This is the one movie that my daughter was eager to see! No dragging involved at all. Of course, the main draw to her was the presence of James McAvoy, who she has loved since he played Leto in Children of Dune. Ah well, we all must have our fantasy men! Yet, beyond the thrill of seeing a handsome (or ‘seriously hot’ as she says) man whom one appropriately fantasizes over, we were both intrigued by the story. I for obvious reasons, but more so because we are sincerely enamored by tales of love and romance. We are women, after all!
Now, I will state right up front that I could care less whether this tale is an accurate biopic. Very few, if any, dramatizations of famous people are. If one wants true exactness then look to a written biography or documentary. I have read the dissensions and criticisms, so know that it is largely a hypothesized tale of Miss Jane Austen’s younger days based on a few known facts. I will not waste a large amount of space here talking about any of the censures. Trust me, there are plenty of blogs and articles written about it if you are interested! I am not. I will say that the acrimony and negativism seems a bit overblown as little is known of Jane’s private life in the first place, and as I have said many times: How can a story that puts the spotlight on this amazing artist and thus inspires interest in her novels possibly be a bad thing? I simply do not comprehend the attitude and never will.
The setting is 1795 and Jane is an aspiring novelist who dreams of pursuing her craft in a world that expects women to do one thing and one thing only: marry well. We all know the story as we would not be on this website if not a fan of Miss Austen. She is very much the characters she will create. A woman ahead of her time who wants it all: success, true love, happiness, and so on. Sadly, unlike her characters, she will not find a way to have all that she desires.
This drama is about how she, unlike Lizzy or Emma, must make a choice that will not bring her total happiness and why she chooses as she does. I will not recount the plot as I think it is obvious. We know going into the theater that she will not end up with the man she loves, Mr. Tom Lefroy (the above noted extremely hot James McAvoy), and the only question is why. The screenplay brilliantly weaves a tale of two people who are attracted quite against their wills, knowing all along that a union is nigh on impossible. How the main and secondary characters interact and fulfill their allotted parts is wonderfully executed. Again, I saw not a bad performance in the lot.
I was captured on numerous levels. Anne Hathaway is radiant and perfect as the feisty Jane. She splendidly embodies what we all would imagine the real Jane to be. Even though her struggles are unfathomable to our modern sensibilities, we nonetheless understand her dilemma and are brought to tears numerous times as she wrestles with tragic, life-altering events and decisions. That aspect, I judge, is timeless. We may not comprehend all the nuances of family responsibility and social mores of the time, but we do know what it is to make sacrifices and to suffer traumas. What is timeless is how we can learn from those lessons and how they can positively shape who we become, even if it wasn’t what we initially wanted. Jane embraces her choice with a strength and grace that is beautiful to witness. She bravely forges ahead and determines to pursue her dream, utilizing her inner pain and remembered joy as muses in writing the transcendent novels she would become famous for. We are made to realize that it is through these agonizing trials that she matures, lending fullness to her writing that would not have existed if not for harsh reality. By the time you leave the theater you are moved and exalted despite the sadness, and are not at all concerned with whether the story is precisely true. It could be, and that is all that matters.
On a technical level: the filming was amazing, the attention to historical accuracy incredible, the music divine, the costuming perfect, the dialogue precise and witty, the humor balanced amid the drama, and the landscapes once again sparking my profound desire to travel to England!
My advice would be to set aside the prejudices. Be not prideful in asserting that it is not the facts as you may think you know them to be. Accept the beauty of a tale wonderfully woven that teaches the importance of family, approval for who you are, love, and the belief that life can be wonderful and purposeful even if not as you initially envisioned or planned.