Monday, 20 August 2007

Like an Austen novel, 'Jane' touches the heart

After reading several harsh comments on Becoming Jane, it's very nice to read a review from someone who understood that the movie was not a biopic, and it was a homage to Jane Austen's life and novel. So, here's the excerpt of a review by Donald Munro of Fresnobee.com; the entire review can be found in this link.

Like an Austen novel, 'Jane' touches the heart

Into the stomp and clatter of the summer movie season comes a tender little film that curls up in your heart. "Becoming Jane," a dramatization of the life of Jane Austen, presents a thoughtful Anne Hathaway as the title character. Though its story in some ways resembles the plot of -- you guessed it -- a Jane Austen novel, there's something refreshingly spare and rough-hewn about this big-screen experience. As a die-hard Austen fan, I was captivated, but I suspect that even the most casual admirer of "Pride and Prejudice" could find plenty to love.

Much of the film's success has to do with Hathaway and a sterling cast of beloved actors -- Julie Walters as Jane's mother, James Cromwell as her father, Maggie Smith as the snooty old biddy who trumpets her pedigree over all -- that never overwhelms the delicate material.

Hathaway, in particular, is radiant without shining too brightly, if that's possible. The last thing we needed in the story of Austen's life was movie-star glamour. Granted, Hathaway can mesmerize the camera. But she seems to realize that Austen was not an Elizabeth Bennett -- the gorgeous if diffident "Pride and Prejudice" heroine -- at least not in any way but her own mind.

...

In "Becoming Jane," we trace the story of a tenuous love affair between Jane and the dashing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). Most of this is conjecture, of course. There are no archived MySpace pages from the 18th century to measure their interactions, no tabloid headlines, no tell-all autobiography. Just several letters from Austen to her sister mentioning his name. Could Austen's infatuation been as fully realized as shown in the movie? Perhaps. Or it could be that it was little more than a crush from afar.

It doesn't really matter, though, because we aren't dealing with straight biography here but more of an impressionistic spattering of a life. What "Becoming Jane" does so eloquently is weave tidbits of her novels into the author's story. Thus her mother reminds us of the blustery Mrs. Bennett, her clergyman father the kindly Mr. Bennett. Maggie Smith's character could be a dead ringer for Lady Catherine. Jane's relationship with her sister evokes the fierce sibling bond depicted in several of her novels.

...

The best part while watching "Becoming Jane" is thinking that this sweet, mild- mannered yet sharp-tongued woman will go on to achieve lasting fame. In the scene of the inevitable country dance -- filmed with a welcome homespun simplicity -- she doesn't stand out in the crowd. But it is she who will be remembered, whose words will be read and treasured, whose stories will inspire beautiful movies of loss and love. It's nice that the big-screen imagining of her life does her such justice.

Pic: Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) carrying Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway), from the U.S. Official Site of 'Becoming Jane'

8 comments:

Michelle said...

Becoming Jane reviews:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/movies/reviews/4990504.html

http://www.interbridge.com/jamessanford/2007/becomingjane.html - (I especially love the final sentence!)

http://www.totalfilm.com/cinema_reviews/becoming_jane - Total Film gave it 4/4 stars. I don't think much of the review, but I had to include it because of my sheer INCREDULITY at this statement:

"...just as Laurence Fox’s straight arrow could be a blueprint for P&P’s awkwardly undemonstrative Darcy."

!!! Well, THAT'S a new revelation!

http://www.mysanantonio.com/entertainment/columnists/lratliff/stories/MYSA081007.WK.becomingjane.a316b4.html

- "Think of this scenario as a smart, witty, well-acted romance novel that has sprung to life on the big screen with some restraint and a decent amount of dignity."

- "A decent amount of dignity" - I love that, and couldn't agree more.


http://www.laweekly.com/film+tv/film/becoming-jane-romp-and-circumstance/16951/ <- I didn't think much of this review, but enjoyed several quotes, and wondered about one statement:

"...and an eleventh-hour turnaround that, in the finest Austen tradition, puts good behavior before happily ever after."

