Becoming Jane (Austen) #LiteraryFilmReview

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favorable social standing and economic security. Most famously known for: Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park.

In the film, Becoming Jane, we see Jane Austen’s (Anne Hathaway) financially strapped parents (James Cromwell, Julie Walters) who expect her to marry the nephew of wealthy Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith). The young Jane knows that such a union will destroy her creativity and sense of self-worth so instead she becomes involved with Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). He is a charming but penniless apprentice attorney who gives her the knowledge of the heart and experience she needs for her future career as a passionate writing novelist.

A Critique of Women: their place in society & expectations

The film opens with Jane writing, reading and rewriting her own work. There’s a silence over the house. Jane begins playing the piano and wakes up the whole house. Her mother is upstairs sleeping and is abruptly waken up by the commotion and says to her husband, “that girl needs a husband,” as if to say she needs to get out of this house. Her father is a minister and he gives sermon at church that day of what a girl/woman ought to be: daughter, sister, wife and mother. Shortly thereafter, on the next day, Jane meets Mr. Wesley, heir to the estate of Lady Gresham. He seems to have taken a liking to Jane. Let’s see where things go from here, shall we?

Enter Tom Lefroy. We meet Mr. Lefroy at an underground boxing arena and fight club. He’s drinking the night away and charming the loins of a few lucky ladies. The next day, he visits his Uncle who is a local Judge. His Uncle gives Tom critique on his behavior, stating that he wants him to be more responsible and respectable so that Tom may one day become a lawyer who is bound to merit, honor and integrity.

Jane is positioned at the front of the room, gearing up to read a four-page letter to her sister on the day of her engagement to express the ideals of love and relationships. The speech is a bit long winded, yet the crowd remains attentive and polite. Suddenly, a late attendee arrives and interrupts the letter reading with his presence. It is Tom Lefroy. He sits in the back politely and tries not to cause any further disturbance. Jane later overhears him critiquing her work, he calls her writing “juvenile and full of self loathing.” She leaves upset and annoyed. He follows her in to the forest and attempts to formally introduce himself to her, but she’s not interested. He asks her why she seems to be so upset with him, he hasn’t done anything. She tells him that he is wrong and that he has done something without even realizing it. She explains to him with a passionate anger and distain that her writing is great and she doesn’t care about his opinion of her writing because he doesn’t know better.

A few scenes later, Jane encounters Tom Lefroy again. He notices her at a party like event, a ball if you will, and asks her to dance with him. She reluctantly says, yes and joins him on the dancefloor. They perform a French dance style called “the country dance,” while discussing their romance/relationship styles and sharing their opinions of each other. When the song is over, she’s upset again and quickly leaves the dancefloor, yet she’s still wondering about him the next day.

Equality & Accomplishments

The family and their potential pursuers all attend a lovely game of afternoon Cricket in a field nearby. Mr. Warren, Jane’s brother, does poorly for their team. Jane steps up to bat and immediately hits a home run then runs the bases back and forth with her brother. She wins the game for their team off of that hit alone. The guys – Tom & Jane’s brother – run in to the woods, race to the lake, take off their clothes and jump in bare bottom naked. I guess this is their way of celebrating.

In the next scene, we see Jane in the library, picking up some new books to read and review as inspiration for her next literary piece. She is interrupted, of course, by none other than, Tom Lefroy. He gives her some tips on writing in order for her work to be taken seriously and for her to be on equal standing as a masculine author. He even recommends a book to her: History of Tom Jones – A Foundling by Henry Fielding. He tells her that novels should reveal the true source of our actions and provide a conversation about vices & virtues. She questions him, alluding to the fact that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He responds to her doubt with telling her that he knows more than enough to gather that Jane must widen her horizons to gain the experience of a true novelist.

Romance & Experience

Janes receives a proposal from Mr. Wesley, Lady Gresham’s heir. He offers Jane a $2,000/year salary and notes that his family owns property, etc. Jane denies his proposal and apologizes for his time spent. Surely enough, the word gets around quickly that Jane denied Mr. Wesley and when she gets home, she can hear her parents arguing about what they are going to do about her. Her father says that Jane should marry the man she wants, not the man who offers the best price. However, her mother does not agree. Mainly because of her own circumstances, the mother realizes that marrying for love instead of money will only leave a woman with nothing to show for her efforts. Her mother yells at Jane, making the point that their property and inheritance goes to her brothers and she will be left with nothing. She must marry if she wants to acquire anything or have a decent life. Jane argues that none of that matters because regardless of finding the right person, she plans to “live by the pen” as an author and have a fulfilling career in writing.

