Monday, April 4, 2011

Jane Eyre (2011)

Welcome to "Dramatic British Things I Loved In High School" Theatre! Yes, my friends, I read a lot of lady-centric Western literature in high school (no surprise, really), and Jane Eyre was one of my favorites. The newest film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic stars Mia Wasikowska as the title character, a serious and decidedly plain orphan who grows up in a theocratic, oppressive school. She is eventually situated as a governess to Adele, the spoiled French ward of Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender), a wealthy and somewhat volatile gentleman. The two adults develop a close but confused bond, and Jane is perplexed by both the secrets he's withholding and the ghostly nature of the mansion.

With its atmospheric cinematography, long silences, moody score, and expert use of candles and firelight (seriously, this movie has awesome lighting), Jane Eyre is partially a ghost story with no ghost. All of the tense, spooky shots of Wasikowska's pale visage as she listens to the wind rattling and floors creaking were enough to make me almost wish I didn't already know the plot twist that explains it all. And when a film can cause me to consider the advantages of not reading a book, that's an impressive feat!

Of course the main attraction here, though, is Jane herself. Strong-willed, outspoken, intelligent, and humble, she is an intriguing lead character. Wasikowska imbues her with strength and quiet dignity, while maintaining the tradition of seemingly all Jane Eyre actresses: don an ugly hair style that covers your ears and make your face really pale, and boom! "Unattractive". It's ok, though, since she is a talented actress who did look realistically diminutive and ethereal, with expressive pouty lips. It's so nice to have a lady who stands up so fiercely for her own self-respect, knowing she could never settle for surface-happiness and anything less than complete equality in a relationship. The supporting cast is excellent as well- notably Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax and Fassbender as the over-intense Rochester- but this is wholly Wasikowska's show.

Filled with prolonged pauses, sweeping vistas, and meaningful stares, Jane Eyre is a little indulgent, but that completely captures the mood of the book itself. By ensuring Jane remains a strong, admirable heroine I was satisfied with the adaptation, even if the actual romance between her and Rochester feels slightly forced. I remember reading the book and sort of hoping they wouldn't get back together though, so that's probably just a thing about the story. I often resent characters as independent as Jane ending up with any romantic entanglements, but I completely understand the need and precedent for it in this situation.


Pair This Movie With: There are parallels to Mansfield Park and Persuasion, both Jane Austen adaptations that I enjoy, so you could have a nice lady-centric period piece double (or triple) feature!


  1. Great review, though I have to admit that reading other people's reviews of this one is driving me crazy with anticipation for it to come to my city. Glad to hear that Wasikowska's performance is good enough to overcome the whole Hollywood version of "plain" thing.

  2. Norma: Yeah it sucks that it's in such limited release! I hope you like it when you finally do get to see it!

  3. I've always felt that it was better to see the movie before reading the book. That way you're rarely let down.

  4. Rich: That's a good point. I'm often inspired to read a book after seeing the movie, as opposed to the other way around when I assume I'll be disappointed.

  5. I've been trying to find time to see this film but, like you stated above, it has a very limited release. Unfortunately, I can't get into NY at the right time to catch it.

    Your review has me even more amped up!

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