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Becoming Jane is a 2007 historical film directed by Julian Jarrold. It is inspired by the early life of author Jane Austen (portrayed by Anne Hathaway), and her posited relationship with Thomas Langlois Lefroy (played by BAFTA-winning Scottish actor James McAvoy). Also appearing are Julie Walters, James Cromwell and Maggie Smith. The film was produced in cooperation with several companies, including BBC Films and the Irish Film Board. It performed well at the box office, earning $37 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.

The casting was by Gail Stevens and Gillian Reynolds, costumes by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, and the original soundtrack was composed by Adrian Johnston. Although the film assumes an otherwise unproven relationship between Austen and Lefroy, the original screenplay was inspired by real events, which were chronicled in the book Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence, who was the historical consultant on the film. In fact, prior to Spence’s book, biographers Radovici (1995) and Tomalin (2000) have also acknowledged a relationship between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy. Tomalin’s book was referenced in the making of Becoming Jane.

Plot

Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is the youngest daughter of Reverend Austen and his wife (Julie Walters) and has yet to find a suitable husband. She wishes to be a writer, to the dismay of her mother and proud delight of her father (James Cromwell).

Thomas Lefroy (James McAvoy) is a promising lawyer with a bad reputation, which he describes as "typical" for peers of that era. After a bad first impression upon meeting him, Jane cannot stand the arrogant Irishman. She turns down the affections of numerous men, including the nephew of Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith), a Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox). Wisley proposes, but Jane turns him down cold. The mischievous Tom — later the inspiration for Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy — continues his advances and Jane begins to take the idea of marriage seriously. The two get to know each other gradually, however, and eventually they fall in love.

Tom, Jane, Henry (Jane's brother, played by Joe Anderson) and Jane's rich widowed cousin, Eliza the Comtesse, conspire to receive an invitation from Tom's uncle and benefactor (the Lord Chief Judge Langlois of London) for the rich "Madame La Comtesse" and her friends. This visit is meant to be a short break in their journey to see Jane's brother, Edward. This would allow Judge Langlois to get to know Jane before and give a blessing for their marriage. However, Judge Langlois receives a letter informing him of the genteel poverty of Jane's family, and he refuses to give Tom his blessing, declaring that he would rather wish Tom to be the whoremonger he had been than allow him to live in poverty because of a bad marriage. Tom tells Jane that he cannot marry her, and she's crushed, not knowing that Tom had a legitimate reason; he is his family's only hope of survival. Jane goes back home and accepts the marriage proposal of Mr. Wisley, which she earlier turned down. Later, Tom Lefroy realizes he cannot live without Jane, and comes back and says that they should run away. Jane agrees, and they leave, with only Jane's sister Cassandra knowing. On the way, Jane stumbles upon a letter from Tom's mother, and realizes his situation. She tells Tom that they can't do this, not with that many people depending upon him. He insists that he and Jane must marry; as he puts it, "I will never give you up". He says he'll make the money but Jane, knowing that's impossible, tells him that it won't be enough and he'll never be able to get that money with a High Court judge (his uncle) as an enemy and with a penniless wife. He then gets very distraught and asks her if she loves him, and she replies, “Yes, but if our love destroys your family, then it will destroy itself in a long, slow degradation of guilt and regret and blame". Soon after, she gets up and leaves to go home. The last glimpse Jane gets of him is through the carriage window with him walking after it for a bit, then stopping.

Twenty years later Jane, accompanied by her brother Henry and his now-wife Eliza, encounters Thomas Lefroy again at a social function. He is with his eldest daughter, also named Jane, who turns out to be a fan of Jane Austen's writing. Jane gives a very rare public reading. This scene most probably took place between 1810 and 1815, according to an interview with Anne Hathaway.

[Note: In fact, Jane Austen did not actually "live by her pen." She was published anonymously until her death in 1817 and did not become well published until 1833. Since that time, her books have been in continuous print.]

