While it's enough of a chick flick to act as kryptonite for men, I still found elements of "Becoming Jane" likable. Still, while some of the film works, the core of the movie just did not engage me as much as I'd hoped. The period piece, which takes place in 1796, stars Anne Hathaway as a young Jane Austen, who - early in the picture - is introduced to a poor young lawyer named Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), who is sent by his rich uncle to live deep in the country.
Her mother (Julie Walters) isn't exactly pleased with the romance, as her desire is to have Jane marry into money. Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith) isn't pleased either, as her nephew - who is rich but is dull enough to be the human equivalent of watching paint dry - has his sights on an uninterested Jane. On the other hand, Jane's father (James Cromwell) - the local pastor - encourages her to follow her heart.
The film is a pleasant enough romantic light drama, revolving largely around Jane's choosing between potential mates and her romance with Lefroy. However, the movie really isn't much deeper than that and, as a result, the film has stretches that start to drag, as the predictable outcome starts to take a little long to arrive.
The performances are mixed, but generally good. Hathaway is light and funny and can offer just enough of a dose of drama to make parts like "The Devil Wears Prada" work. However, in the midst of a period piece, her performance is clearly mainly on the surface, and we don't quite see the depth or passion that the part really requires. This is a performance that is passable, but also a little too plain.
Hathaway is surrounded by a group of marvelous actors, and the supporting performances are stellar, especially Cromwell as Jane's caring father. McAvoy and Hathaway do have fine chemistry with one another, but he seems more comfortable and capable in a period piece than she does. Technically, the picture is stellar, with excellent production design, costume work and cinematography.
Again, I thought some of the supporting performances here were quite good and the film certainly has the look of the period down nicely. However, Hathaway's performance is just okay and the core tale strikes me as more ordinary and familiar than I'd have liked. Overall, this is certainly watchable, but I just didn't consider it very memorable.
VIDEO: "Becoming Jane" is presented by Miramax Films in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This was an excellent transfer by the studio and one of the better ones from Miramax in recent memory. Sharpness and detail are often quite good, and fine details are often apparent. A few slight traces of edge enhancement were visible, but the majority of the film looked crisp, fresh and clean. Colors also appeared bright and natural, with fine saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was perfectly fine, with some nice use of the surrounds in order to provide light ambience and slight reinforcement of the score. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, clear dialogue and no distortion or other concerns.
EXTRAS: We get a series of pop-up facts, as well as 13 deleted scenes, some of which do add some enjoyable character moments. While there's no commentary to explain the deletions, I'm guessing that these were dropped due to length. A commentary with director Julian Jarrold, producer Robert Bernstein and writer Kevin Hood is also offered. This is a bone dry - although admittedly insightful - discussion of the picture. We do hear a great deal about the production, working with the actors and the history behind the tale. I don't meant to say that this isn't technically a good commentary, but it is a little monotone. Finally, we also get the 17-minute, "Discovering Jane Austen", which is an enjoyable promo featurette.
Final Thoughts: While a beautiful movie that boasts good supporting performances, "Becoming Jane" is just a little too "plain Jane" for me, and Hathaway's performance is just average. The DVD provides very good audio/video quality and a few insightful extras. However, I'll recommend this as a rental for those who haven't seen it. Those who enjoyed it theatrically will want to seek a purchase, as the DVD does offer a good presentation of the film.
The Film C+