Becoming Jane (2007)

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Released 8-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 125:34 (Case: 127)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Julian Jarrold Julian Jarrold
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Anne Hathaway
James McAvoy
Julie Walters
James Cromwell
Maggie Smith
Joe Anderson
Lucy Cohu
Laurence Fox
Ian Richardson
Anna Maxwell Martin
Leo Bill
Jessica Ashworth
Eleanor Methven
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Adrian Johnston


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Becoming Jane is the story of Jane Austen and her first tender steps towards love before she "became" the great novelist we all know and mostly love.

It is a story that faces a few large hurdles right from the get-go. Despite being one of the most read and admired English novelist of the last 250 years surprisingly little is known about her life, particularly her early life. Family members adhered far too closely to her dying wishes that all her letters should be destroyed - or perhaps they just threw them out because they didn't imagine that they would be worth anything to future generations. Even 50 years after her death her nephew wrote a memoir which stated : Of events her life was singularly barren: few changes and no great crisis ever broke the smooth current of events. Leastways there are only 160 letters that remain and only one contemporary image of Austen, a sketch by her sister, that makes her look every inch a spinster. Her first letter dates from 1870 when Austen was 20.

It is that letter and one which followed which forms the flimsy historical base for Becoming Jane . For in it Austen refers to her "Irish friend" Tom Lefroy. Legions of Austen fans, aching for the romance and drama of her novels, have made much of the six weeks that Irishman Lefroy spent around Austen's village. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin is far more matter of fact when she refers to the meeting concluding that Austen fell in love with Lefroy but that it was a young love, a holiday romance. Historically speaking whatever happened he was compelled to return to Ireland where this budding young lawyer eventually became Chief Justice.

Becoming Jane invests the meeting with tremendous weight and pitches the film as Austen's life if it were an Austen novel. This is not a bad idea as it lets the fans swoon whilst keeping seemingly half of the period acting fraternity in jobs.

Austen is played by Anne Hathaway. Probably not anyone's first choice for a British legend but then neither was Renee Zellwegger as Beatrix Potter in the recent Miss Potter. She brings a modern girl sensibility to the young Jane suiting director Julian Jarrolds idea that Jane was a young woman ahead of her time.

When we meet Jane she is a frustrated scribbler, preparing short monologues as party favours. One such reading, to celebrate her sisters engagement, is disrupted by the appearance of Tom Lefroy. He is a law student under the care and tight purse strings of his uncle (the last screen role of the great Ian Richardson). Lefroy has been banished to the dreaded country for a spell to teach him a lesson in curbing his profligate ways. Lefroy is mortified. The country may as well be the African jungle. Cocksure and full of superiority (ala Darcy) he rudely barges into the engagement gathering whilst Jane is reading her tribute to the couple and promptly falls asleep.

Jane is resolute that he is the last person she would ever deign to speak to so , of course, she falls madly in love with him.

The film then plays out as a true Austen story. Will she find happiness with Lefroy despite the ruination it may bring on them both? Will she settle for the dull Wisley who carries with him the full and attractive financial support of his auntie (Maggie Smith in full evil dame mode) Lady Gresham? Or will the dark horse Mr Warren , a friend of her brother, snatch her affection at the last moment? Matters are complicated by the attentions of Austen's parents. Her father played by James Cromwell urges her to marry for love but carefully consider her options. Her mother (Julie Walters) herself married for love but urges Jane to make the best financial match possible.

In the extras which accompany the film much is made of the effort Anne Hathaway put in to research Austen and to capture the accent. She does make a pretty good fist of the role and as said above, the idea of modernity seems to be an intentional theme. James McEvoy is the rising star of the moment. After investing the faun from Narnia with dignity transcending the funny ears he leapt into the flawed doctor in The Last King of Scotland proving the perfect foil for Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin. Shortly he will appear on our screens in Atonement, a role that is sure to attract some Oscar buzz. As Lefroy he is perfect as the bored law student who is genuinely surprised to find himself in love with Jane Austen.

Becoming Jane is not without its flaws. Since we (or at least Austen fans) know how it will end there is a certain dour tone and sense of foreboding which cuts against the romance which is the main attraction for viewers. At around two hours it feels long as there is really little in the way of diversion and subplot. Fans of the costume drama however will find much to enjoy, particularly in the centrepiece ball which is tightly choreographed and joyously filmed.

Like Miss Potter this is a film with a somewhat limited appeal but those who like their Austen will snap it up for a glimpse into the love affair which just may have created the writer we all know and love.

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Transfer Quality

Video

  According to IMDB Becoming Jane was originally screened cinematically at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is an immediate concern as the DVD is a 1.85:1 transfer which is 16x9 enhanced.

I have scoured the 'net to find information about the original release and some screenshots to use as comparisons without success. This is because the film has not had a Region 1 release as yet. It is slated to come out early in 2008. The UK Region 2 release came out in September 2007 but has not been widely reviewed.

Two possibilities exist. The film was never in 2.35:1 or it has been cropped in some way for DVD release.

Looking at the film it is difficult to see much evidence of cropping. The trailer does look like it is in 2.35:1 but that is not in itself a certainty. There is a scene with a disappointed Jane looking out a window where her face is partly out of shot. The focus was on Lefroy however and it may have been a directorial intention.

I did not see the film cinematically so I cannot comment on how it appeared on the big screen. Perhaps a reader may assist.

In general there is much to like in the transfer. This is the Austen of Persuasion in that the colours although clear are shot through with a slight melancholic gloom. The countryside is beautifully shot by cinematographer Eigil Bryld and everything looks authentically 18th century.

The flesh tones are accurate and there is minimal grain. The image is stable and the contrast are good. Shadows are suitably deep.

The print itself is as clean as one might expect of a recently released film.

There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Becoming Jane features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448Kb/s.

There is also an alternative 2.0 score.

In fact, the film does not demand anything in the way of an enveloping soundtrack. I couldn't recall an instance where the surrounds were much used except for some chirruping birds in the country walk scenes.

It consists mainly of dialogue. Audio sync is perfect.

The dialogue is well rendered and always comprehensible.

The soundtrack is clean and clear. The score is by composer Adrian Johnston (Emmy winner for Shackleton) and is a good accompaniment to the film.

The soundtrack also features a good deal of period music.

All in all a good surround sound transfer even if the 2.0 was equally suited to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Becoming Jane contains some lengthy extras.

Theatrical Trailer

The trailer gives a good account of the finished film.

Featurette-Making Of - On Set

The On The Set feature begins promisingly as we are taken on set to watch some scenes from the film being shot. However, it doesn't take too long before it adopts the common format of a promotional piece for the movie. The cast are interviewed and all speak in glowing terms about the experience of working on the film and the honour it was to act alongside "actor x". Just once I would like an actor to say how much they despised their co-star. Still, for fans of the movie it gives them a chance to see the cast in costume talking about Austen and the film.

Interviews-Cast & Crew

The interview segments are quite lengthy in total. To the credit of the film company the interviews are not just confined to the American lead (although she does have a fair bit to say). As well as the cast we get to hear from the scriptwriters, the director and various crew including the costume designer, dialogue coach, location scout and production designer. The cast do repeat the praise towards their fellow actors from the On Set feature but they are allowed more time to flesh out their ideas and thoughts.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    A said above the Region 1 release is slated for February. The Region 2 release came out earlier this year. It is identical to our version.

Summary

 

Becoming Jane is a pretty decent stab at a Austen romantic melodrama with a good cast and some lovely cinematography.

The transfer is perfectly adequate although on the face of it there has been some cropping going on.

The extras are reasonably lengthy and detailed and a worthy addition to the package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, December 07, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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