Frontispiece, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Becoming Jane, Thoughts

Karin Kallmaker Craft of Writing, Just Like That, Sisters of the Pen

 I saw the film tonight and was pleased with it as a movie. The matter of the love affair is highly speculative, and based on very little evidence, but the story is nicely told, and any fan of Austen will enjoy the movie because it is quite like an Austen novel. Anne Hathaway isn’t hard on the eyes, either.

It was more effective as a story of a writer finding her voice than as a compelling romantic storyline–at least for me. In Austen’s typical style, the film doesn’t belabor its issues anymore than she did in her work. It was an elegiac presentation of the core issues of the woman writer of any era: why does the world scoff at the idea we can live by our pens? Why is the examination of a woman’s heart not “literary” or dismissed as “juvenile”?

The screenplay answers these questions through Jane, and I enjoyed hearing “her” thoughts on these matters. More general questions about the art and artist are also discussed, with the general conclusion (one still of much debate) that Austen gave us the work she did because she had suffered a broken heart. The film’s writers are clear in this point: an artist “becomes” herself through suffering. I’m not entirely sure I agree as it seems to convey some credit for the artist’s output to the things that have caused the artist pain. It also suggests that a man was essential to Jane Austen’s creative determination, that it did not come from within naturally.

Regardless, the film’s treatment of the basic questions that face writers, and especially women writers, is gently provocative. I enjoyed the experience of another way of considering the life of one of the foremothers of the modern novel. Anyone wanting a break from the blockbusters of the summer might enjoy the experience as much as I did. Warning, though, it won’t be in theaters for long — nothing blows up.

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