Sunday, 30 March 2008

DVD: Becoming Jane

Lowdown: A pale Pride and Prejudice.
Review:
Becoming Jane attempts to tell the story of Jane Austen, and as we liked the recent Pride and Prejudice film and as Jo likes Austen in general, it was but natural that we would eventually rent Becoming Jane. This is probably what went through the minds of the people who made Becoming Jane, which may explain why the end result of their fruit of labor is a genuinely bad film: with a guaranteed audience, there is no need to make an effort.
Anne Hathaway (again?) plays Austen. She grows up in this not that well to do family (albeit still a family that employs others to clean after it) somewhere in the middle of nowhere England, and she grows to be a talented self thinker who won't accept what tradition has in store for her as a woman. That includes not accepting a marriage proposal by a very rich young man, who doesn't seem too bad other than not being as poetic as Austen. Instead, Austen falls for this coolish (or is it stupidish?) dude who doesn't have much money too and who depends on his rather nasty uncle for an allowance. The conflict that ensues is between marrying for love or marrying for material comfort, and you can pretty much guess which corner Austen stands in.
In case the plot sounds a lot like Pride and Prejudice, it is of no coincidence: the film makes it seem as if Austen's real life events were her source of inspiration for P&P. Thing is, we know better: we know that Becoming Jane came to be because of the popularity of P&P. It's not only the timing of the films' releases that indicates that, it's also the way Becoming Jane is made.
It's made in a really bad way. The plot is thin and so stupidly predictable and the characters are as thinly developed as the typical slogans the script makes them utter. The scripts itself feels like it was written by today's standards and just transferred into an older sounding English.
Not that the acting is much better: there is no shred of originality or talent. That is probably the result of the poor direction work, which not only manages to create a truly boring film in Becoming Jane but also manages to attract lots of attention to itself through rather jerky camera movement and fast editing that simply does not become an Austen story.
Worst scene: A depressed Jane looks at the moving camera in several postures as the edits flow while being depressed because of a predictable misunderstanding with her lover. Simply badly done; it's like The Bold and the Beautiful was made into a feature film.
Picture quality: The picture looks like it took a ride in a tumble dryer before being put on the DVD. All the color and essence has been drained away, making it feel as if the DVD was prepared out of a theatrical copy rather than an original master.
Sound quality: Basic failure at the most basic level - dialog. It's hard to make what the actors say, speech is often out of sync with the lips, and with subtitles not available on the DVD watching Becoming Jane is even more annoying.
Overall: When the poor technical quality of the DVD is combined to the poor film, the result is very poor indeed. 1 out of 5 stars.

3 comments:

Uri E. said...

I take it that was Jo’s view as well?
I haven’t seen the movie, but I had the impression it was about more than P&P (just like Shakespeare in Love had more than Romeo and Juliette). So being familiar with Austen might help.

And why do you always look for the worst possible explanation? You make it sound like they wanted to do a P&P remake but the rights cost too much so they made it seem like a movie about Austen.
Maybe the writers and director are Austen super-fans and have been trying to get this produced for years?

Moshe Reuveni said...

I really couldn't care less about others' expectations from the film. I also actively try to avoid having any expectations out of any film, although that's very impossible.
The point I was trying to make is that while the film pretends to give you an account of the events that transpired to make Austen write P&P, it actually is a retelling of P&P - but a bad one at that. In short, it's the crap sequel that Austen never wrote.
To make it very clear: This is not Shakespeare in Love; SiL was a good film that told a proper story and was well made.
As for Jo’s opinion, it is best if she adds them here directly. My impression is that she didn’t enjoy Becoming Jane, too. To me it was quite the ordeal, a rare case of wanting to stop watching a film half way through. For the record, and the record is very much here for all to see, I really liked the recent Pride & Prejudice and I liked most of the other Austen based films I got to see (say, Emma).

Moshe Reuveni said...

Retrospect:
Now that I got to watch film version of all of Austen's work, it became clear to me that Becoming Jane is a mishmash of them all. It does, however, focus more on Austen's better pieces: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.