"...But two centuries after her death, Austen’s most potent theme —unavailable men, and the women who love them — continues to speak to women around the world, whether they’ve read her directly or through the romance novels (and, yes, self-help manuals) she inspired. This may be why, to the evident disgust of the manly critic sitting next to me, I wept like a baby when love lay bleeding on the ground."

And this is what I wondered about:

"Though at least two reputable historians have stepped up and called their brief encounter a full-blown amour fou, next to nothing is known about what actually passed between Austen and Lefroy, beyond a few admiring sentences in a letter she wrote to her beloved sister Cassandra."

Jon Spence - is the other Radovici? I'm not sure how well-known she was... I believe injured pride (perhaps? family pride?) covered up a lot of Jane's story - after all, it is not that difficult to do.

Michelle said...

"The best part while watching "Becoming Jane" is thinking that this sweet, mild- mannered yet sharp-tongued woman will go on to achieve lasting fame. In the scene of the inevitable country dance -- filmed with a welcome homespun simplicity -- she doesn't stand out in the crowd. But it is she who will be remembered, whose words will be read and treasured, whose stories will inspire beautiful movies of loss and love. It's nice that the big-screen imagining of her life does her such justice."

YES YES YES!!! Thank you Icha for discovering this review. The last paragraph is PERFECT. Absolutely perfect.

The irony of the spirit of the tale is deeply affecting - JA, judged "too poor", and therefore an inappropriate choice, but 200 years later she is the most beloved, famous, immortalised of them all.

I adored Radovici's recognition that TL & JA would have thrilled to have discovered each other amongst the mediocrity around them. The spark of brilliance (for they both achieved greatly in life) attracted instantly ... it is rare to find someone in life who you truly understand. Ok, I am rambling. But, it is deeply touching. :)

There were some decisions on part of the writers/director in BJ that I didn't like, but accepted on the grounds of screenwriting, but there were some ideas/scenes that I think should have been changed: particularly the mirroring use of SCENES from P&P (the characters I didn't mind so much), and the weak link of the Judge/Suitor Letter - it SHOULD have been family involvement that created the conflict.

Despite this, I LOVE the film, wholly and completely. It is the most moving and emotionally engaging film, on many different levels.

I am usually a stickler for faithfulness to a story (ie: I hate P&P 2005), but more important is faithfulness to the SPIRIT of the story. I think Becoming Jane captured that essence of spirit.

I don't mind that they didn't use all of the "facts" from Jane's life - yes, it would have made a different film, but the essence of what they DID create is beautiful. I don't buy that the tagline that "their love story was her greatest inspiration" (although it is excellent for their marketing campaign/target, and IS very romantic), but I do believe that she drew on her hearts' inmost emotions, just as all writers borrow from their emotions, experiences, and the world around them.

The theme that 'the good do not always get all they deserve' affected me, but the most profound impact was that of knowing Jane's work and then reflecting deeply on her life - that she, and so many women of the period did NOT have what the heroines of her world did (and that life was controlled by so many external factors). The idea that Jane's privatest joys and sorrows - words, places, items - things that evoked emotions and held memories (eg, Mulberry Tree in S&S?) were tucked away, never to be forgotten in her novels is magic. Pure magic. And knowing that Tom Lefroy possibly READ these very novels and pages ... well, "be still my heart"! Team all this with my firm agreement with Radovici that pride concealed a lot, and I am sold…

Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen lived, shared a bond, and the deeper discovery of that bond and attachment is fascinating. It’s so much richer as it is, private and concealed.

- Sorry, this was longer than I intended!

Icha said...

LOL! No worries, mate, I love reading your reviews! You read more of those books you just bought and you will be able to contribute some articles here. Granted, we will be happy for those articles!

"Though at least two reputable historians have stepped up and called their brief encounter a full-blown amour fou, next to nothing is known about what actually passed between Austen and Lefroy, beyond a few admiring sentences in a letter she wrote to her beloved sister Cassandra."

Jon Spence - is the other Radovici? I'm not sure how well-known she was... I believe injured pride (perhaps? family pride?) covered up a lot of Jane's story - after all, it is not that difficult to do.


