I have just returned from seeing Becoming Jane, and I’m glad I saw it because I was curious and also, mainly, because I wanted to have an opinion on it — so here it is: the movie is ridiculous. It’s not just that the “Jane” in the movie has nothing to do with the real Jane Austen, although that is certainly the case. It’s also that the world depicted in the movie was very little like the world Jane Austen lived in. Ladies did not run like movie-version Jane runs and they didn’t play cricket, and they certainly didn’t reject a proposal of marriage and then bring it up on their own again at a later date in order to accept it and then change their minds once again. And they absolutely could not get caught running away with a man and then be accepted into society again, at least not without marrying him.
It’s fun to think that a spirited woman could flaunt social expectations and be admired for it, but I just don’t think it could happen like it happens in the movie. Elizabeth Bennet’s liveliness in Pride and Prejudice is part of what makes that book so enjoyable, but even she wouldn’t do the things “Jane” does. Just because Austen did something slightly questionable for her time period — write and publish novels — doesn’t mean she was ready and willing to flaunt every rule she didn’t like. The movie is a 21C fantasy of what female rebellion might look like in Austen’s time, but not anything like the reality.
I also had a hard time figuring out why “Jane” was so attracted to the Lefroy character; the movie didn’t do enough to show us why she should pay him much attention, and it also didn’t do enough to convince me that Lefroy was really going to reform — he starts the movie with a “reputation,” and then suddenly he’s past all that and in love with “Jane.” It just didn’t work.