Becoming Jane- BRD
(Julian Jarrold, 2007)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Miramax & HanWay Films
Video: Miramax Home Entertainment
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Feature film: 1080p
English 5.1 Uncompressed (48 kHz/24-bit)
English DD 5.1 Surround
Spanish DD 5.1 Surround
Feature: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: English SDH
• Featurette: Discovering the Real Jane Austen
• Becoming Jane Pop-up Facts & Footnotes
• Deleted Scenes
Standard Blu-ray case
1 disc: 16 chapters
Release Date: February 12, 2008
Becoming Jane ~ Comment
There's a certain feminist revisionist quality that finds its way inevitably into films like the recent Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley that bugs me, as if Jane Austen's heroines weren't feminist enough for our taste. Becoming Jane is very much in this mode – perhaps all the more so since it owes no allegiance to a specific novel from two centuries ago. The feminism in Shakespeare in Love, on the other hand, seemed to me to grow from the characters, not from a need to appease modern audiences.
From the outset, I was put off our mark by the suddenness of events: Jane's piano playing that wakes people out of bed and makes servants drop their trays; Jane's dramatic self-critical reaction to Lefroy's initial offhand snub of her writing talents and their subsequent getting into issues of gender roles as if they had been talking about the subject for days, and later, the dramatic way someone steps on Jane's foot at the dance. Despite the care taken in the art direction, subtlety is not much in evidence here.
Perhaps for the very reason that I felt the protagonists forced down my throat, as it were, pretty much all the supporting characters were more interesting and more compelling to me than the two lovers. More convincing still was the art direction and costumes, which convincingly catapulted me back to the days before the flush toilet. Its very sense of reality seemed to work against the modernist attitude and behaviors of its heroine.
Becoming Jane ~ The Score Card
The Movie : 6
The events depicted, loosely based on Jane Austen's early life, preceded publication of her novels. It offers two themes: that Jane was already a feminist snob (in the best sense, of course) and would refuse a suitor if it were only to satisfy the requirements of duty; and that she required a love affair to gain the necessary experience and understanding of love. Rejecting the declarations of Lady Gresham's protégé – a "booby," as Jane (Anne Hathaway) so unsympathetically describes him - and so is ripe for the opposite: the charms of a rogue. Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), for his part, falls predictably for the headstrong Jane. However, he must first convince his uncle of Miss Austen's acceptability as a bride, for without his consent, Tom would be penniless and without prospects. As the lovers sort out their predicament, the threads of plot and theme for Austen's Pride and Prejudice emerge.
Image : 8.5 (8~8.5/9)
The score of 8.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.
As is usual for on-location photography, sharpness and focus varies from scene to scene, but every attempt is made to keep retain a deep focus except in close up. The interior shots are particularly excellent in this respect, and the transfer appears to suggest a theatrical experience. There are no artifacts and hardly any noise worth the name. There is a tendency to high contrast in some interior shots and to ignore shadow detail, which is not inconsistent with the period.
Audio & Music : 8/8
The dialogue is clear, though may require subtitles for those unfamiliar with the language. The music is nice and supports the screenplay in its engaging, revisionist way
Operations : 6
Miramax Blu-ray DVDs are distributed by Buena Vista whose hand can be seen in the usual endless promos and previews that, mercifully, can be chapter-skipped before endless loading of the feature film begins. On the other hand, I found the menu design to be excellent and exceedingly self-directing. However, there was some question about the legitimacy of some of the menu connections. At one point during the movie I accessed subtitles from the set-up menu in order to turn them off (instead of simply migrating through the choices using the subtitle function on the remote). The subtitles disappeared as they should, but the commentator audio track came on for no apparent reason. BTW, note the yellow subtitles.
Extras : 6
Even though 480i and non-anamorphic, the picture quality of the featurette was very good indeed.
I'd recommend renting before purchase.
February 9th, 2008
Enter the Dragon