Movie review: Jane Eyre

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.

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14 thoughts on “Movie review: Jane Eyre

  1. I was listening to the director on NPR and he said he tried to make it into a borderline horror film rather than the typical romance it normally is remade into. He was apparently very influenced by a version from the 40′s.

    Edit: here’s a link to that interview.

  2. There is a significant horror influence; some surprise jumps, lots of walking in the dark with candles. It works well.

  3. Coming from you that is high praise indeed! I was going to see it anyway, because I actually like this sort of thing, but now I’m really excited for it.

  4. Likewise. I tend to like period pieces if they’re snappy enough or gloomy gothic enough. Sounds like this might be both. Hurrah. Now days I have to drive all the way into Seattle to see any non-multiplex fare, but this seems well worth it.

  5. Get with it, MCQ. Few can even pronounce the name of the Puget Sound city where Thomas lives.

    I just finished reading Jane Eyre last week, before learning there was a new film. The trailer I saw definitely brought the gothic look and the suspense to the fore, which is much of what I loved from the book. I also really enjoyed Jane’s unbeatable moral core and the hauntingly beautiful descriptions of The Peak District’s moorland.

    Thanks for the review, Supergenius. I’ll be seeing this one.

  6. (anyone know why when I try to post with the “Website” field filled in the page reloads as if I were never here?)

    Get with it, MCQ. Few can even pronounce the name of the Puget Sound city where Thomas lives.

    I just finished reading Jane Eyre last week, before learning there was a new film. The trailer I saw definitely brought the gothic look and the suspense to the fore, which is much of what I loved from the book. I also really enjoyed Jane’s unbeatable moral core and the hauntingly beautiful descriptions of The Peak District’s moorland.

    Thanks for the review, Supergenius. I’ll be seeing this one.

  7. This has always been my mom’s favorite book. I probably wasn’t going to see this movie, but this review just tipped the scales.

  8. Ben – it’s because somehow you’ve ended up on some spam filter. If I fill the website field with any of my blogs I get flagged as spam at all blogs I post at as well. I’ll go through the spam filter and see if there’s anything to rescue. In general though the website field at most blogs is useless now.

  9. Hey MCQ,

    I came back to Seattle from Logan in Dec 2009. I’m actually in Everett, WA now, after a fashion.

  10. Ben might be referring to my time in Puyallup. I also spend a good deal of time in Sequim.

  11. Ok, well, very few people know how to pronounce those places, but I am one of those people, having lived in Tacoma for three years.

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