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Low Expectations Exalted!
on 1 July 2011
For reasons that are now not especially clear, my expectations of this film were so low that I resisted ordering it on Amazon when it was first released. Recently, however, as I was ambling through a department store, I discovered "Becoming Jane" on sale at a price so ridiculously low that I thought I had little to lose by trying it (especially after I discovered that James McAvoy, Lawrence Fox, and Maggie Smith were in the cast).
I am happy to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly; every character was well acted, and the DVD was exquisite to watch in respect to costumes and settings--arguably as good as any of the top BBC productions. Anne Hathaway, whom I saw previously only in "Prada" and consequently considered--unfairly--limited in scope, sparkles with humor in the title role. James McAvoy exudes a delightful plausibility as the handsome Mr LeFroy; Maggie Smith (far more restrained than in her usual delicious comic roles) portrays a believably dignified Lady of the Manor; and Lawrence Fox, allowed to stray from the solemnity of Inspector Lewis' intellectual sergeant, does an amusing turn as Jane's country-bumpkin suitor-with-prospects.
I especially appreciate the covert allusions throughout the film to plot-points in Austen's novels. As for some of the "How-dare-they-deviate-from-Jane-Austen's-actual-life?" criticisms, I can only comment that my fondness for Mozart did not cause me to enjoy "Amadeus" any the less because it did not adhere slavishly to "the facts" of the composer's life; or because it was shot in Prague instead of Vienna. Neither do I complain that "Becoming Jane" was shot in Ireland instead of Hampshire. Whether fanciful or true, "Becoming Jane" provides a most pleasant evening of entertainment. And if the film tempts one to reread Jane Austen's novels or, better, to pick them up and discover them for the first time, it is well worth it.