Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who's that Austen Person?

Jane Austen: you either tear through her (fabulous!) novels with reckless abandon, or foster some vague idea of "chick-lit" or novels about "getting married and stuff." Well, I'm obviously of the former camp--since I started reading Austen for class, I voluntarily read through the rest of her canon with delight, finding her prose witty and ironical.

My interest in Austen led me to rent Becoming Jane. Little is known about the exact details of Austen's life, so much of the movie is speculation about why she never married based on what scholars do know.

The film seized on the angle of a unfulfilled romantic relationship as a possible influence on Austen's writings and explored the nature of this relationship.

I loved this movie. It might be over-romanticized, but it offered some interesting speculation about the life of a wonderful writer. The film itself was full of little references to Austen's works, something I found fun. I also enjoyed the scene where Jane met Ann Radcliffe, famous Gothic authoress who was a little boring (in contrast with her wild tales). It also showed the relationship between Austen and Tom LeFroy as an inspiration for her most famous work, Pride and Prejudice.

Anne Hathaway did a decent job portraying Austen, and I had to give her extra points when I learned from the special features that she is an Austen fan (she wrote her senior thesis at Vassar on Austen) and she read the Austen's entire body of works as well as criticism as research for this role. Impressive!

Taken with a grain of salt and viewed as a story based on limited knowledge, Becoming Jane offers a lovely possibility in the story of an author's life.

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