Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lacks Persuasion

If I wanted to watch the Pride & Prejudice, I could've stayed home and done so. And maybe I should have.

Friday I was reminded of another Jane Austen theater experience not so long ago. A decent little movie moves along romantically, and I'm almost engaged in the plot when he come slowly across the undulating, green English landscape, coattails flapping in the mist. The fog clears, our hearts beat, and then -- oh, no, no. You're not Mr Darcy. And why is Kiera Knightly here? Where are the real actors?

No, Kiera -- though lovely -- is not Elizabeth Bennett, and no one but Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. Most dissapointingly, Anne Hathaway is not Jane Austen, and Becoming Jane is not convinvingly about the beloved novelist.

If Becoming Jane was about another of the many British women named Jane, I wouldn't have missed the sharp wit, the social commentary and hint of feminism, the irony and exceptional romance. The film had a few really great moments, and for the most part the acting is convincing, if not inspiring. James McAvoy is absolutely adorable in every way -- fans of the actor would be a better audience than fans of Austen.

But because I went in with certain literary expectations, I left underwhelmed by the tertiary references to Austen's struggle as a novelist, as a female writer, and as a female who wanted to do anything but marry up. Austen's novels are brilliant, quick, dramatic, engaging, relatable -- many flattering adjectives unapplicable to the film. It alluded to her work, but I may have imagined the many poignant connections of her work and life -- the film seemed more concerned with close-ups than statements. And while I inderstand the period covered is when Austen began Pride & Prejudice, undoubtedly her most famous work, it could have drawn from her other works as well.

The plot felt disheveled, clunky. The developments didn't come in a fast-paced theatrical way, but through a very shallow, monotone arch. I was never caught up in a conflict long enough to feel anything before it was swept away. It was a vaguely realistic representation of a woman's ongoing indecision, not more bland than engaging in its familiarity. I can experience bland indecision at home. At the movies, I want drama.

The expereicne was also tained by an obnoxious audience. I blame the lackluster film for eliciting forced sighs, oohs, and oh-no!'s from the women around me. To the woman behind me: vocalizing your own emotions doesn't strengthen a film that lacks its own.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Oh no! I love, love, loved this movie! For what it was. But, I didn't go into it expecting a nod to Jane Austen's literary achievements or an exploration of her artist's mind. I expected a love story, one with a difficult and poignant ending, and that's what I got. While I agree that this film was probably quite loose with the facts, I adored that, at the end, you were left to *imagine* for yourself how the people in her life shaped characters in her books. And, yeah, James McAvoy was delightful and adorable in every possible way.