Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."*

Because I was disappointed that Jane Eyre was nominated for only one Academy Award (For costumes. WHAT THE HECK?!? It totally should have received a nod for the score AND for cinematography. It is gutsy to shoot by candlelight.) AND because I went to download a digital copy of the film on my iPad and it is no longer available for digital download, I am reposting my review of Jane Eyre with some updates since I have now watched it some umpth-teen times.

Right, **SPOILERS** ahead, although as the book was written 165 years ago, if you don't know this story by now, probably aren't reading this blog anyhow. And a disclaimer: I have to be honest. I have a thing for "Mr. Rochester", despite the lying and the manipulation... What's wrong with me? I like to think of him as being a victim of circumstances and totally reformed by the end....Yeah.
On Sunday, "Miss Post" and I saw Cary Fukunaga's film of Jane Eyre. Before we went, I rewatched a couple of old versions of Jane Eyre (the Samantha Morton/Ciaran Hinds one and the Toby Stephens/Ruth Wilson one) for comparison's sake. The Zefferelli version with Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt is permanently imprinted in my mind, so I didn't need to rewatch that one. (Since this review was first written, I have now watched both the Timothy Dalton/Zelah Clarke version (very faithful to the book, but too long) and the Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine version (only a passing resemblance to the novel and Joan Fontaine isn't strong enough to be Jane.))

I liked the new version a lot, and it has a lot of good things going for it: great cast, gorgeous costumes (I want Jane's paisley shawl from the final scene), amazing scenery, and a beautiful score by Dario Marianelli, who did the score to Pride and Prejudice (2005). The film was very moody, and I felt it did a great job capturing the bleakness and solitude of living on the moors of Yorkshire. I thought that the cast also did a great job of conveying their loneliness, their longing, and their inner passion in the face of a repressive and (at times ambiguously) moral society.

Mia Wasikowska (who was brilliant in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) strikes the perfect balance between Jane's shy, proper reserve and her inner passion. Sometimes adult Jane gets played a little too wishy-washy for my taste (Morton), but Wasikowska does a great job with this. Michael Fassbender's Rochester is sheer intensity, with a fierceness and cruelty to his wit and a real moody "changefullness" (I read that Fassbender considers the character "biopolar".) When he is first introduced, he is definitely unattractive in his unlikeablity, but he starts to soften as the movie unfolds. The two leads have a good chemistry together (I had read some reviews stating otherwise). I think that any "lack of chemistry" is actually a pacing problem with the theatrical release (see below) and which I hope will be remedied with a director's cut. In particular, in the scene where Rochester gets Jane to help him with Mason after the attack, I felt like they were no longer two individuals, but a team. (Yay, Team Rochester!) Judi Dench was a very likeable Mrs. Fairfax, and Jamie Bell was very serious as St. John Rivers (I was concerned about the casting of both of those parts. Bell was perhaps a little too serious.)

The Rivers' subplot of the story didn't get truncated the way it has been in other versions, which was really important to me because I feel like it is an important step in Jane's development, certainly as much as the incident in the red room and the misery at Lowood School and Helen's death. Finding her cousins (and the money) helps make her strong enough to ultimately return to Thornfield. The girls were really likeable, and it was good for Jane to have women peers again.

My biggest complaint: by keeping to a 120 minute running time (with credits), things got cut, and because of that, some parts of the story moved far too fast. I find it interesting that they didn't add in even 10 minutes of incidents in the development of Jane and Rochester's relationship, which was shortchanged. A key part of the novel is Rochester's baiting of Jane, or, as Miss Post and I put it, "I love you so much; I am going to tell you that I am marrying someone else. Are you jealous? Are you miserable? APRIL FOOL!!" Oh look, and here's a gypsy fortune teller!

I feel that 2011's Jane Eyre is to 2005's Pride & Prejudice as 2006's "Jane Eyre" is to 1995's "Pride & Prejudice". A beautiful piece to be sure, but an incomplete realization of the novel. The core audience for this movie (calling all new "Downton Abbey" fans) will sit and watch a six hour miniseries on PBS or BBC video; they'd sit for 10 more minutes in a movie theater. (Even with the person who was sitting next to me doing her best impression of Catherine Morland reading The Mysteries of Udolpho. Lady, it wasn't that scary. Seriously. Although the part with the bird gets me EVERY TIME!) I definitely will be adding this one to my collection, and I also think that a second viewing on the big screen might be in order. While I didn't end up seeing the film again in the theater, I did buy the BluRay and now have watched it enough times to say that this is now my second favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre after the Ruth Wilson/Toby Stephens version. The love story is key, but the darker tone of this film really is the selling point for me. (Weeeellll...that and the fact that Michael Fassbender really is very nice to look at, which certainly doesn't hurt.)
Would love to hear anyone else's take on the film...

*Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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