Becoming Jane
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (3rd March 2008).
The Film

I have no idea who Jane Austen is. I’m not saying that in some sort of “I don’t know the real Jane Austen” way, but in all honesty, going into this film, I couldn’t remember who she was. I knew she wrote some big novel or two, but I couldn’t remember what it was. This is the sort of information I had going into "Becoming Jane", a movie that showcases the early life of the famous author (played by Anne Hathaway). It is perhaps that in my lack of information on the film’s subject that my interest could never be held.
This movie is a biopic. It is telling a true story about a real person. However, unlike most biopics, there is so real set up as to who Jane Austen is. I feel like the film assumes anyone watching "Becoming Jane" is already schooled in the author’s works, but for a literarily ignorant person such as myself, I felt like I was left out of the loop.
Many characters are introduced to the audience, such as Jane’s sister (Anna Maxwell Martin), her mom (Julie Waters), her dad (James Cromwell), and other socialite friends. Because none of these characters are given context, I had a hard time keeping track of who was related to who, who was in love with who, and so on and so forth. I swear by the end of this movie someone married their cousin, but I can’t be sure.
The movie’s focus is on Austen’s love affair with loser wanna-be-lawyer Tom LeFroy (James McAvoy). A big problem is that their relationship moves so fast, I wasn’t sure where they really stood. In a matter of minutes, they hate each other, fall in love, break up, get back together, break up again, and my head is left spinning. This relationship isn’t helped by the fact that it feels conventional. I know this is a true story, but that doesn’t stop the fact that such a love story has been made into a movie before. Two people who seem horrible for each other fall in love, and the world is against them. This really is the basic premise for the movie, which includes ridiculous admissions of love that come out of nowhere, snarky remarks during a dance number, and other things you’ve already seen in other romantic comedies.
While the movie may feel empty to me, the outer shell is a thing of beauty. This movie excels in every technical aspect. Hathaway is fantastic as always, and McAvoy sold me on his performance. The costumes and sets were fantastic, making me completely believe this movie was taking place some time ago. The film’s greatest strength is in its direction by Julian Jarrold. Frequently during the film I was taken aback by some truly beautiful shots, ranging from amazing overheads to sudden switches to a well timed handy-cam-style shot. There is one scene in particular that got me, where Austen and LeFroy meet each other in a dance after having a bit of a spat. They don’t say anything to each other, but just the looks they give one another combined with the shots made me know exactly how the two felt about each other. I just wish this sort of minimalism held up in the rest of the movie, which it really didn’t.
Maybe my enjoyment for this movie would have been increased with a more intimate knowledge of the title character’s works. Maybe I can recommend this movie to Austen aficionados. However, if you are like me, and are going in blind, I can only recommend this movie in regards to the fantastic directing, costumes, score, and acting, but not from a narrative aspect in the slightest.

Video

"Becoming Jane" is offered in an impressive anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that seems to preserve many of the film’s wonderful colors. This is crucial for a movie that relies so heavily on the visual aspects of the picture.

Audio

The film is offered in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and a Spanish language track is also available in Dolby Digital 5.1. A talky picture like this doesn’t need to utilize the 5.1 sound, but whenever a scene took place outside, I was impressed with the multitude of sounds happening all around the room. Also, there was nothing amazing about the dialogue, but it came out clear.
Optional subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista has included an audio commentary, a series of deleted scenes and a featurette as extras on this disc. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature length audio commentary with director Julian Jarrold, screenwriter Kevin Hood and producer Robert Bernstein. The track fits the film’s Victorian setting. It is very technical and humorless. Not to say that every commentary needs to be funny, but the three seem to take the film way too seriously. I guess it is hard to dock points on a commentary for being dry on a film about Jane Austen.

The disc also includes 13 deleted scenes. The scenes are very rough, with a boom-mic visible in many shots. They include:

- “Extended Church Scene” runs for 1 minute 30 seconds, in which Jane’s preacher father elaborates on what it means to be a woman.
- “Wisley’s First Proposal” runs for 1 minute 49 seconds in which Wisley (Laurence Fox) the awkward aristocrat attempts to woo Jane a bit earlier than in the film.
- “Henry Embarrasses Jane” runs for 31 seconds, in which Jane’s brother (Joe Anderson) makes an off-color remark.
- “Jane Writes to Cassandra” runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds, in which Jane writes to her sister about the racy book LeFroy gave to her.
- “Mrs. Austen Reprimands Jane” runs for 2 minutes 5 seconds, in which Jane’s mother chews her out for spending time with LeFroy.
- “Wisley Learns To Dance” runs for 34 seconds, in which the awkward aristocrat practices his dance moves in an empty room.
- “Jane Plots in the Rain” runs for 1 minute 16 seconds, in which Jane talks to her friend about how she can stay in contact with LeFroy.
- “Lady Gresham Invites Jane to Dinner” runs for 1 minute 46 seconds, in which Wisley’s mother (Maggie Smith) furthers her plot to get her son and Jane together.
- “Jane Learns of Tom’s Marriage” runs for 4 minutes 1 second, in which Jane’s learning of LeFroy’s engagement and Cassandra’s lamentations over her dead fiancé are extended.
- “Under a Rainy Tree” runs for 1 minute 45 seconds, in which Jane and her sister talk about their man-situation.
- “Mrs. LeFroy Comes to Tea” runs for 52 seconds, in which LeFroy’s mother meets with the Austen family.
- “George is Left Behind” runs for 1 minute 7 seconds, in which Jane’s deaf brother (Philip Culhane) sees her leave with LeFroy.
- “Extended Recital Scene” runs for 58 seconds, in which the film’s last performance receives more applause.

"Discovering the Real Jane Austen" is a featurette tha truns for 17 minutes, that shows both how the film was made, as well as a look at the film’s topic. This extra really helped me appreciate the film retrospectively, as it offered insight into the woman who I really knew nothing about.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Enchanted" which runs for 2 minutes 35 seconds.
- "Greek" which runs for 37 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 1 minute 51 seconds.
- "Wall-E" which runs for 1 minute 36 seconds.
- "Dan in Real Life" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: B

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.