Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A literary tale

I had the opportunity this week to see Becoming Jane, starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. I found myself enjoying it quite a bit.

The story purportedly tells of an early, real-life romantic interest of Jane Austen, the author of such English classics as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. It reminded me a bit of Shakespeare in Love, as the story tried to illustrate how Austen's personal experiences might have influenced her later works, giving her a rich human tapestry from which to draw her characters. The greater part of the film's story is unsupported by facts (we know very little of Austen's personal life), but presents a picture of what could have happened to a young Jane Austen.

Basically, Austen (Hathaway) meets Tom Lefroy (McAvoy), who is studying to be a barrister in London. (He's been sentenced to a month or two in the country by his rich uncle - on whom he depends - for his misbehavior in town.) Of course, the two dislike each other at first, and find only upon further conversation that they have a certain chemistry. It isn't long before Austen is kissing LeFroy with passion, asking him afterwards if she did it well.

Of course, complications ensue. Austen is being pressured by her broke family to make a good match, and she has an offer of marriage from a wealthy local young man (and his querulous aunt, played by Maggie Smith). LeFroy hasn't a penny to his name, and he has his own immediate family back in Ireland depending upon him for support. You can see that this doesn't bode well for the two young lovers.

Though the movie can be uneven at times, James McAvoy is something to see in this film. I'd never seen him before in an anchor role, and (to be honest) I'd wondered in the past what all the fuss was about him. I don't think he is particularly good looking, he didn't seem super-charismatic in the interviews I'd read, etc. But, then again, I hadn't REALLY seen him act. He is wonderful. By the end of the movie, the viewer is in love with LeFroy more than Austen.

An inoffensive movie. Though certainly not a must-see, it's worth watching for McAvoy's performance. Based on this film, it looks like I should have seen Atonement back when it came out. That is going on my "see soon" list now.

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