When 20-year-old Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) meets up with the roguish Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), sparks begin to fly. Initially repelled by his arrogance, the emerging writer slowly realizes that she has finally found a man who appreciates her intellect as well as her beauty. As her parents (Julie Walters and James Cromwell) arrange a wealthy, aristocratic husband for her, Jane begins a clandestine romance with Lefroy. The young man proposes marriage, but his wealthy guardian, who holds his purse strings, disapproves of Jane’s outspoken manner and ambition to be a writer, and threatens to cut Tom off. In a world where marriage determines a woman’s fate, will they risk everything, including family and friends, for the sake of romance?
The wonderful surprise about the new Becoming Jane DVD, also available in Blu-Ray, is the intelligent commentary about the film between Director Julian Jarrold, Writer Kevin Hood, and Producer Robert Bernstein. I was able to activate the pop-up footnotes at the same time, doubling the annotations to this breezy movie about Jane Austen’s life. In addition, the author of Jane Austen for Dummies and past president of the Jane Austen Society of America, Joan Klingel Ray, contributes her insights to the bonus feature, ‘Discovering the Real Jane Austen.’ The combination of these added features, with their rich array of facts about Jane’s life and the regency era, greatly enriched my experience of this DVD. We find out, for example, that Anne Hathaway, a Vassar graduate, learned to play the piano for the role. During the opening scene when she wakes her family up, the piano did not work. We also learn that Tom and Jane’s elopement would have cost them approximately 10 pounds per person, or around £340 in today’s terms. They would also have had to tip the coachman and the guard. These small but intriguing bits of information kept my eyes glued to the screen for the next footnote balloon.
I was not an admirer of this film when it hit the theaters in the U.S. last summer. And I still think of it as being more a fairytale treatment of Jane’s life as a young woman, than an accurate biography. I found it doubly interesting to view this DVD so shortly after PBS’s airing of Miss Austen Regrets, the second filmed Jane Austen biography to come out this year. While Becoming Jane is about Jane Austen as a young woman just before she writes First Impressions, the first title of Pride and Prejudice, the more somber Miss Austen Regrets follows Jane in the last two years of her life, when she is at the peak of her writing powers. The contrast in tone and style between the two movies couldn’t be greater, yet both are lushly produced and beautifully filmed. Becoming Jane starts out with youthful optimism, and although Jane encounters disappointments and setbacks, the film never quite loses its breezy tone. Indeed, here’s what The Oregonian says about the DVD:
LOVE AND/OR MARRIAGE: In “Becoming Jane” — aka this week’s Jane Austen-themed movie — Anne Hathaway (“The Devil Wears Prada”) plays the author as a young woman. In the spirit of countless adaptations of Austen’s novels, Jane here is torn between marrying for love or money. The script embroiders some of the few known facts about Austen’s romantic life, but with dreamy James McAvoy (“Atonement”) along for the ride as Jane’s love interest, we can forgive a bit of poetic license, can we not?
If you missed watching this film in theaters, the DVD will be widely available today either for sale or rent.
- The Film Factory: Photos, film clips, and special features
DVD Available : February 12, 2008
Feature run time: 120 minutes
- Discovering the Real Jane Austen – The best known author of her era, she continues to sell books and inspire films almost two hundred years after her death, but what do we really know about Jane Austen? Find out some surprising truths in this fascinating featurette.
- Becoming Jane Pop-Up Facts & Footnotes – Interactive insights
- Audio Commentary with director Julian Jarrold, writer Kevin Hood and producer Robert Bernstein
- 13 Deleted Scenes