Becoming Jane Julian Jarrold

Becoming Jane Julian Jarrold

For a split second, Becoming Jane looks like it might have some cinematic intelligence — not too much but more than you’d expect from the director of Kinky Boots. As we note random shots of the home of Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway), we think that this might be a stylish cut above the average historical costumer but then, in a fit of writer’s enthusiasm, Jane starts playing the piano, loudly, and wakes up her family. And the cutesy joke lets you know that this is, indeed, going to play as broadly as you’d expect.

The rest of the movie is devoted to the young Austen’s pre-fame years, specifically the (possibly fictitious) romance with Irish lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a sort-of rake who turns the budding writer onto Henry Fielding and supposedly inspires Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. But Lefroy’s wealthy family refuses to let them wed, and so the movie stutters into "they will wed, then they won’t and then they will” territory until the "truth” comes out.

For a film about the love of someone’s life, things seem pretty damp and chilly, and though McAvoy is credible for once in his role, the rest of the production is bland, limp and largely passion free. Worse, the filmmakers fancy themselves revisionists and include one or two giggly sexual references designed to show how au courant they are. It doesn’t work; a few nudge-winks aside, Becoming Jane is a totally sexless affair, which is something you don’t really want in a film about grand passion.

There are still the hiccups of style to set it slightly apart from the competition but in the end, they’re mere distractions from the main event of the same old same old. (Alliance Atlantis)