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.