Saturday, August 4, 2007

Becoming Jane...Or, First Impressions of a New Film

Well, I caved. I couldn't take the suspense anymore. I had to go see the new fine arts film "Becoming Jane"--a purported biopic of Jane Austen's life. Or, more specifically, of her love life.

Now, I should clarify my position upon entering the movie theater. Everyone who knows me--and I mean this literally: EVERYONE--knows what an Austen fan I am. Some would insist I'm freakish in my devotion to the witty author of Pride and Prejudice. I neither confirm nor deny this claim, though I will point (silently, but with raised brows) to the quote underneath my photo on this page (look left) and will mention that the full title of my Golden Heart winning manuscript is...wait for it...According To Jane: A Novel About Pride, Prejudice & the Pursuit of the Perfect Guy.

Yeah. The prosecution rests its case.

So, let's just say I wasn't indifferent to the content of this new picture. I watched it with an intensity befitting an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (which I am). And I enjoyed it, as one enjoys a film on a slightly soggy summer afternoon in an overly air conditioned theater surrounded by older ladies chomping loudly on their buttered popcorn and with the fervor of toddlers afraid their treat tubs might be snatched from them by an evil usher at any moment.

Ambiance issues aside, it wasn't a bad movie. Anne Hathaway is just so fun, so lovely, and her English accent was, well...nearly believable. Maggie Smith made a notable, if somewhat predictable appearance. And the men cast in the film's important roles were also interesting to watch onscreen, a couple of whom were especially compelling. (Who, might I ask, was that actor playing Jane's brother "Henry"? What a hottie.) The plot itself was, by turns, entertaining and filled with well-directed cinematic moments, which were dramatized to an utterly appropriate soundtrack. And, despite the odd tendency to have Jane's most obnoxious P&P book characters scripted as direct derivatives of her "real" family members, many of the family's professional details fit with what's known about her background. So, you'd think I'd be essentially pleased, and yet...

Yet, the problem for me was obvious. It didn't rest with the film itself, which was a lovely work of fiction (my point, actually), but with its subversive message: That this picture in any way depicted the true life of Jane Austen. Because, while I know the writers took heavy creative license with her "biography" (due largely to the fact that so much of Jane's real life is unknown but her book characters are so familiar and beloved), people unfamiliar with Jane's letters and her more-accurately recorded history could easily be persuaded to believe these events are true representations of what really occurred in her love life. And while there is some truth to it, the overall impression given by the film was, I strongly believe, a false one.

So, I'm a bit unsettled tonight. And, though not at all craving popcorn or glacial air, I kind of wish I could return to that theater and watch this movie again--but played out this time to my specifications, ones in sync with my vision of Jane's life--based on what is surely an equally inaccurate picture of her daily existence and her most cherished romantic relationships.


I guess it's true. We all just really want to direct.


Maureen McGowan said...

Ah, Hollywood. I'll let yo know what I think when I finally get around to seeing it... probably this week.

I looked up your hottie. It's Joe Anderson (VI). The sixth???

I didn't recognize much from his list of films, but he's in Across the Universe which is coming out this fall and I can't wait to see.

Great review, Marilyn!

L.A. Mitchell said...

What an expert you are, Marilyn. I thought of you today while I was reading the extensive review on our Sunday paper. I loved your insights much, much better :)

Always love reading your posts...L

Marilyn Brant said...

Maureen and L.A.--thank you both for stopping by and reading my "review" (such that it is :-). I was afraid of revealing too many plot spoilers to do a really decent job of describing the film but, oh, I could go on for pages offline! (Yes, I know I'm a geek.)

BTW, thanks for looking up the hottie, Maureen!! Joe Anderson, with or without the numerals, is absolutely gorgeous. Although he's probably only 20 or something, right? (Sigh...)

Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

Oh, I want to see this SOOOO BADDDLLYYYY!!!!! Thanks for the review babe...will definitely check it out this weekend.

I am a huge JA fan (not as huge at you though!!!) and I shrieked in the theatre when I first saw the trailer.

My husband thinks I'm crazy.