No, that would be Claire Tomalin (Jane Austen: a Life, 2000). Radovici's book is sadly not well-acknowledged. I truly think she deserves more recognition, though.

"...just as Laurence Fox’s straight arrow could be a blueprint for P&P’s awkwardly undemonstrative Darcy."

!!! Well, THAT'S a new revelation!


LOL! That's soooo funny! Mr. Wisley as Mr. Darcy! Never thought of that!

This may be why, to the evident disgust of the manly critic sitting next to me, I wept like a baby when love lay bleeding on the ground.

I could kiss the writer :-D

Luckily, I did not sit next to a jerk when I wailed as Jane left Tom. Ooohh... now I wanna cry again...

Icha said...

it is rare to find someone in life who you truly understand.

Indeed. ‘Persuasion’, chapter 8:

There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved...

Says it all... sobs!

There were some decisions on part of the writers/director in BJ that I didn't like, but accepted on the grounds of screenwriting, but there were some ideas/scenes that I think should have been changed: particularly the mirroring use of SCENES from P&P (the characters I didn't mind so much), and the weak link of the Judge/Suitor Letter - it SHOULD have been family involvement that created the conflict.

I consent. The letter gave us a rather funny scene between Jane and Warren, though, also Tom's anger towards his uncle (A treasure!). But I wish Mrs. Anne Lefroy would play more role...

But that did not reduce my love for BJ either! ^_^

I think Becoming Jane captured that essence of spirit.

Indeed!

Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen lived, shared a bond, and the deeper discovery of that bond and attachment is fascinating. It’s so much richer as it is, private and concealed.

Particularly after learning of Anthony Lefroy's marriage in 1798 that very likely forced Tom to make the faithful decision to leave Jane. Rachel is right all along: Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy is THE ultimate love story of the period drama. Or is it the entire drama?
It is so real now, I can touch it with my hands.

Rachel said...

Wow, thanks Michelle. I always look forward to reading your comments as you state so much of what I think.
I think that your acknowledgement that Becoming Jane captured the essence of spirit is so very true. All of us here are spirited individuals and that is what makes this journey into Jane's world so enjoyable and special.
I look forward to your articles on the blog too Michelle!

Michelle said...

Wow, thank you!!! It is so special (& rare) to be able to share thoughts with like-minded people. This blog has made me think about many things that I probably wouldn't have stopped to think about before... slowing down from the frantic pace of life to reflect more.

And is an absolute treat to check in during the day and find new discoveries to enjoy! Absolutely fantastic. Thank you, Icha, Rachel & Linda!

PS: I will email Icha a list of my recent book purchases, all recommended by Arnie (+ two from your list). ;)

PS2: Thanks for clearing up the Tomalin ref, Icha. Do you recommend the book?

Take care!

Michelle said...

PS: I just remembered what I forgot when I was running out the door...

There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved...

This is one of the best quotes from Persuasion! It is perfect. It triggered a memory of The Lake House, which I noticed you have on your fav movie list, Icha. It's such a gorgeous, sweetly sad movie, isn't it? (Sorry to go O/T, I do have a point!) I loved the use of the above quote from Persuasion, and the mirroring of theme and ideas throughout LH.
:)

Icha said...

You're welcome, Michelle! Nice to have you here! And yes... I have to admit that I'm addicted to blogging this site now... my bad :-D

And you might think of me weird by saying this, but although Rachel's and Linda's helps (and yours Michelle, and Kari &c) are so tremendous for this blog, I cannot help thinking that Jane and Tom also approve of this blog (yes, that's present tense ^_^) for this blog would not be able to collect so many new info had it not because of their blessings. If you know what I mean...

Oh, Tomalin: yes, very recommended. Lots of interesting facts there to read.

And The Lake House. Ahhh... :-D

I have to admit that it was the first time I heard of that quote, for I was not a JA fan yet when I saw Lake House for the first time (hand/face!). So, it can be said that Lake House was the movie that took me to Jane... the first time I knew that Anne Hathaway (my fave movie star) was going to play as Jane Austen, I knew I had to see the movie. And I never regretted it ever since...