Location

Becoming Jane was shot in Dublinmarker and rural Irelandmarker (including County Wicklowmarker), instead of Hampshire, Englandmarker, the birthplace of Jane Austen. Many scenes were also shot in Charleville Castle. The movie received funding from the Irish Film Board, but as Julian Jarrold said, the decision to film in Ireland was due to the fact that, "Hampshire now is groomed and manicured and what we were able to find in Ireland was a sense of countryside that felt more unchanged. That was one of the things that I really wanted to get...a sense of the landscape in which Jane Austen grew up. Ireland also has a great variety of Georgian houses and older houses as well. I think it gave us quite a different and interesting look for the film". James McAvoy supported the decision, observing that the houses in Becoming Jane were, "left to recede a bit more, a bit more gritty that you haven't seen in Austen films", and thus portrayed a, "sense of reality and a sense of a poorer world" in the Regency Period.

Interestingly, the historical Tom Lefroy spent summers in County Wicklowmarker. Lefroy referred to his fondness for the landscape as 'Wicklow trance'. His son Thomas Lefroy explained that this was a "household word in our family circle for the great admiration he had for the scenery of the County Wicklow where for many years he spent his summer vacations". (Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, 1871, p. 37).

It is also intriguing to note that Chief Justice Tom Lefroy spent the three last years of his life in Braymarker, County Wicklow, Ireland, in a villa of Newcourt he rented in 1866, and died there on 4 May, 1869 (Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, 1871, p. 382). Bray was also one of the locations of Becoming Jane filming in March-April 2006. There is no evidence that the filmmakers were aware of the fact that Bray was the place where Tom Lefroy took his last breath, nor that Tom Lefroy was very fond of County Wicklow.

As the original home of Jane Austen was demolished in 1824, scenes at Steventon Rectory were filmed in Higginsbrook House, a few miles off Trim in County Meath, Ireland (spring 2006). The house was built circa the first half of the 18th century and now belongs to Christopher Gray and his family. Apparently, Higginsbrook performed well, for later in autumn 2006, it appeared again as the house of the Morlands in Northanger Abbey (ITV 2007).

Critical reception

By April 2007, Becoming Jane had screened in the United Kingdommarker, Irelandmarker, Australia, and Swedenmarker; reviews of which mostly originated from the first three countries. The movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes, rates the movie as "rotten" with a 57 percent approval rating. Supporters of the movie praised the original screenplay, which was derived from biographies and letters of Jane Austen, the late 18th century costumes, the original soundtrack (orchestrated by Adrian Johnston) and solid performances by a leading cast.

Characters from the film observing a game of cricket.


Hathaway and McAvoy were lauded for the chemistry between their characters, lending authenticity to the love story between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy. Hathaway was also admired for her performance as Jane Austen. Negative reviews focused on the choice of an American to play a much loved English writer, as well as the inauthenticity of her accent. James McAvoy defended the decision of casting Hathaway by stating that a movie creator should, "find the right actor…and (Hathaway) is undoubtedly brilliant". McAvoy further added that Hathaway was, "the best Jane for the film". Actress Anna Maxwell Martin (playing Cassandra Austen) stated that when the cameras stopped rolling, Hathaway’s accent was sometimes "a bit of a hybrid but I don’t think she ever sank completely." Hathaway herself admitted the persistent tendency to, "sound too much like myself and not at all like Jane", blaming cold weather in Ireland, which meant she had to do voice retakes for several scenes. Nonetheless, director Julian Jarrold praised Hathaway for her performance. In a wrap up party after the filming, Jarrold confessed that the actress had been a different person, "not just her accent but also the whole character, the way of holding yourself and speaking was so completely different". Jarrold and McAvoy further praised Hathaway as the 'real Austenite' who were impressed with her knowledge on Jane Austen.

Some reviewers have questioned the historical accuracy of the movie; for example, one promotional poster shows Austen holding a fountain pen. The creators of Becoming Jane have clearly stated, however, that it is not a biopic in spite of using many historical facts from Jane Austen’s life. The co-producer of the film, Graham Broadbent, explained that they "joined the dots in our own Austenesque landscape". Criticisms of the film's historical accuracy have led to increased public interest in the facts of Jane Austen's life, reflected in her novels, letters and in biographies. Costumes worn by the characters from Becoming Jane have been exhibited in Jane Austen’s House in Chawtonmarker (where she lived from 1809 until 1817, a few months prior to her death in Winchestermarker) to accommodate the curiosity of fans.

