He loves me, he loves me not. I love him, I love him not...
Prepare for a classic heartstring tug-of-war in this bio-drama about author Jane Austen (played by Anne Hathaway). Research indicates there is some truth in this script that focuses on the novelist's early years. While young Jane dreamed of being a writer, her parents Rev. and Mrs. Austen (James Cromwell and Julie Walters), prayed for a suitor who could support her and relieve them of another mouth to feed. Oh... and if he loved her, it would be a bonus.
But this is a story of pragmatic courtship versus unabashed romance, and as much as Jane is determined to secure the latter, she can't deny her impoverished situation. Her heart is set on the mischievous Mr. Lefroy (James McAvoy), the brother of a close girlfriend and a man she could hardly tolerate when they first met. Yet, after a few flirtations, the poor Irishman -- who relies on an allowance from his uncle, Judge Langlois (Ian Richardson) -- becomes irresistible. The blossoming romance has her mother especially concerned, until hope offers a promising new bud in the form of Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith) and her nephew Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox). He has the financial backing to make Jane comfortable, but can luxury trump love?
Of course, it is late 18th century England, and Jane's parents hold a high degree of influence over the matrimonial choices of their children. Although Jane's mother shows bitterness toward her daughter's desire to court Mr. Lefroy, her father takes a more gentle approach. Meanwhile, Jane's rapid vacillations between the two possibilities leave both men just as confused.
Those familiar with Austen's novels will see an obvious similarity of traits between the Jane presented here and the characters in her writing. It's also reported that Mr. Lefroy was the inspiration for what is possibly Jane's best-known character, Mr. D'Arcy in Pride and Prejudice.
Parents and teens who are Austen fans will certainly find this film intriguing, even if many situations are invented to accommodate the few facts known about this author's romantic experiences. And while content in this period drama is minimal, there are a few issues nonetheless. These include veiled sexual innuendo from Mr. Lefroy who reads a sensual passage from Tom Jones and suggests the naive girl's "horizons need to be widened." Later, some skinny-dipping males provide a view of rear male nudity for two women hiding in the trees and another scene implies an unmarried couple is sleeping together. Violence is limited to a scene of dueling men upon whom wagers have been placed.
However, if you think Austen refers to a city in the Lone Star State, you may find this film tedious at best. The heroine's indecisiveness alone will be enough to pluck your mettle as the plot unfolds as fast as daisies grow.