The Lives of Others

Starring Jane Hathaway, James Cromwell, Julie Walters and Maggie Smith. Directed by Julian Jarrold.
Running Time: 120 minutes
Rated: Rated PG.

Jane Austen continues to be ever popular. There have been new television versions of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. The Keira Knightly-Matthew MacFadyen Pride and Prejudice proved a winner with audiences in 2005. Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her screenplay for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, the same year as the Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle television version of Pride and Prejudice became one of the most avidly followed series. Emma was portrayed by Gwynneth Paltrow in 1996 and Frances O'Connor starred in Mansfield Park in 2000. Quite a collection of films and television adaptations.

Now, the question is what about Jane Austen herself?

The answers offered in Becoming Jane are insightful rather than historically accurate.

First, an alert to the title and its play on words. The film suggests the influences on Miss Austen that led her to becoming the great author admired for the last two hundred years. However, the Regency period in which she came to adulthood and did her novel-writing was one of surface wealth, elegance and propriety. Jane fitted into this world (even as she looked at it and described it with ironic wit) and was a very becoming woman. Both these aspects are present in this lightly entertaining journey back into British literary history.

However, one needs to do a bit of googling to check how the screenplay has played with dates. At the end, an ageing Jane (though she was only 32 at the time of her death) does a public reading of Pride and Prejudice (which had been published only four years earlier; Sense and Sensibility preceded it in fact and both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published posthumously).

But this film is something of a fantasy. What if

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