Readers, take note: JANE EYRE might be a chick flick, but I highly enjoyed it despite my predisposition against all period pieces. The acting is superior, the dialogue is terrific, the cinematography and direction are stellar. Honestly it’s the best Bronte adaptation by far. Is it worth your precious time?
The 2-volume Bronte work is not for the faint of heart; it is a long book, in my opinion not a terribly interesting book and definitely a daunting book for anyone considering a screen adaptation. Poor Jane, an orphan, finds cruel treatment first at the hands of her deceitful aunt then in the draconian straits of Lowood School. She then is placed as a governess at mysterious Thornfield Hall, owned by the brooding, capricious Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). What will become of young Jane, who searches for love and purpose? What secrets lurk in the dark attics of Thornfield Hall?
The adaptation here is not linear; it jumps forward and backwards in time in ways that work well to keep the viewer engaged, as Jane’s reactions are gradually informed by her past and her ongoing struggle to be herself. Jane is humiliated and beaten, and yet she retains her hope, her candor and her liveliness. So this bildungsroman is told first from the point of view of the very nearly finished story, then flashing back to Jane as a work-in-progress. It’s effective and helps us retain interest. The pacing is tight and the dialogue has a tremendous sense of momentum, even during fireside chats. Cary Fukunaga, whose previous film Sin Nombre had similar crispness, is a master of giving commonplace social engagements a sense of importancy and urgency. Some might complain that the romance seems too abrupt, too jarring, but I felt this was the perfect way to convey the level of surprise and class strife that fills the book.
The casting also works extremely well. Mia Wasikowska, previously seen in Alice In Wonderland, is an effortless actress; indeed for much of JANE EYRE she appears to not be acting much at all, instead serving as a blank canvas for the anguish and beauty of the moors around her. An yet her Jane is not altogether passive – she speaks frankly and boldly with Mr. Rochester and others, and while she lets the tragedies of her life wash over her she nonetheless does not let them determine her character; as she insists to Mr. Rochester, “I have no tale of woe.” Michael Fassbender for his part is an effective Byronic character, injecting a sense of humor behind the romantic broodings of the role. Judi Dench is also on hand in a minor role as a housekeeper, a role she plays out to the full extent of its possibility.
The film itself is beautiful; flooded with natural light, the moors look gorgeous and are the perfect backgroup to the romanticism of the story. There were two scenes of jogging camera that didn’t work, but otherwise the film reflects an eye for natural sensibility and striking visuals.
Anyways, I walked into the film expecting to hate it. Instead I highly enjoyed JANE EYRE and recommend it.