Jane Eyre
I don’t understand how you can spurn me when I’ve got these sweet mutton chops.


Theatrical Release Date: 03/18/2011
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Judi Dench, Amelia Clarkson
Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content.
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes


Trailer:

Look into my eyes. You will love me.

There are plenty of people who had to read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in school. And I’m sure there are quite a few who have seen one of the many adaptations, either on the big screen or via TV movie/mini-series. Somehow I’m not one of them (I went to school, really I did).

For those in the same boat, the story is your quintessential British period piece. A girl (the titular Jane Eyre – played by Mia Wasikowska) is sent to boarding school by an Aunt (Sally Hawkins) who has become her guardian since the death of Jane’s parents (an English story about an orphan? No way!). She becomes a governess for the daughter of a well-to-do man (Michael Fassbender) and although Jane has no social standing, they fall in love. But like all good romances, things play out a bit tragically and throughout the course of the film, we watch as Jane struggles to take some measure of control over her life in a society not so conducive to letting non-aristocratic women rise too far (and I assume the novel does pretty much the same).

Wasikowska delivers a nice performance and is showing the kind of acting chops that should keep her in demand in the future, having capitalized on being Alice in Tim Burton’s trip to Wonderland and as one of the kids in “The Kids Are All Right“. She shows a nice chemistry with Fassbender, ably dosing out wit and measured defiance but also managing to keep a growing desire for him always right beneath the surface of their interactions.

While Fassbender also acquits himself well, and Judi Dench once again takes a small role and makes it seem practically regal, one of the strongest performances in the film comes from Amelia Clarkson, playing the younger version of Jane Eyre. The audience’s connection to Jane begins with how Clarkson portrays being orphaned and put under her Aunt’s inauspicious auspices. The fire and rebellion of the character are actually more evident in her scenes than in Wasikowska’s, and without them, it might make the adult Jane feel a bit blander than intended with nothing to draw from in her past.

Really the only misstep in casting comes with Jamie Bell, as a Pastor who helps Jane find a job (and of course, falls in love with her). Although Bell has the capability to be very good on-screen, the character feels like it should be played by someone ten years older. His youth makes his social standing and attempt to marry Jane ring hollow.

I had gone into the film most excited about the direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga, who helmed the excellent “Sin Nombre“. While I knocked him for seeming to stretch that film too much, it’s easier to see why “Jane Eyre” runs nearly two hours, netting the film a 3.5 out of 5. And although this too can feel a bit slow at times, and the disjointed storytelling at the beginning seems self-indulgent, the acting, cinematography and production design should allow most into period piece films or with a particular affinity for the novel to get what they want out of this experience.

3.5 out of 5