A courteous exchange, a stroll in the woods, a ball, a battle of wit at the tip of the tongue while still dancing in perfect synchrony – all of which only evokes the longing for the enthralling Austen romance, the biting wit, and the unmistakable irony with a tint of satire.
Becoming Jane is a story about Jane Austen. Yet, rather than being a biopic that dutifully keeps track of every detail, it mimics Austen’s style to tell an invented tale of Jane Austen herself:
Jane (the stunning Ann Hathaway) is the daughter of Rev. Austen and Madam Lefroy, the sister of Cassandra and Henry Austen. She has the luxury to explore her father’s large library of books and indulge in writing in the quiescence of Hampshire.
Tom Lefroy (the dashing James McAvoy) is a young Irish lawyer endowed with inexhaustible youthful energy and a free spirit. His benefactor and uncle, the great judge of London banishes Tom to the country for a stay with the Lefroys, hoping that the woods, the breeze, and the quietness will discipline this wild mane and teach him the importance lesson of prudence.
Disdainful of his uncle’s arrangement, Tom calls on the Austen household in the middle of Jane’s reading. He offends Jane with his impertinent air and upsets her with his criticism for her writing – the very first person to have done that, because no one takes Jane seriously enough to have considered her for being a novelist.
Then, a promenade in the woods, a witty conversation, a casual recommendation of a book from Jane to Tom,
a dance, an embarrassing moment,
a daring cricket match,
a library encountering, an exchange of prose, a recommendation of a book from Tom to Jane,
and a boxing match. Somewhere in time, the seed of love is implanted, and Jane is enriched as a writer.
While Rev. Austen’s business continues to decline, Mr. Wisley, the heir to Lady Gresham’s entire estate proposes to marry Jane. For a girl with so little fortune, the offer is incandescent. She declines it. Because she of all people cannot marry without love.
There is another ball.
All it takes is one dance, one glance, one kiss, and one utterance for the love to blossom.
When it does, Tom brings Jane to his uncle Judge, letting Jane’s merit speak for herself. He hopes to receive his uncle’s blessing for a marriage with Jane.
Happiness is within grasp. So close, but it slipped away. All because of a detrimental letter sent by the sour-faced John Warren who is secretly in love with Jane. The letter arrived in time to reveal Jane’s poverty. The judge rejects the marriage proposal without a second consideration. Having to rely entirely on his uncle and benefactor, Tom forsakes Jane for his family. Disillusioned, Jane returns to Hampshire and starts on her novel, First Impression AKA Pride and Prejudice. (Although in reality, it’s Austen’s second novel.) The protagonist, Mr. Darcy, of which is a hybrid that possesses both Tom’s arrogance and Wisley’s awkwardness.
Misfortune washes up the shore one after another like the early tide. Cassandra’s fiance died from yellow fever. While helping her sister to reconcile with the bereavement, Jane finds out that Tom is in Hampshire and he is soon to wed another woman.
He finds her in the woods one day and offers an elopement. She agrees.
They elope. On the way, the carriage wheel sinks into a puddle of mud. When Tom undresses to help move the carriage, Jane picks up a thin letter falling out of Tom’s jacket. It’s of Tom’s large family, showing gratitude for his financial support, which derives from his uncle.
Between sense and sensibility, Jane chooses to be sensible, for the sake of the mouthes depend on Tom to be fed. She leaves Tom and returns to Hampshire.
While her friends and family unit in holy matrimony, Jane never married. When she sees Tom again after attending an opera performance years later, he is already the father of three. His eldest daughter is, of course, named after Jane.
While the critiques wince at its historical inaccuracy, we can take it for what it’s worth with a cup of steaming tea or coffee, a pile of fluffy pillow, a quiet Saturday night, some willing suspension of disbelief, and a box of tissue.