the fact she is considered the first feminist author by many, it’s no wonder her fans were up in arms about this movie. …. On the other hand, I also feel that it is well made, well-balanced (I don’t find it over long), well acted, has good cinematography, costumes and music. My view is that the worst a film can do is bore you and as it entertained me, that’s already a big plus point. Yes, the script is somewhat clunky (part of its ‘formulaic-ness’!), but it’s a lot better than some and, I think the chemistry between McAvoy and Hathaway is pretty damned good! They are both great actors in my view. I also think it is a better film than some of James’ others. I am, of course, partisan, as I am a massive McAvoy fan and so I’d have to hang on to this film for that reason alone. Worse than this, that bloody smile, which Megan hilariously attributes to being the cause of “the shit” is singularly responsible for upgrading my feelings towards James from dreamy to downright unhealthy! So, as that film started it all for me, I could never toss it out – or maybe I should?! (Oh but that smile melts me into a dribbling mess every time!). In fact, although I’d already seen it several times, I went out and bought the DVD as part of my McAvoy library (well, I ordered it online, to be fair). That’s it, really. I love your site and the way you write. It’s very entertaining!
The movie may be terrible or just OK, BUT I have to disagree with both of you about Jane Austen’s writing. She’s funny and has such sharp observations to make about the not so very wealthy folks she writes about. You might try reading Pride and Prejudice again if you haven’t read it. Max, you might think it’s a girl/woman book but as a writer you should appreciate it.
It’s the writer in me that DOESN’T like it. – Max