Cast



DVD release

Becoming Jane on DVD was released in the United Kingdom on September 10, 2007, a month after the premiere in the United States, and in Australia on September 12, 2007. It was released on February 12, 2008 in the United States.

Soundtrack

The original soundtrack is currently available and features the numerous scores and instrumental music featured in the film, including the theme of the "Bastingstoke Assembly" to which Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy dance together for the first time. A track listing for the album is as follows:

1. "First Impressions"

2. "Hampshire"

3. "Bond Street Airs"

4. "Bastingstoke Assembly"

5. "A Game of Cricket"

6. "Selbourne Wood"

7. "Lady Gresham"

8. "Advice From a Young Lady"

9. "Laverton Fair"

10. "To the Ball"

11. "Rose Garden"

12. "Mrs. Radcliffe"

13. "Goodbye Mr. Lefroy"

14. "Distant Lives"

15. "The Messenger"

16. "An Adoring Heart"

17. "Runaways"

18. "A Letter from Limerick"

19. "The Loss of Yours"

20. "To Be Apart"

21. "Deh vieni, non tardar" (from Le Nozze di Figaro)

22. "Twenty Years Later"

23. "A Last Reading"

Soundtrack bonus tracks

Downloadable editions of the original soundtrack include six bonus tracks of music heard in the film:

1. "The Basingstoke Assembly: The Grand Vizier's Flight"

2. "Lady Gresham's Ball: Mutual Love"

3. "The Basingstoke Assembly: Softly Good Tummas"

4. "The Basingstoke Assembly: The Happy Hit"

5. "The Basingstoke Assembly: A Trip to Paris"

6. "Lady Gresham's Ball: The Hole in the Wall" (from Henry Purcell's Abdelazar)

Awards



References

  1. Radovici, N. 1995. A Youthful Love: Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, Merlin Books, Devon
  2. Tomalin, C. 2000, Jane Austen: A Life, Penguin Books, London
  3. Williams, S., 2007, Not so plain Jane Online, Telegraph Magazine, Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/02/17/smjane117.xml
  4. Becoming Jane filming locations
  5. Lefroy, T. 1871, Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, Hodges, Foster & Co., Dublin.
  6. Becoming Jane Shooting Location Details
  7. O'Byrne, R., 2007, How Higginsbrook became Jane's House [Online], The Irish Times, Available: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/property/2007/0308/1173121314890.html
  8. Rotten Tomatoes. 2007. Becoming Jane.
  9. Smith, A. 2007. Becoming Jane. http://www.empireonline.com.au/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=1...
  10. Elley, D. 2007. Becoming Jane. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117933022.html?categoryid=31&cs=1
  11. Anne Hathaway Web. 2007. James McAvoy: Judge Anne Hathaway as an actor not her accent. http://www.annehathawayweb.com/pressroom/news.php?newsid=25
  12. Anne Hathaway Web. 2007. New Film: Passion for Love. http://www.annehathawayweb.com/pressroom/news.php?newsid=27
  13. Buckley, J. 2007. Becoming an expert in squeezing into corsets. http://www.thelondonpaper.com/cs/Satellite/london/film/article/1157146648859?packedargs=suffix%3DSubSectionArticle
  14. Felce, S. 2007. Becoming Jane Q&A with Anne Hathaway and director Julian Jarrold. [Online] Phase9 Entertainment. Available: http://www.phase9.tv/moviefeatures/becomingjaneinterview1.shtml
  15. Britfilms, 2007, Becoming James McAvoy, Julian Jarrold & Robert Bernstein [Online], Britfilms.tv, Available: http://www.britfilms.tv/index.php?id=1856
  16. John Warren is a non-fictional character - he was a friend of Henry Austen, and provided Jane with a sketch portrait of LeFroy.[1]


External links



Cano López, Marina, and García Periago, Rosa María. 2008. Becoming Shakespeare and Jane Austen in Love: An Intertextual Dialogue between Two Biopics. Persuasions-On Line. 29 (1).
  • http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol29no1/cano-garcia.html



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