THE MOVIE: Becoming Jane (2007)
THE PAIRING: Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy)
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT: Tom appears out of nowhere to dance with Jane at Lady Gresham’s Ball.
Becoming Jane is one of those period dramas worth revisiting time and time again. The fictionalized love story between a young Jane Austen and the roguish Tom Lefroy is a wonderful example of how to do a romantic drama just right. Besides the electric synergetic chemistry between Hathaway and McAvoy and the impassioned romantic performance of McAvoy, the script is filled with just the right amount of wit, characterization, and sweeping romantic moments.
One of these romantic moments is what I wish to put the spotlight on. The scene in question is the infamous (among period drama fans anyway) dance sequence between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy at Lady Gresham’s Ball. From the perfect dance choreography to the emotional music, the nuanced performances, the camera work and direction, this sequence is absolute perfection. I know I wasn’t the only one smiling as big as Anne Hathaway while watching it in the theater.
THE LEAD IN – BECOMING JANE
Before the Ball, Jane finds herself at a crossroads. To marry or not to marry the wealthy Mr. Wisley, a man whom she does not love. At the same time, her heart stirs with feelings for the lively, handsome Mr. Lefroy – the man she can’t be with due to their own unfortunate circumstances.
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT – JANE AUSTEN AND TOM LEFROY
Jane arrives at the Ball, capturing a quick glimpse of a man peeking through a window. Was it Mr. Lefroy peering down at her? Certainly, that is Jane’s hope.
She enters the hall, rather forlorn as she searches for the face she most wants to see. But Mr. Tom Lefroy is nowhere to be found. Soon, she crosses paths instead with Mr. Wisley who asks her to dance. Out of politeness, and still unsure of what she “should” do in relation to marriage, she accepts.
Jane dances with Mr. Wisley, the music as melancholy and passionless as her own movements and expressions. Is this her fate? To be with a man for whom she has no true affection? Her heart belongs to Tom, whom she knows she can never be with. And does he even have feelings for her?
Then just as all seems hopeless and lost, the tempo of the music changes with an emotional crescendo. As she dances, Tom Lefroy appears seemingly out of nowhere.
Part of this dance requires a temporary partner change and Lefroy timed it perfectly so he would have the opportunity to dance with Jane. With a rakish smile on his face, Lefroy rescues Jane from her loneliness on the dance floor and at the same time reveals his feelings through silent movement and expression.
Jane’s face transforms from defeat to that of elated joy and warmth in a matter of seconds. Her body language changes from limp and lifeless to lively and full of passion. The two stare into each other’s eyes in a way that connects their souls while also revealing their true feelings for each other. The camera captures more intimate shots in a way to capture the characters’ growing intimacy.
Through the dance, Jane and Tom become emotionally bonded, solidifying their feelings. And by the end of the dance, there is no doubt or ambiguity left for the audience. However, this knowledge does not make anything easier for Jane and Tom. As the dance ends, the two must remain proper, keeping their feelings secret from others.
Jane and Tom part as they join their original dance partners. As Mr. Wisley introduces Jane to an acquaintance, Jane and Tom find each other standing back to back. While Mr. Wisley converses with another, Jane and Tom are free to share in a private conversation in the midst of the crowd.
“You dance with passion,” Tom tells her.
“No sensible woman would demonstrate passion if the purpose were to attract a husband,” Jane responds with her usual wit.
Tom takes a quick glance at Mr. Wisley, understanding her meaning. Still, the passion in her steps could not be missed.
“As opposed to a lover?” Tom asks hinting once again toward his own feelings as well as hers.
Jane then jumps to conclusions and backs away from her previous statement. “Rest easy, Mr. Lefroy. I have no expectation on either account.”
“I did not mean to offend or hurt,” he quickly interjects.
“Oh, no, no, of course not. Excuse me, I’m just over warm.” And with that, Jane makes her exit leaving behind a rather flustered Mr. Lefroy.
However, all is soon resolved when the two share a kiss and make plans (no matter how unrealistic) to be together, leaving no more doubt of their love for each other.
In a film that could never end happily ever after, the writers and director captured a beautiful love story in the best way possible. And this particular sequence is one of the reasons the film works as well as it does. The dance captured first love in an emotional way and works as a fantastic example of how to do romance and period dramas right.
What did you think of the dance sequence in Becoming Jane? Did you love when Tom appeared? Let me know in the comments!
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