Holy fuck I actually found a period movie that I really loved. There are 328 titles for films, TV series, mini-series, etc. for Charles Dickens, there are 53 for Jane Austen, 39 for Charlotte Bronte. They regurgitate the fuck out of them. Every few years someone brings them back out. I mean, do the math. Edison produced the first truly commercially successful projector in 1896…although the Lumiere brothers could claim that title a year earlier in 1895. Regardless. That means 116 years of motion pictures. That means there’s another Dickens film/show once every .35 years. A Jane Austen adaptation every 2.2 years. A Bronte work every 3 years. Of those from Bronte 23 of them are based on Jane Eyre. The first one came out in 1910. The one I’m going to review came out in 2011.
For those who don’t know the story let me give you a brief rundown. Jane Eyre, in this case portrayed by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right, Albert Nobbs), is raised by an evil Aunt. One day, basically because she hates her, the Aunt ships her off to a girls school. We’ll go ahead and say the school is terrible. She even goes to sleep with her only friend, who is sick, and wakes up to her dead in the morning. Once older and educated she goes to serve as a Governess for Mr. Rochester, played by Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, X-Men: First Class, 300). She’s to teach a ward of his, Eliza, played by Freya Wilson (The King’s Speech). She likes the job. She befriends the head of the house Mrs. Fairfax, played by Judi Dench (The Chronicles of Riddick, Quantum of Solace, Pride & Prejudice). Her pupil excels. Sure she dreams of something bigger and better, but she just assumes that’s a dream. Slowly she builds a romantic relationship with Rochester. They even make plans to marry. A dreadful secret surfaces and she runs away. Nearly dead she ends up on the doorstep of the Rivers family. The sisters, Diana and Mary, Holliday Grainger (“Where the Heart is,” “The Borgias,” Bel Ami) and Tamzin Merchant (Pride & Prejudice, “The Tudors,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”), accept her into the fold and their brother, St John Rivers, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Jumper, King Kong), finds work for her as a schoolteacher. Once Jane inherits a shit ton of money from a dead uncle John tries to marry her as a matter of convenience. She runs away again…this time back to Rochester.
I don’t really feel like I spoiled that. Really. I even hid the secret just in case. The book was originally published in 1847. It’s been out for 165 years. It’s not like it came out last month. Did I mention there’s been 23 adaptations of it already?
The reason why I actually really loved this film is because: One, the acting is fucking awesome. Seriously. Did you see that cast I just mentioned? Two, it’s dark. Dark. Gothic as shit. From gloomy countryside’s to darkened hallways.
It’s still Jane Eyre though. You can’t get around that. Director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre and future director of an It remake) and screenplay writer Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe) do a fantastic job at managing to keep the pace up. It’s still a two hour movie, but they manage to make it not feel like a two hour movie. Plus they didn’t try and turn it into a three hour epic. By making it dark and dreary they captured the tone much more effectively than had it been polished and clean. Jane Eyre is a woman that only craves to be loved and part of a family, but everywhere she turns people keep fucking her. That’s not exactly cheerful. The film also doesn’t do the period piece go to of elaborate sets and fantastic costumes. It’s low key. It lets the actors tell the story without the need for fancy sets. And they do.
Mia Wasikowska is another one of those young actresses with an electric quality to her. She looks positively magical. Kind of like Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Hanna, The Lovely Bones) and Clémence Poésy (127 Hours, “Birdsong,” 3 of the Harry Potter movies). When she’s on the screen most of the acting is in her eyes. She’s the tragic Jane Eyre to a T. Fassbender impressed me. Having now seen him in this, Shame, Hunger, and Prometheus, he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. He manages to accurately capture the aggressive and sensitive Rochester. Dame Judi Dench…I don’t even need to say anything. There were also two small roles I feel like mentioning. That of Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Fright Night, V for Vendetta) as Blanche Ingram. I didn’t even fucking recognize her. Also, Harry Lloyd (The Iron Lady, “Great Expectations,” “Robin Hood”) as Richard Mason. I always get excited to see him because he was one of the most memorable characters, Viserys Targaryen, from the first season of “Game of Thrones.”
Needless to say I loved it. If you’re like me and tend to hate this genre you might be in for a treat. Just remember…it’s still Jane Eyre.