Monday, August 11, 2008

Movie Review: Becoming Jane


Last night The Spouse served a perfectly delicious Sunday dinner (rosemary chicken and vegetable-rice pilaf). Afterward, I sat down to watch "Becoming Jane", which seemed like a perfectly appropriate post-Sunday-dinner-very PBS-y sort of thing for me to do.

The movie is based on a book of the same name, a book which I am still slogging through because, frankly, it is full of way more minutiae than I could possibly care about in a lifetime. The essential question is: did Miss Jane Austen have a little more experience of the world and the heart than her traditional biography suggests? The movie decides "yes". I have no idea if it's based in any sort of fact because, as I said, I'm still working through the (very boring and I'll probably never finish it) book.

That said, I was primed for a good time. Let's face it: this pretty much has everything I could possibly want in a movie: women in empire dresses and good looking dudes in breeches (preferably Colin Firth, of course, but in a pinch James McAvoy will do). Toss in the English countryside, some country dances, a couple of small but fine bits by class acts like Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and James Cromwell and I'm pretty much guaranteed satisfaction.

A note: I don't believe nationality should have anything to do with who gets cast for what roles. (I think, for example, of the kerfuffle around the casting of Rene Zelweiger in "Bridget Jones"...certainly she'd not have been my first pick, either, but she owned that part). A good actor, regardless of provenance, should have the ability to learn and deliver the accent of another place. (Paging Meryl Streep, Miss Meryl Streep...). As long as the accent is decent and the performance better there should be no problem.

Anne Hathaway plays Jane. I like Miss Hathaway. I really do. I think she's very competent and interesting to look at and she seems like a pretty level headed and grounded young woman. (We will not discuss her recent and unfortunate choice of boyfriend, if for no other reason than I myself have dated a bounder or two and am therefore not one to talk). So it grieves me to say that I did not enjoy her in this film; primarily because she has a terrible - and I mean terrible - British accent. Oh, sure, she sounded refined and tripped her way elegantly through the prose of the Regency period, affecting all the correct mannerisms while revealing a very Lizzie Bennet sort of sass that was charming. But the woman Can.Not do a decent British accent. And it was, for me, maddeningly distracting.

Here's the thing (and no disrespect to my friends in the UK), it's not that hard to do a passable British accent. Hell, I started working on mine when I was 8 years old, after seeing "Mary Poppins" and deciding that Julie Andrews was the end all and be all.






In fact, the younger generation, inspired by a boy wizard, has the same facility:


So I really don't understand how it is that a young woman with the resume of Miss Hathaway, couldn't affect a more convincing accent or why it was that the casting people decided to go with an American with a bad English accent over any number of British actresses who, I'm sure, would have enjoyed telling a little known story (or complete fabrication, as you like it) about one of Britain's most beloved authors.

It proved to be a distraction that had a profound affect on my overall enjoyment of the film.

That aside there were some nice things about the film. It was effective in conveying the degree to which Jane Austen's simple, country life influenced her writing and for the true Austenphile there are all sorts of references to pick up on, which was fun. It was very pretty to look at and the performances were on balance quite capable. James McAvoy, who is just yummy anyway, was very convincing as the passionate but poor chappie who steals Jane's heart. There was one particular moment, at a dance, that was perfectly executed by both Miss Hathaway and Mr. McAvoy; a moment both subtle and surprising, that symbolized Jane's choices and when it happened I gasped with the delight of it. More such moments and I might have been able to overlook Miss Hathaway's not-accent.

But alas and alack, though there is little to fault in the overall craftsmanship of the film, it was missing something. For a film intending to portray the inspiration behind Miss Austen's stories, it was (save for that one aforementioned moment) fundamentally lacking the tension and wit that were Austen's forte.

"Becoming Jane" was not a complete waste of time but if you need an Austen fix you're better off watching the A&E "Pride and Prejudice". Again.

The Film Czarina gives "Becoming Jane"
out of 5 koihead.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Sling opined...

The important thing to remember,is that there were a buttload of gratuitous explosions,and CGI enhanced martial arts battles sprinkled liberally thruout the film!!..right?
..fine then.
Just post more video of you and the Child doing that marvelous British thing you do. :)

August 11, 2008 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Ba Ha Ha Ha (Note no W)

Yes of course, but you practised.

Peace

:+}

August 11, 2008 4:57 PM  
Blogger Bad Alice opined...

I plan to watch this movie for the sole purpose of looking very, very closely at James McAvoy, who is my British Crush du Jour. He has joined the ranks of Colin Firth and Alan Rickman as an Actor Most Likely to Encourage Naughty Thoughts.

