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Becoming Jane

Reinventing Austen's bio
By GARY SUSMAN  |  August 1, 2007
2.5 2.5 Stars

VIDEO: Watch the trailer for Becoming Jane.

Jane Austen gets the Shakespeare in Love treatment in Becoming Jane, which posits that a little-known romance in the author’s youth is the Rosebud that explains her entire œuvre. Proud law student Tom Lefroy strikes up instant Darcy-and-Elizabeth friction with headstrong country lass Jane, leading to inevitable sparks later. Fans will enjoy playing spot-the-allusion throughout, though the movie turns bleak (think Persuasion) as the lovers find their romance thwarted at every turn by the usual Austen obstacles, money and social propriety.
 
Anne Hathaway is game enough as Jane, though she has to spend an awful lot of time on the verge of tears. As Tom, James McAvoy is cocky and cute, if not cute enough to be the next Ewan McGregor — which is how he’s been sold to moviegoers lately. Maggie Smith, natch, steals all her scenes as a disapproving dowager, and Ian Richardson performs an identical function as Tom’s equally snobbish uncle. Director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) doesn’t seem to be having nearly as much fun reinventing Austen’s bio as, say, Joe Wright did reimagining Pride and Prejudice two years ago. Which ought to be the point of this exercise, right?
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