MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Anne Hatahway as JANE AUSTEN
James McAvoy as TOM LEFROY
Julie Walters as MRS. AUSTEN
James Cromwell as REV. AUSTEN
Maggie Smith as LADY GRESHAM
Developed by: Julian Jarrold
BY KEVIN CARR
It is no big surprise to those who know me that I’m not a big Jane Austen fan. I’m not even a little Jane Austen fan. Sure, some of the modernized adaptations (like “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Clueless”) are actually quite clever. But set the film in its original time frame with the stuffy nature of society back then, and you’ll find me snoozing in the back row… which is what I did, in fact, when I first saw this movie.
After all, to me, the only thing more boring than a Jane Austen movie is a movie about Jane Austen herself. I swear, I tried to stay awake for this one. I really, really tried. But after an our and a half of repressed nothingness, I lost the battle. And I could barely make it through on video.
Still, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, this is probably right up your alley. The movie tells the story behind the woman that was Jane Austen. Anne Hathaway plays the classic novelist, and the story draws from Austen’s own works to explain how she developed into the writer she’s now known as.
The film shows Austen as a young woman before she became a celebrated writer. She had her life planned out for her, but her independent spirit chose a different path. The movie also portrays her early love life with the dashing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), who helps mold her character and paint the future heroes of her books.
Not being a Jane Austen fan, I didn’t find all the nuances that are dropped in this movie that relate to her books. So, without a pretext and knowledge of the classic author, much of the richness of this movie got lost. I’m sure those who know everything about the author’s life and novels will find the layers of interest that were just not there for me.
In the end, I was left respecting the film for what it was, but I still would rather watch Anne Hathaway in her more mainstream roles.
The DVD comes with deleted scenes and an audio commentary from the director, writer and producer. There’s also pop-up facts that display throughout the movie for anyone who wants a deeper level of understanding. Finally, the most interesting feature to me was a behind the scenes look at the film that explains the historical and biographical context of Jane Austen and her writing.