Credit: Colm Hogan

Becoming Jane mines novelist Jane Austen’s own life as she was sketching out the skeleton of 1813’s Pride and Prejudice. The loosely biographical script is a charmer; the supporting cast (Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, James Cromwell) is top-drawer; and Anne Hathaway, with her coltish beauty and frank demeanor, is a welcome Jane. As with the best interpreters of Austen heroines on film — from Sense and Sensibility‘s Emma Thompson to Pride‘s Jennifer Ehle — her toughness is a vital defense of a tender core. Jane wishes to marry for affection (of course!), but her struggling family is in a bind and there’s a dull if decent rich man (Laurence Fox) on bended knee. James McAvoy, slightly less unbidden than in Atonement but possessing a similar dreamy oomph, plays her Irish love interest, a future lawyer who must also marry for money. How these two deserve their triumphant, happy ending! Alas, this a movie about Austen, not an Austen novel. The best end to an evening of onscreen Jane is some good bathtime reading. Skip the DVD’s lame extras (especially the egregious pop-up facts); gorge on the books instead. B+

More Austen? See Karen Valby’s review of The Jane Austen Book Club on DVD

Becoming Jane
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes