As a movie bio-pic/romantic comedy “Becoming Jane” bears no little likeness to “Shakespeare In Love”. Both pictures stand on their own as a witty, literate and straightforward narrative, both are appreciated for all the little throwaway bits drawn from the respective authors works and days, and both are well worth a second (or even third or fourth viewing). Whereas Shakespeare had something like 38 plays, several hundred sonnets and two long poems to his credit – a wealth of literary raw materiel to work with, the doings of kings and warriors and great matters of state, Jane Austin’s reputation rests on six novels as perfectly constricted as jeweled Faberge Easter eggs. The two of them have kept actors in gainful employment for the BBC and various filmakers and TV miniseries producers ever since.

“Becoming Jane” very cleverly draws on elements, characters and situations from each of them in constructing a charming and speculative romance. What if Jane, the engaging and witty writer, the sharp observer of a certain late 18th century milieu, who wrote sympathetically of courtship and romance in a day when that was the only career available to a respectable woman and the only way to better her station in life, and yet died herself a spinster at a relatively early age… what if she had a tempestuous romance? What if she had herself been in deeply love, and been seriously courted? Been tempted to elope… or been tempted to marry a rich but dull man for whom she felt nothing?

“Becoming Jane” sets up just such a situation; picturing the young Jane (Anne Hathaway) as the pretty and spirited daughter of a country parson. Her parents (played by James Cromwell and Julie Walters) married for love and still love each other , but are poor and ever struggling to provide for themselves and their children in the upper-class manner to which they are supposed to maintain. At the age of twenty, she meets the scapegrace Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) – and it’s one of those tempestuous yet totally civilized Jane-Austinish romances, among the country balls and grand houses, carried out over the teacups. It doesn’t work out, of course – but watching it unfold is at least as entertaining as one of the novels that she wrote, ensuring a happier and more conventional outcome for her heroines than what circumstances and her own choices gave to her. (And as a writer, perhaps she was happier with the writing life, after all.)

Extras in this DVD are pretty conventional, with the usual commentaries and deleted scenes. “Becoming Jane” is available through Amazon.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com

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