Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy
It's hardly sporting to complain that a film about Jane Austen doesn't measure up to the author's classic class-war romances. But it's far less easy to be sympathetic when that film tries to pass itself off as a bone fide biopic when in fact it's at least 50 percent fiction and basically a film-long game of 'What If.â?� As in, 'What if Austen (Anne Hathaway) had never married because her heart was permanently shattered by a dalliance with a charming Irish lawyer (James McAvoy)?â?� In a craven bid to connect this Jane with young audiences, Hathaway and director Julian Jarrold (of the silly Kinky Boots
) present Austen as a 20-year-old, 18th-century version of a Sassy
magazine girl brimming with irony and spunk. Admittedly, Hathaway and McAvoy's telegenic charms, Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh's luxe costume design and Eigil Bryld's lush, pastoral cinematography buoy the film long after it should have sunk under the weight of its own conceit. But even with its don't-ask, don't-tell approach to the facts aside, it's too stiffly schematic to work as a Regency romcom. Furthermore, the film's notion of Austen's great works being nothing loftier than the result of failed puppy love suggests the filmmakers perversely believe that gross oversimplification is a virtue.