August 11, 2008 5:12 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Oh, totally Sling. And of course, I left out all reference to the big monster thing that stomps through the Lake Country right at the end...because I'm not into spoilers.

Next up...Gilbert and Sullivan! (Not).

Anonyba, tons and tons and tons.

Bad Alice, trust me when I say this about that: he will NOT disappoint and is, in my view, the best thing about the movie.

August 11, 2008 5:31 PM  
Blogger jp opined...

I watched this movie, and was bored to tears.

(You can't tell, but I wrote that sentence with a British accent.)

August 11, 2008 6:29 PM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann opined...

I gotta say, in my American accent, that you are being very kind to this movie. I watched it a few weeks ago and her accent (and performance, inho) were just too awful.
I hate to be the cold water but wowwy, just about anybody could have done a better one.
I wished I had watched Sense and Sensibility again. Sigh.

August 11, 2008 6:44 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

JP: I'm saying this with a British accent: I can't believe you watched this movie.

KA: word.

August 11, 2008 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Dame Judi opined...

Ever so pleased to read the comments on this movie. I must admit, I couldn't get on more than 15 minutes of it, the young Mr. McAvoy notwithstanding, and felt a failure as others had praised it to the skies.

If I may also add, The Child not only has the perfect accent (like her mum) but an enchanting hair style.

August 11, 2008 8:45 PM  
Blogger Buck opined...

The Child's English accent was VERY impressive. I see a future for her of starring in Merchant Ivory films with Emma Thompson as her grandmother.
And your bangs. . . well, you know how I feel about your bangs. LOVING. THEM.

August 12, 2008 7:15 AM  
Blogger sageweb opined...

Bloody hell! You both have wonderful accents. Love the colour of your living room too.

Thanks for the review...I will probably never watch it unless I am on a long airplane flight and no other movies are offered.

August 12, 2008 7:22 AM  
Blogger Willym opined...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 12, 2008 8:04 AM  
Blogger Willym opined...

Well love, Colin is just smashing in anything and more smashing out of everything by guum! Goodness gracious you do a fine accent.

Okay that was sort of West Country with a bit of Lancheshire and a touch of Peter Sellers in the The Party! Now how the hell did that get in there?

August 12, 2008 8:05 AM  
Blogger Molly opined...

See, I loved it. Nana didn't like it. I just thought it was lovely and then really sad and James McAvoy should be eaten with creame and berries.
I think we Davis' could all pass for English gents and ladies. We have all been practing since we were 8. In fact, when I saw miss Emily Anne on Sunday and we spoke of her riding the train up to Seattle in November, the first question was, "Are you going to pretend to have an English accent?" And she probably will.

August 12, 2008 8:22 AM  
Blogger Molly opined...

oh yeah: AND miss Dylan sounds EXACLTY like Hermione Granger.

August 12, 2008 8:23 AM  
Blogger booda baby opined...

Oh I LOOOOVVED your video demonstrations!!

And your living room, too.

I hated this movie. Thoroughly. Hm. That didn't read very Britishy.

I thoroughly hated this movie. That, either.

It was mediocre in every way, from script to acting to accent. Just badly conceived, but now that you say the source material is deadly boring, a whole lot is explained.

Although James McAvoy. Ay. Am in big agreement with bad alice.

August 12, 2008 8:26 AM  
Blogger LostInCO opined...

You and the child are brilliant!

August 12, 2008 9:49 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

DJ: And dig this, she is actually bothering to actually style, or at least brush, her own hair. 'Bout freaking time.

Buck, my bangs have a British accent, too.

Sage, under those circumstances, well, let's hope you've downloaded some good movies to your iPod.

Willym, oh, how you do go on. (I like commenting to comments in a British accent. Tomorrow let's do it in French!)

Molls, I agree about the cream and berries and Mr. McAvoy. But that is all. But you are young and comely and entitled to your (minority) opinion.

Booda, I like my living room, too. It looks like a daffodil that is just about to bud. Mr. McAvoy is going to be very busy, should he ever come to one of our bloggery conventions. (We should have a bloggery convention. And invite him).

August 12, 2008 10:13 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Lost, thank you, m'am. (Pronounced "mum"...you know, with an English accent).

August 12, 2008 10:16 AM  
Blogger Seattle Coffee Girl opined...

Baaah, Mr. James McAvoy is a Scot! He's no Brit, and I dare say he'd eat haggis til the cows come home just to make a point of his Scottish-ness.

But agreed, the accent of Ms. Hathaway was utter rubbish.

August 12, 2008 12:43 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

SCG: Yes, and he played an Irishman in the movie, convincingly. The real question is, why don't you love James McAvoy? And why must you hate on the haggis?

August 12, 2008 1:52 PM  

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