“Becoming Jane,” review by Susan Granger

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There’s a strange déj? vu quality about this fictionalized biography of Jane Austen in that, if you’re familiar with “Pride and Prejudice,” you’ve seen the same story – better done – before.

Set in late 18th century England, it’s all about marrying off a rebellious young woman in an era of obedience and docility. “That girl needs a husband,” declares her mother (Julie Walters) at the outset. But her father, Rev. Austen (James Cromwell), realizes that finding a ‘suitable’ (i.e.: wealthy) one won’t be easy. After all, Jane’s already rejected Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), the nephew of Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith).

“His fortune will not buy me,” Jane declares stubbornly – to which her mother observes, “Affection is desirable but money is absolutely indispensable!”

Instead, Jane’s smitten by a charming but penniless Irish lawyer-in-training Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), whose penchant for bare-knuckle boxing appalls his uncle and benefactor (Ian Richardson).

Adapted as a vapid melodrama – without neither proper chronology nor a shred of originality or Austen wit – by Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood from Jon Spence’s biography, distractingly dimly photographed in Ireland by Eigil Bryld and directed at a plodding, pedestrian pace by Julian Jarrold (“Kinky Boots”), it’s very, very literary – and quite tedious. But that’s not the fault of Anne Hathaway (“The Princess Diaries,” “The Devil Wears Prada”), who acquits herself admirably with veteran thespians Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, James Cromwell and Ian Richardson – in his last screen role.

Judging by this and Renee Zellweger’s lackluster “Miss Potter,” about writer Beatrix Potter, the lives of these lady writers in Regency society fare far better on paper. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Becoming Jane” is a bland 5. It’s a stilted, stuffy costume drama masquerading as a chick flick.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.