Yesterday the guys were out of town so I went to see the ultimate chick flick, Becoming Jane.
Becoming Jane tells the story of Jane Austen’s ill-fated romance with the impecunious and dishonorable Tom Lefroy. I’m sure I’m not giving anything away by stating that the romance was ill-fated, since most of the readers of this blog know that Austen is one of literature’s most famous old maids.
Austen’s real life was quite different from the Becoming Jane version, most notably that to the best of my knowledge Austen never did elope with anyone. For all I know she might have; I’m not an Austen scholar.
The film’s dramatic story centers about this elopement, while failing to convey that only a despicable character would have urged an honorable woman to elope with him. In modern-day terms it would have been the equivalent of having your boyfriend want to be your pimp, only that in our day we seemed to have lost the moral outrage over that since we’ve come a long way in losing our morals.
Therefore this anachronism will probably go unnoticed, just as is having Jane dance at a ball while not wearing gloves.
While the character of Mr. Lefroy is supposed to be dashing, appealing and sexy, to my jaded old eyes he just wasn’t all that interesting. Mr. Wisly, played by James Fox, was a lot more appealing in that he was modest, kind, and truly in love with Jane. Money aside, he’s the kind of guy I would have been looking at, plus I thought he was better looking than Lefroy. He wasn’t into sports and didn’t dance well, which added to his appeal.
Other than that, it is a very pretty corset movie. Anne Hathaway actually does a nice job, the actors are terrific (James Cromwell plays her father – does that make Jane Austen Jack Bauer‘s half-sister?), the antiques lovely, and the locations beautiful. It is a chick flick true and true.
I would like to watch this movie with my mother, Lydia. Years ago we watched together Sense and Sensibility and had an amazing conversation.
My mother Lydia is the youngest of ten children, and is ten years younger than her youngest brother. She’s still a beautiful woman and as a young girl was truly very pretty. She and her siblings were born into great comfort since her father was a man of money and influence but by no means she would have been considered an heiress, so she graduated from college and went to work in the late 1940s.
Sometime during that time she had been dating a handsome guy, “J”, who was a real party guy, very popular, a great dancer, and very fond of her. “J” didn’t seem to have been a hard-working guy in his profession but was a lot of fun. Her sisters (she had two much older sisters who never married) disapproved of this man, but she didn’t quite drop the guy, didn’t quite take him too seriously. All the same, she went on living her life independently from him and enjoying herself.
Apparently out of the blue “J” suddenly married a well-known society girl, the only child of a very rich man. While my two oldest aunts were scandalized over the surprise wedding, Lydia didn’t think anything of it and wished them well.
A year or so later the guy turned up at Lydia’s workplace just as she was leaving for the evening, and asked her for a cup of coffee. With his being a married man, she insisted on a very public locale on a congested street, so no one could say that she was having a secret rendezvous with a married man. He then proceeded to tell her the sad story that his wife was barren, and proposed that Lydia become his mistress and bear his children.
Mind you, divorce was legal in Puerto Rico at that time. In fact, another one of her sisters was divorced.
You don’t know Lydia, but she can, when provoked, rip you with words while using the most meticulously polite, soft words, all within the boundaries of the strictest etiquette. Her former boyfriend got the full extent of her message and never approached her again.
Or so she thought.
A couple of years after that Lydia met my father, who fell in love at first sight with her, and (yet again) my aunts didn’t approve of him either. My father at that point had been married, widowed, married and divorced and was estranged from his second son (to this day I have never met my stepbrother). They had a whirlwind romance and married at a small chapel in the countryside.
Fast-forward to a few years ago when my mom and I are watching Sense and Sensibility and as we get to the part where Mr. Willoughby watches the countryside wedding from his horse, she turns around and says, “After the movie’s done, I’ll tell you something you don’t know yet.”
At my mother’s wedding, unknown to her but in full view of others, “J” had been sitting outside the church in his convertible, watching and waiting.
He drove away, alone.
Will have to watch Becoming Jane with Lydia, sometime.