Movies: Jane Eyre | Arts & Culture

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Movies: Jane Eyre
Arts & Culture
Movies:  Jane Eyre

How interesting that “Jane Eyre” is showing here alongside “The Conspirator.”   

Both are set in the mid-19th Century, meaning that both feature hoop skirts, period sets  and the type of formal English we never hear anymore.  But what a difference between Robert Redford’s bloodless Civil War drama and Cary Fukunaga’s warm and evocative re-telling of Charlotte Bronte’s romantic novel. 

The Internet Movie Data Base informs me that this is the 18th movie version of “Jane Eyre,” not counting seven different TV adaptations.  For my money, it’s  one of the best:  beautifully shot in all four seasons by Brazilian director and cinematographer Adriano Goldman, with a lush music score by Daria Marianelli and terrific acting by a worthy cast of knowns and unknowns.

Jane, of course, is at the heart of this story, and her strength and intelligence are   wonderfully illuminated by Mia Wasikowska (memorable also as the daughter in “The Kids are All Right”).  It helps that she is almost the same age as Jane -- who is 19 when she comes to work aa a governess at Thornfield Hall.  It is there she will meet the tortured and tempestuous Rochester (Michael Fassbender, who most recently played the veddy British Lt. Hicox in “Inglourious Basterds”), as well as the solicitous Mrs. Fairfax, portrayed by a very subdued Dame Judi Dench.

Director Cary Fukunaga -- working from a screenplay by Moira Buffini, who also wrote the clever and sexy script for “Tamara Drewe” -- plays with Bronte’s narrative by opening the movie with Jane’s flight from Thornfield Hall, then showing us the events leading up to that climactic moment in a series of flashbacks, beginning with her unhappy childhood in the home of her awful auntie (Sally Hawkins, so much cheerier in “Happy Go Lucky”).   The younger Jane is played by Amelia Clarkson, who projects not only the misery of that early childhood, but also the honesty and fortitude that are Jane’s hallmarks throughout the movie.   

With Jane at the center of this story, the part of Rochester must be a challenge for any casting director.  He must be daunting yet vulnerable, imperious yet smitten by his young governess.  Orson Welles, George C. Scott, Timothy Dalton, even Charlton Heston have all tried their hands at this role.  So how does Fassbender do?  This Irish-German actor gives it his best shot, with a Rochester that is perhaps too approachable, almost from the get-go.  Up against the frank honesty of Wasikowska’s Jane, he doesn’t stand a chance.  His performance may be the only weak link in this otherwise flawless production.

“Jane Eyre” is rated PG-13, although I think it’s perfectly fine for somewhat younger moviegoers whose parents want them to be exposed to something beyond aliens, ammo and animation.   

I give it a B-Plus.


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