UltimateDisney.com | DVDizzy.com: New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Upcoming Cover Art | Search The Sites

Becoming Jane DVD Review

Becoming Jane movie poster Becoming Jane

US Theatrical Release: August 3, 2007 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Julian Jarrold / Writers: Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams (screenplay), Jane Austen (letters)

Cast: Anne Hathaway (Jane Austen), James McAvoy (Tom Lefroy), Julie Walters (Mrs. Austen), James Cromwell (Reverend Austen), Maggie Smith (Lady Gresham), Anna Maxwell Martin (Cassandra Austen), Lucy Cohu (Eliza De Feuillide), Laurence Fox (Mr. Wisley), Ian Richardson (Judge Langlois), Joe Anderson (Henry Austen), Leo Bill (John Warren)

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com • Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon.com

By Kelvin Cedeno

Jane Austen has been deemed one of the greatest and most influential writers of all time. Whether or not one agrees with that sentiment, there's no denying the impact her work has had on the literary world despite her publishing only four novels in her short lifetime (and two more posthumously).
It's extremely common for classic literature to be adapted to film, and Austen's works (particularly Pride & Prejudice) have been transferred to this medium an overwhelming number of times. Therefore it seemed inevitable that a film would be made about her life. As she was very private, little is known about her as a person, though this didn't daunt Miramax from releasing 2007's Becoming Jane.

This slightly biographical feature tells of Jane Austen's (Anne Hathaway) experiences as a young woman shortly before becoming an established author. Understood only by her father (James Cromwell) and sister Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin), Jane's quick wit and creative tendencies make her a bit of an outcast in her large rural family. When privileged law student Thomas Lefroy (James McAvoy) is sent by his uncle (Ian Richardson) to live in the countryside, he and Jane are immediately catty with one another. The two can't avoid regularly running into each other in such a small town, and with each meeting, they only tolerate each other's presence. Such tolerance finds its way into love, but Jane's mother (Julie Walters) insists she marry Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox) for financial security and an upstanding reputation.

The film's title appears as Jane (Anne Hathaway) disturbs the whole household with her early morning piano playing. Against flaring sunlight, Jane (Anne Hathaway) tells Tom (James McAvoy) her opinion of both him and his literary tastes.

Anyone watching Becoming Jane for historical accuracy needs to look elsewhere. The movie takes some known facts of Austen's life and connects them together using elements from her own novels. In other words, this is historical fiction. While some Austen purists have been deeply offended by that approach, there really is no reason why this simply can't be taken as entertainment. Nowhere does it claim to be a factual account of Austen's early years, and it certainly doesn't set out to smear the author's famous good name. Taken strictly as a film, Becoming Jane succeeds rather nicely thanks to its two leads.
Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy both carry the film, and virtually no scenes exist without their involvement. Even with an inconsistent accent, Hathaway infuses charm into Jane and shows a flair for spouting out the writer's witty, long-winded speech. McAvoy also delivers his similar dialogue naturally and with just the right level of cheekiness.

The production as a whole is of remarkable quality. Sets and costumes look and feel authentic and lived-in rather than the pristine, stagey look of similarly-themed pictures. Despite being a character drama, definite care has been given to the appearance and presentation, and it shows. Any flaws Becoming Jane may possess stem from its storytelling. Jane and Tom (or, rather, Anne and James) certainly share good chemistry, but there's very little transition between the loathing and loving stages. It's not a jarring turnaround, but the progression doesn't flow as smoothly as it could. Another quibble is in regards to the supporting cast. Many talented actors are onboard here, but they're given little to do. Perhaps this is the best approach in order to further exemplify Jane's isolation from people in general, but one wishes to know certain characters, such as Mrs. Austen, better than permitted.

Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin) takes a beachside walk with Jane (Anne Hathaway) to muse over recent concerns. Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith), Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), and Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters) observe as Jane (Anne Hathway) jots down her thoughts after being visited by the muse.

Becoming Jane may not be very strong narratively, but its performances, craftsmanship, and sophisticated dialogue all help make this a pleasing effort. The Austen references used to flesh out the story are often done quite cleverly and succeed in making the audience wonder just what real-life experiences influenced her work. The film is proof that not every period piece needs to be a grand, sweeping drama. Sometimes character-based simplicity can be far more potent, and this is certainly a philosophy Jane Austen herself would've agreed with.

