Becoming Jane

(2007) * 1/2 Pg
116 min. Miramax Films. Director: Julian Jarrold. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Julie Walters, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Jessica Ashworth.
This lifeless speculative historical fiction about 20-year-old Jane Austen's romantic involvement with an Irish lawyer could've happened as screenwriters Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood imagine it, since Austen's life is poorly documented and subject to broad interpretation. But Becoming Jane, and its star Anne Hathaway, are never convincing. Worse, they're never entertaining. Director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) first shows his fondness for slapstick blundering, then abandons that garish tack to settle in for a long, cold war of dreary period-film clichés and 20th-century attitudinal flourishes. Scotsman James MacAvoy plays the lawyer, and James Cromwell, Julie Walters, Ian Richardson, and Maggie Smith stalk through to little effect. There's something to the suggestion that Austen lived, if only briefly, what she wrote in her six novels, but the filmmakers botch the opportunity to exploit it for either moving drama or mirthful comedy.
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