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Becoming Jane

Jane Austen's most romantic story may have been her own.

"A woman especially if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can." -Jane AustenIt’s 1795, and money is tight at the Austen country parsonage, placing no little onus on daughter Jane (Anne Hathaway) to make a lucrative marriage. This bright, independent-spirited 20-year-old may have her own ideas, however, since she’s not hugely keen on nice-but-dim suitor Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), even if he does come with a fortune and the backing of aunt Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith). Cue rakish Irish trainee lawyer Tom (James McAvoy), visiting his Hampshire relatives from London, who is a waspish metropolitan match for Jane’s keen wit. Shame he’s a rogue with barely a penny to his name.According to recent research, a youthful spot of ill-fated love helped mould Jane Austen into a great writer, and on the back of that comes this capable dramatisation. Perhaps unexpectedly, Hathaway projects the insightfulness of the future author with no little charm, and McAvoy is charismatic enough to convince as the slightly cocky object of her ardour. Overall, the approach is less fluffily contrived than you’d expect, and though the alignment of circumstance and social status thwarting innocent passions is hardly fresh, it’s handled with thoughtful decorum. The emotional temperature is rather restrained as a result, but with luxury casting all down the line (James Cromwell and Julie Walters as Jane’s parents), elegant visuals balancing verdant and velvet, and a delightful faux-classical score, it’s a classy package.Trevor Johnston, Time Out London

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Directed by: 
Julian Jarrold
Running Time: 
Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith, Laurence Fox
Screenplay by: 
Sarah Williams & Kevin Hood

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