Buy Becoming Jane on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 12, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
Black Keepcase Housed in Embossed,
Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc


Becoming Jane is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. New films have become pleasantly predictable in the transfer department, for they're usually presented very well. This feature is no exception. The image is spotless and suffers from neither print flaws nor digital ones. Color palettes alternate between the warm and vivid variety and the cold and sterile type, depending on the scene requirements. Both cases appear to be replicated well on this disc. Sometimes the image is a bit soft, but for the majority of the picture, detail is pleasing.

Those expecting demo-quality audio will come away disappointed, but the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack does the job it needs to. A dialogue-heavy film such as this has little use for surround channels, and these are only utilized for the mellow score and for distributing the extensive speech. Both come across cleanly and intelligibly, and that's good enough for a low-key production of this sort.

Jane (Anne Hathaway) and Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters) try to ignore the mysterious microphone lingering over them as they meet with Lady Gresham in this deleted scene. Anne Hathaway is noticeably cheerier than her on-screen persona in "Discovering the Real Jane Austen." Tom (James McAvoy) teases Jane's naivetι as the trivia track informs us of female education, or lack thereof.


The disc's modest supplements begin with a fairly robust collection of thirteen deleted scenes (19:29). Many of these re-emphasize points already made clear in the final film,
but they're still entertaining and contain some nice supporting character moments. Interestingly, the scenes are presented open matte, clearly exposing a boom mic every few seconds.

Next is an audio commentary by director Julian Jarrold, screenwriter Kevin Hood, and producer Robert Bernstein. The track itself is something of a mixed bag. On one hand, the trio openly discusses what in the film is artistic license and what is based on actual fact. On the other hand, all three men aren't the most engaging of speakers. It's difficult telling them apart without the aid of the (thankfully included) subtitle track, and their quiet comments don't always sustain one's interest. The following two features provide much of the same information in more entertaining ways.

"Discovering the Real Jane Austen" (17:00) concerns itself partially with the production and partially with the real Austen. The former aspect features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the commentary participants along with some of the cast. The latter is covered by interviews with various historians who compare the film to what is known about the actual Jane Austen. Despite the short running time, quite a bit is packed in here, with the most fascinating bots involving the references to Austen's novels peppered throughout the storyline.

Finally, there's "Becoming Jane Pop-Up Facts and Footnotes." As the title suggests, this is a subtitled trivia track that runs concurrently with the main feature. Information relevant to the scene in question appears, and the topics cover both history and this production. The facts don't pop up as frequently as one would like, but they're still enlightening and even occasionally amusing.

At the start of the disc, there's an anti-smoking advertisement that's immediately followed by trailers for Disney Blu-ray Disc, Wall-E, and Dan in Real Life. All of the trailers, though not the anti-smoking ad, appear under "Sneak Peeks" along with more trailers for Enchanted and "Greek". Unsurprisingly, no trailer for Becoming Jane itself is included.

The main menu presents scenic shots from the film with an animated, light-green overlay evoking trees and leaves. The piano-heavy score accompanies this and the subsequent, and similarly-designed, static menus. The disc is housed in a standard black Amaray case, which slides into a lightly embossed and holographic slipcover. Inside the keepcase is a two-sided insert with scene selections on one side and an Enchanted advertisement on the other.

Jane Austen and the others partake in the only (public) activity in which men and women can physically interact with one another. Despite her own hardships, Jane still takes the time to comfort her sister Cassandra.


Becoming Jane has quite a lot of talent involved both in front and behind the camera. While not all of it is used to its full potential, the film does far more right than wrong. It offers a sweet and classy "what if?" story involving one of literature's best-known yet most mysterious authors. It is presented well on DVD visually and aurally, and despite the light supplements, there's quite a bit of information to be found. This DVD earns a recommendation to fans of Jane Austen's work and a rental to anyone interested in a light, unpretentious period drama.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy on Blu-ray Disc from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Anne Hathaway: The Princess Diaries • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement • The Other Side of Heaven
James McAvoy: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe / Extended Edition
James Cromwell: The Queen | Julie Walters: Driving Lessons | Director Julian Jarrold: Kinky Boots
Period Dramas: Casanova • The Tudors: The Complete First Season • Braveheart: Special Collector's Edition
New to DVD: Elizabeth: The Golden Age • Gone Baby Gone • Martian Child • The Apartment: Collector's Edition • Blind Dating

UltimateDisney.com | DVDizzy.com: New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Upcoming Cover Art | Search The Sites

Search This Site:

UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed February 14, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com.
Images copyright 2007 Miramax Films, Hanway Films, UK Film Council, Irish Film Board, 2 Entertain, BBC Films, Ecosse Films, Blueprint Pictures, Scion Films,
and 2008 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.