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Becoming Jane


Stars: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Laurence Fox, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Ian Richardson

Director: Julian Jarrold

There are some nice lines in this look at a pivotal romance from the early life of novelist Jane Austen (Hathaway), even if much of the picture is quite boring.

The pretty American actress is just OK as the independent-minded daughter of a country clergyman, whose path crosses that of rakish young lawyer Tom Lefroy (McAvoy) who has been sent to the wilds of Hampshire as punishment for his profligate ways.

Desperate to see Jane married, her parents (Cromwell, Walters) have their eyes on the wealthy nephew (Fox) of local snob Lady Gresham (Smith), who views Jane's 'accomplishments' with suspicion. 'What is she doing?' quavers Dame Maggie. On being told 'writing', she enquires: 'Can anything be done about it?'

Spotting Jane's attraction to the relatively poor Lefroy, her mother reminds her that 'affection is desirable. Money is... indispensible', but Jane journeys to London to gain the approval of Tom's rigid uncle (Ian Richardson at his tightest-lipped in his last film role) and meet a famous authoress (Helen McCrory), who warns her that 'to have a wife who has a literary absolutely scandalous.'

Hathaway's English accent is pretty good, with only a couple of small slips, but McAvoy is better, Fox unexpectedly sympathetic in an unsympathetic role and Dame Maggie her incorrigible, scene-stealing self. You may get into this more as it goes on, although the pace varies from measured to sluggish and there are far too many establishing shots. At least Miss Potter kept it brief.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Buena Vista. Colour by De Luxe.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 04 Mar 2007