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PCR # 385  (Vol. 8, No. 32)  This edition is for the week of August 6--12, 2007.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Becoming Jane"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Becoming Jane"  by Mike Smith
Operation: Woronov  by Andy Lalino
What's In A Name?  by Lisa Ciurro
Forgotten Horrors: “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”  by ED Tucker
Happy Birthday .... Passing On .... Is This Logical?... Barry Bonds .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 27: Delayed Until Next Week  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell and Maggie Smith
Directed by: Julian Jarrold
Running Time: 2 hours

Jane Austen has been very good for Hollywood. Feature films made from her writings ("Sense and Sensibility," "Pride and Prejudice," etc.) have earned two Academy Awards and another eleven nominations. When accepting her Oscar for adapting the screenplay of "Sense and Sensibility," Emma Thompson said that she goes weekly to Jane Austen's grave and shows her the grosses. Heck, even the team behind the comedy spoof "Mafia" originally titled the film to give Ms. Austen credit. Now, 190 years after her death, Hollywood has done something good for Ms. Austen with "Becoming Jane."

Young Jane Austen (Hathaway) lives with her family in the English countryside. Her father (Cromwell) is the local minister. Though the family is comfortable, they are a long way from well off. Jane's sister is engaged to be married, but the man she has chosen is not wealthy. Enter Lady Gresham (Smith), whose only heir (Laurence Fox) has a thing for Jane. While her family keep their fingers crossed, Jane meets the dashing Tom Lefroy (McAvoy), who has been sent to the country ("deeeeeep in the country," his uncle tells him) for the summer to calm down his rapidly rising reputation. A lawyer in training, Tom is everything Jane has read about in novels, which is something she knows about as she is also a writer herself. The two meet and, despite their obvious attraction to each other, try their best to one up the other, both with word and deed. When Tom advises Jane to learn more about life by reading "Tom Jones," the young woman is overcome by the power of the written word and sets her sights on making a living with her pen.

Beautifully photographed and splendidly acted, "Becoming Jane" is a fine reminder of the classic Merchant/Ivory films of the 1980s and 90s. The cast is strong all around, with special honors going to the leads. Hathaway, who has earned fame in the "Princess Diary" films and last summer's "The Devil Wears Prada," gives a dramatic performance that was only briefly hinted at in "Brokeback Mountain." Hopefully this film will to for her what "Pride and Prejudice" did for Kiera Knightley and elevate her to the top rung of actress working today. McAvoy, who played the physician in "The Last King of Scotland," also delivers here. Looking like a cross between Russell Crowe and Aidan Quinn, his Mr. Lafroy could have easily been a one dimensional character that would be easy for the audience to forget. But McAvoy envelops the character, and we see how his inner workings, as well as his actions, contribute to the woman that Jane Austen would become. The rest of the cast is just as capable in their roles, with a special mention going to the great English theatre star Ian Richardson, who passed away shortly after filming. Though a star in his native England, Richardson is probably best remembered in the states as the gentleman in the back of the Rolls that asked, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon."

The script, by Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams, is clever without being overbearing. Subtle references to Austen's later works make the film a fun adventure for Austen fans. These references are very well done and not heavy handed. The direction is smooth and the photography by Eigil Bryld is best described as luscious. A moving picture postcard featuring the beauty of the countryside.

After a summer of explosions, pirates, super heroes and Homer Simpson, it's time to take in a chick flick. And "Becoming Jane" is the best thing out there. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Becoming Jane"  Three and a half stars.

This week's movie review of "Becoming Jane" is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.