What he said

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Alert Janeite Sarah sent us some excerpts from a review of Becoming Jane (along with two other similar flicks, Moliere and Shakespeare in Love) in the latest edition of The New York Review of Books. Unfortunately it’s not available online except by subscription, so Sarah sent some excerpts. We haven’t been linking to a lot of reviews of Becoming Jane lately, because most of them are lukewarm at best and repeat the same things over and over. But in the wake of the bewilderment of a visitor to AustenBlog as to why so many of us did not enjoy the film, we think this is rather timely.

“[T]he message of all these lit-flicks […] is that to get the job done — to write the great play, compose the great symphony, paint the Sistine Chapel or the bridge at Arles — you need to Experience Life. Which means you need to fall in love — and then lose the loved one. And suffer.”

“Since Austen’s anti-romantic stance is so basic to her mode of thinking and writing, we can’t tell from these few remarks [her letters about Lefroy] whether she’s deploying her habitual irony to mask real feelings. The tone is very much the tone of her brilliantly parodic juvenilia, and certainly in no way suggests the anguish of Marianne or the melancholy regret of Anne.”

“Jane Austen was Jane Austen from the moment her consciousness formed: the wit, the implacable powers of observation, the trenchant moral vision, the sense of the ridiculous are all evident in her adolescent writings; it didn’t take a Tom Lefroy to unleash them. Certainly the circumstances of her life informed the novels — she wasn’t a fantasist — but it’s her unique mind that animates them, and that draws us to her; that makes us want to know her […]. That she loved, that she suffered, may or not be true, but these things can’t begin to explain her. The movie’s title is a misnomer: you can’t become what you already are.”

“There are the Jane Austen novels; the Jane Austen industry, including this current and perfectly respectable movie, is irrelevant.”

“So you love and you sacrifice and you suffer, but it’s all worthwhile, because sooner or later the world is at your feet. Forget genius — you’re box office. Coming next week to theaters everywhere: Ibsen in Love. Becoming Willa. Emerson.”

We’re kind of surprised there hasn’t been a big blowup on the blog before now of the snarkers vs. the defenders, as there was with P&P05–the contempt has been pretty much universal in the Janeite diaspora. That circumstance, more than anything else, says a great deal, we think.

Saving Janeites two hours of their lives

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In a real public service, Abridged Classics brings you…Becoming Jane.

Thanks to Alert Janeite Lorien for the link and a big laugh!

Open thread discussion for Becoming Jane

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Since the comments are closed on the original “Truth About Becoming Jane” thread, continue the discussion here.

Becoming Jane Region 2 DVD information

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Well, this one slid past us…Becoming Jane is out on DVD in Region 2 as of today, so those of you in the Region 2 countries, or elsewhere who have the proper equipment, and can’t wait to get your sticky hands on it, get out your credit cards and start clicking away. (Do NOT miss the reviews on Amazon, they are hilarious, especially that from one “B. Elliot.”)

Extras include Behind the Scenes, Regency Dance Featurette, Hair, Make-up & Costume Design Featurette, Filming the Cricket Scene, Filming the Boxing Scenes, Deleted Scenes (DEAR JANE YOU MEAN THERE’S MORE???? *ahem*), Theatrical Trailer, Commentary, and Photo Gallery.

It’s also available in HD-DVD and Blu-Ray for those who want to see the sweat droplets fling off James MacAvoy in high definition during the boxing scene.

Becoming Jane News Roundup: Insert Clever Title Here Edition

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Not that we’re running out of clever title ideas, but as Alert Janeite Lisa, who sent in a couple of these links, noted, some of these are too good to resist. Fortunately, the clever titles also indicate (in most cases) thoughtful reviews of the film.

The Charleston Post and Courier starts the proceedings with “See Jane write, see Jane pine.”

We know so little about the real Jane Austen that it takes a certain amount of cheek to speculate on her romantic entanglements, real or suspected. The same holds for investing her with sensibilities that may or may not have been claimed even by this writer and woman of independent mind.

Upon her death in 1817, at a mere 41 years of age, many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister Cassandra. We are not even entirely sure what she looked like, apart from a sketch made by her sibling. Nor do we know if the one brief encounter she had in her life ever involved more than a few dances at a ball.

What we do know is that Austen bequeathed to the world six of the finest novels in English literature, rich in irony and uncommonly shrewd on the provincial middle-class mores of her time. But author and character are not necessarily the same, however much we might like to believe in autobiographical intent, conscious or otherwise.

Yep.

Richmond’s Style Weekly goes with a classic: Plain Jane.

One of the reasons we still read Austen’s novels is that we can still see ourselves and those around us in the characters. That’s different from trying to cram our age into hers.

Hear, hear!

The Cornell Daily Sun wins the Internets with its title: Becoming Lame, though unfortunately it is the weakest review of the group.

Becoming Jane is the story of how lame Jane Austen was. Or, at least, how lame those involved with producing Becoming Jane were, and how they tried their best to make Jane Austen seem lame as well.

