Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content, 115 minutes
Exquisitely sad but touching "Jane Eyre"
Charlotte Bronte's classic novel "Jane Eyre" gets another big-screen treatment, and if you count the silent films, this 2011 version is the 16th time it's hit the big screen, which of course doesn't include all the television and stage versions that have been done. This rendering of "Jane Eyre" is one of the stronger efforts, capturing the downcast spirit of Bronte's novel; it's superbly-acted, elegantly filmed and if you're familiar with the story, will leave you feeling quite sad.
After a bleak childhood, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) goes out into the world to become a governess. As she lives happily in her new position at Thornfield Hall, she meet the dark, cold, and abrupt master of the house, Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Jane and her employer grow close in friendship and she soon finds herself falling in love with him. Happiness seems to have found Jane at last, but could Mr. Rochester's terrible secret destroy their love?
The latest adaptation of "Jane Eyre" is a sublime, affecting effort; it's faithful to the tone of Bronte's early feminist novel. Well-acted, handsome and pensive, there are some unforgettable images throughout. Sure, this leisurely film may appeal mainly to females but this painful portrait of unrequited love is on par with anything Merchant-Ivory did back in the 1980's.
Especially memorable is the strong performance by "Alice in Wonderland's" Wasikowska, who plays the mousy, titular character with the hope of a delicate but bruised flower. It's one of the stronger portrayals of Eyre, and Wasikowska, who looks markedly different from her other onscreen portrayals, remarkably resembles Olivia De Haviland (best known as Melanie from "Gone With the Wind") from her Oscar-winning performance in the similarily-themed "The Heiress."
She and "Inglorious Basterds" Fassbender have a nice, subdued chemistry that marks the film, especially in the later chapters. Rounding out the strong cast is Oscar-winner Judi Dench, affecting as a veteran governess, and Jamie Bell ("The Eagle") in a small role as another of Jane's suitors. Director Cary Fukunaga handles the proceedings well in what is only his second big direcorial effort; the first-rate production is highlighted by some of the most detailed costumes, music and set direction seen in recent memory and only underscore the film's effectiveness.
Unlike the novel, this film version of "Jane Eyre" doesn't have as much closure, even though you still have a sense of how it turns out. On the down side, the film doesn't do anything to lift the spirits, and don't go expecting to leave a happy camper, even the romance isn't all that happy. Fukunaga could've left a few elements out, as they aren't explored as fully as Bronte does in the novel, particularly near the end of the film.
"Jane Eyre" shows us that love often comes through suffering, and Jane does suffer much to get to her happy place, if she ever gets there. But this "Jane Eyre" is still a fulfilling, richly satisfying experience, one worth seeing, even if you leave feeling sad.
Wes's Grade: B