A few days later, Jane’s family attends the Gresham Ball. At the ball, Lady Gresham watches Jane’s interactions with any potential suitors throughout the night. She eventually pulls Jane aside for a private conversation away from the gala of festivities. Lady Gresham takes this moment to remind Jane of her fortunate offer from her nephew, Mr. Wesley, stating that she doesn’t have any children of her own, her nephew’s desires are dear to her heart. She notes that Jane’s father is in dire need financially, so, the independent thought of Jane is unfair and unsettling because it serves no constructive purpose. Jane is left with a heavy heart–not of shame, sympathy or remorse, but of insult to the way Lady Gresham talked to her and how it is considered a family obligation to get married rather than for love.

Jane easily forgets this conversation, her attention stolen away by Tom. She sneaks away with him. They share intense, passionate kisses. Jane is said because Tom is leaving tomorrow for college. Tom is beginning to fall for Jane and says to her, “I have no money, no property, I am entirely dependent upon that bizarre old lunatic, my uncle. I cannot yet offer marriage, but you must know what I feel. Jane, I’m yours. God, I’m yours. I’m yours, heart and soul. Much good that is.” Jane replies, “Let me decide that.” Tom sighs, “What will we do?” Jane has an idea, “What we must.” They plan to have each other forever and Jane agrees to run away with Tom, in hopes that she will gain the experience she needs to be a better writer, become a true novelist and maybe even get married. They spend many months together. Jane writes her sister letters, sharing her stories about traveling with Tom.

Lasting Impressions

Jane and Tom are back in town after their runaway adventure together in the name of love. They venture to Judge Lefroy, Tom’s Uncle’s home for dinner in hope of seeking his approval for their marriage. However, during dinner, a letter is received from the Gresham’s estate in regard to Jane’s reputation and her family poverty. Judge Lefroy immediately denies consent for Tom to marry Jane, they are commanded to break up, and Jane leaves, embarrassed and heart broken.

A few months go by. We find Jane at home having dinner with family. She is happy to be returning to normal. At dinner, it is announced that her sister’s fiancé recently died of yellow fever and as if that’s not bad enough, a rumor is spreading that Tom is in town and he’s engaged to another. Jane ignores the rumors; she is also engaged now.

Tom finds Jane in the same forest where they met earlier in the film. She is with her supposed betrothed. Tom cuts in and tells her that he cannot live a lie, that he has tried and it hasn’t worked. He pushes aside the other man. Jane accepts Tom’s apology. Turns out, she was actually waiting for it. The two of them kiss and makeup. This time they decide to really runaway together, to elope. Jane packs her things and her sister gives her a pearl necklace as a gift/reminder of beauty and of love. It is also something valuable that Jane can sell in case things don’t work out with Tom… Surely enough, it doesn’t work out. Jane comes back home, plays the same song on the piano as the beginning of the film, but with a different mood and this time, her mother finally comforts her.

Years pass by, Jane has written the first chapter of her next novel and completed several. She has become a well known writer and loves to share her literary prose whenever she is given an appropriate opportunity. Jane is at her cousins’ wedding when Tom shows up as a guest. He introduces Jane to his daughter, who is most interested in Jane’s work. Jane reads her work aloud to the crowd, the daughter is soaking up every breathe of her words. Everyone gives Jane a round of applause. Tom gives Jane a smile and joins in. He is less critical and more compassionate. He is proud of her and he has missed her. Their love story ends in a beautiful friendship.

About Brittany J. Rosario 48 Articles
Brittany J. Rosario is a Versatile Writer, who isn't afraid of expressing herself through various media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Spotify podcast. She enjoys writing poetry, abstract painting, freestyle dancing and reviewing popular culture, history and iconic moments. Being a content creator gives her a different perspective on life. Her purpose is to maintain a positive and informative environment where people can be their true selves.