Though it does have a certain style. 😉

Becoming Jane News Roundup: A Little of This and a Little of That Edition

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The reviews are still running mostly positive, though in many cases the praise seems lukewarm. Of course, reviewers who don’t like Jane Austen movies are unlikely to enjoy Becoming Jane. We are, however, heartened by those who have not been fooled by the Made Up Story; for instance, Keith Cohen in The Blue Valley Sun.

This movie loses credibility by being advertised as a biographical portrait of the early years of author Jane Austen and the love affair that gave her the inspiration for her writings. It is historically inaccurate and based solely on a couple of letters written by Jane to her sister Cassandra and an admission by Tom Lefroy in old age that he had once been in “boyish love” with Austen.

The movie is a speculative flight of unsubstantiated fancy. With this flimsy foundation, a clunky and formulaic script attempts to imitate Austen’s literary approach to romance.

[. . .]

The movie’s major failure is its inability to make the words on a page from one of the greatest writers of English literature come alive on screen. You need to read Austen’s novels to truly appreciate her genius in matters of the heart and soul.

Hear, hear! Continue reading

Welcome to viewers of Becoming Jane

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We would like to welcome new visitors to AustenBlog who saw Becoming Jane last week or over the weekend and are looking for more information on Jane Austen’s life and work.

The first question many of you will have is: What parts of Becoming Jane are real and which are fiction?

A good place to start is with a page put together by JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America: Becoming Jane: Sorting Fact from Fiction. JASNA also has a brief biography of Jane Austen on their Web site.

Lori Smith also has an article on the Following Jane blog about fact and fiction in the film.

We also recommend several books as good starting places to learn more about Jane Austen.

Elizabeth Jenkins’ Jane Austen: A Biography is unfortunately out of print, but used copies are available, or you may be able to find it in your library. There are lots of other biographies around, but this is our favorite; it’s beautifully written and gives a good overview of Jane Austen’s life.

101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen by Patrice Hannon is a readable and very informative book about Jane Austen’s life and work.

Jane Austen: A Family Record by Deirdre Le Faye is an excellent follow-up to either of the above books and is loaded with all the dates, places, and names you could want.

A Memoir of Jane Austen, written by Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, is available to read online or in an excellent print edition from Oxford University Press, which includes other biographical sketches and remembrances by Jane’s family members.

Some of Jane Austen’s letters are available online, or the complete, annotated print edition (including letters that became available later) is also available. (We do recommend that one read them for enjoyment, and resist the urge to read too much into them.)

The biography that inspired the film (though it is not a direct adaptation) is Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence. Read the AustenBlog review here.

If you really want to know more about Jane Austen, the most important suggestion we can make is to read her books. Don’t watch the movies; read the books. We are not suggesting that Jane Austen’s novels reflected events in her life or people that she knew; in fact, she said that was not the case. If Jane were around today to ask, we think she would suggest that her novels are the best memorial she could have.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments and we will argue over them do our best to answer them. 😀

ETA: Added links to the Memoir and the letters.

Becoming Jane News Roundup: Opening Night Edition

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The film goes into wide release today, and the media has about a thousand reviews. We can’t link to all of them, but Rotten Tomatoes ranks the freshness rating at 59%.

We were amused by this article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Anne Hathaway looks at the poster for her new movie, Becoming Jane, and winces.

“‘Their love story was her greatest inspiration,'” she says, reading the tag line. “I wouldn’t have gone with that.”

We wouldn’t have, either. Continue reading

Becoming Jane News Roundup: Are There No Other Films in Hampshire Edition

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Yes, Gentle Readers, we weary of the film and it’s not even in wide release yet. But there’s still lots of good stuff out there, so we shall continue to bring you everything worthy of notice, and then some.

First up is Fellow-ette’s hilarious parody of the film, Un-Becoming Jane.

Jane Austen:

Despite my prodigious talent, my budding genius, and my formidable wit, I am vastly intimidated by your literary critique because you are a most agreeable–a most happily-endowed–what I’m trying to say is, you’re hot. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that even the most brilliant woman is speechless in front of …

Tom:

Your stories need more boning, you dig? More horizontal rhumba. More fornication.

Jane:

My luscious cherry lips are agape.

Thanks to Alert Janeites Diana I-C and Kirsten for sending us the link. Continue reading

An unusually snark-free review of Becoming Jane

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This is probably less a review and more of an editorial. Read Heather L.’s review on her personal blog, because it pretty much says what we would have. –Ed.

“You have drawn two pretty pictures; but I think there may be a third — a something between the do-nothing and the do-all.” – Emma, Vol. I, Ch. 1

Okay, okay, we know there’s not a whole lot to go on when it comes to Jane Austen biography. The perfidious Cassandra Austen burnt all her sister’s letters (no doubt full of breathless descriptions of love affairs and complaints about having to feed the pigs when she really wanted to be wandering aimlessly through the woods caressing trees and writing angsty melodrama) and the uptight Victorian relatives were better at dodgy past-laundering than Paris Hilton’s publicist, so what scarce material exists must be plumped out with speculation. In most biographies of Jane Austen, such speculation varies in adherence to the real story, some biographers venturing further afield than others. Those who do take greater liberties generally do so in the name of scholarship, so even if one disagrees with that biographer’s conclusions, one can, however grudgingly, accept the process. Continue reading