Becoming Jane

As I have mentioned too many times before, I've had a stressful stretch what with the moving and the tandem potty training and my autistic son frequently mistaking me for a punching bag. At the moment, even things that would usually make me happy just make me grumpy: the latest Harry Potter movie and book twin treats left me more irritated than sated.

But you know what always makes my heart grow three sizes? A nice dose of righteous indignation. And the new fictionalized Jane Austen biopic, Becoming Jane, has oh-so-many sweet jolts of it. The opportunities for genteel outrage shouldn't surprise any Austen fan -- we are smart romantics with feminist underpinnings, after all, and Austen wrote primarily about the friction between those people who get us, and those people who definitely do not. But it was lovely to be able to experience new Austen-generated irate pleasures without having to sit through yet another filmed version of her novels.

Oh, the carefully worded slights to our smart, kind Jane! Oh, her sharply courteous retorts! No one in her world understands her, except her father and the man she can't have! It's soooooo unfaaaair! And so utterly enjoyable.

Another salve for my bitter, oozing little soul is a well-made period piece, especially one that takes place within the familiar framework of Austenland. Becoming Jane has the costumes, the witty dialogue, the stately homes, the lush country scenery. Though there were a few behaviors that would have been out of place in an Austen story -- such as how Jane's father attempts to disprove her mother's statement that he is nowhere close to perfection -- they felt right for a story about "real" people, Regency-era or contemporary. I sank into the movie, I connected with the characters, I suspended my disbelief, and reached that that Nirvana-like state so craved by overstressed parents: Pure Escapism.

I also got a vicarious thrill from the mad, passionate, doomed romance of Jane and her Mr. Lefroy. I am someone who almost fell in with a Wickham but had the good luck (and the hunting instincts) to end up with a Darcy, and I dearly remember the heady adrenaline rush of my romances in their earliest days. Silly, reckless, young lovers drowning in each other's everything; how I envy them. How I appreciate a movie that can portray them well, and empathetically, without getting soggy.

My only caveat would be that Anne Hathaway's startling beauty distracts from a movie in which the sets, actors, and staging are mostly naturalistic. I am guessing that, as with the filmed version of My Fair Lady, Becoming Jane's producers wanted a bankable star. But Audrey Hepburn blended into her movie's glitzy styling, costuming, and set design; she became Eliza Doolittle, whereas Ms. Hathaway is far glossier than anything else in her film. In her well-made, enjoyable film that should please anyone who has ever wanted more Austen than the author's scant six novels provide.

For more MotherTalk reviews on Becoming Jane, visit www.mother-talk.com.

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