A bit of biographical fiction positioned to capitalize on one of the few 19th-century novelists with a sizable contemporary cult, Becoming Jane is an embellished account of Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) on the cusp of adulthood, focusing on her doomed flirtation and courtship with young Irish lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).
Based on very limited real-word intel, Becoming Jane is speculative fiction driven by a clear desire to locate the observations of Austen's best-known works (Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility) in her own pained human existence. Viewers more familiar with Austen's work than I might have fun gleaning references to Austen's novels embedded in the film, as real-life people and situations are set up as inspirations for later literary use.
Hathaway and, particularly, McAvoy (his star on the rise after The Last King of Scotland) are both effective, but, as a period piece about a woman's limited options in British society, Becoming Jane is not exactly The House of Mirth. Ultimately, it comes across more like a selection from Harlequin's historical teen division (is there such a thing?) adapted to the screen. This will appeal to many potential viewers — and you know who you are.
Opens Friday, August 10th, at Ridgeway Four