Jane Eyre (2011)
A favorite book is not shamed. Ever since I overcame my Harry Potter movie phobia, I don’t walk into those films with a constant fear of disappointment. But just the same, it’s been a while since I watched a movie adaptation of a dearly loved book with that edge of fear that your treasure would be thrashed. I’m pleased to report that Jane Eyre not only didn’t disappoint, but it brought a smile to my face.
In case you are sadly unfamiliar with this classic tale, here’s what’s going down. This adaptation opens with a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) frantically traipsing some beautiful countryside. She’s alone, she’s wet, her face looks sad and hurt. Her hair looks like it was once beautiful before being torn apart by the downpour. She is taken in my a man and his sisters, a man who’s got muffin chops like nobody’s business (Jamie Bell). Everything’s spinning, it’s very disorienting. Who are these people? Who’s the girl? As they begin to question her, we are jumped backwards to a memory that obviously belongs to the woman. She’s now a young girl, eight-years-old probably.
Pause. As previously mentioned, I love Jane Eyre. I’ve seen basically every other movie/mini-series ever made. I read the book twice, and it’s one of my all-time favorites. I know the story back to front. This was a bit of a different take. I was trying to figure where in the story we were, where Rochester man was, and why it seemed like we completely skipped over the climax. With this being only a two-hour version of a long and detailed book, this was a smart move and helped with us dive into the story without it seeming like a biography. Which I guess it kind of is, but it doesn’t have that same feel starting in the middle.
Anyways, Jane Eyre had it rough growing up. Hated by her aunt who took care of her, hated at her sadist boarding school where she lost her one and only childhood friend. Then she lands a governess job at Thornfield Hall with the young French girl Adele. Mrs. Danvers (Judi Dench) runs the coop but has a kind heart and accepts Jane. Later, after Jane is nearly trampled by the mysterious, rude man on a horse, we find out that the mysterious man on the horse is Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender). She is intrigued by the master of the house, and she becomes a pet of sorts. Their relationship develops, and so do the mysteries surrounding him.
Jane Eyre is a combination of many genres. It is definitely a romance. It is also something of a spooky mystery – an element that is sometimes overshadowed by the romance, but the mystique is awesome. It is also a drama, and even a tragedy (though not really). What makes Jane Eyre special is, you know, Jane Eyre. The crossroads she reaches between integrity and happiness has always been moving, and it was not put to shame in this adaptation. You can feel her pain. Jane will always be one of the greatest literary heroines ever written and one of my greatest examples. I can only hope that my own daughters can be as strong as she.
Mia Wasikowska was great. I would have liked a little more fire in her personality, though she is still wonderful. She had a great year and this is definitely her best performance to date. I love that she could emulate the intelligence, independence, and integrity that I admire so much in Jane. Judi Dench, and Jamie Bell are also great secondary characters. Who steals the show, however, is Michael Fassbender as that sexy SoB. He so perfectly creates a character that you learn to love despite initial hatred. Mysterious and dark I couldn’t keep my eyes off him.
The film is also GORGEOUS. From the get-go I was swept back in time, transported to a new world. There are a lot of castles, fields, gardens, and woods to capture the eye. The landscape, combined with the music, help to create the perfect tone for this film.
I think my one complaint is that the two hours FEEL like two hours. I mean, I’ve seen four hour mini-series of this, and this felt just as long. I wasn’t complaining, I was loving every second of it. But it did seem at least a half an hour longer than it actually was. Which makes me think that they COULD have added more detail in that additional half hour that I ALREADY thought existed. IMHO. The constant back and forth in the first fifteen minutes was a little confusing as well.
I love that book, and I now love this movie. Girls, get yourself a new role model. Try Jane Eyre. 9/10