March 23, 2012
Movie Review - Jane Eyre (2011)
I knew you would do me good in some way. I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you. - Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre
"After a bleak childhood, Jane Eyre goes out into the world to become a governess. As she lives happily in her new position at Thornfield Hall, she meets the dark, cold, and abrupt master of the house, Mr. Rochester. 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 be about to destroy it forever?" (Synopsis from IMDb.com)
My sister, Arwen, read Jane Eyre a few months ago and really wanted to watch the new adaption. After getting several varying reviews from different friends and reading the PluggedIn review (a great resource, by the way!), we rented it. What a ride! I really don't know where to start.... How about the beginning?
The actual beginning of the movie is kind of confusing. You really just have to sit through it and stow away all the information for the "AHA!" moment later. (It helped having someone watching it who'd read the book... even though she didn't really explain it to us.)
"A bleak childhood" - that just about describes it! When Jane's parents died, she went to live with her (evil) Aunt Reed and (equally evil) cousins. When she's old enough, she's shuffled off to a boarding school run by a madman whose ideas about discipline sent shivers up my spine.
Years later, Jane leaves to earn a living as a governess. She finds work for a mysterious man named Edward Rochester and his young ward, Adele. Jane soon finds herself developing an attachment to Rochester despite his weird ways.
Soon, strange things start happening. Very strange things. (And I think I'll leave it at that. I don't want to spoil it for you!)
The Characters and Cast
Jane Eyre is probably one of my new favorite heroines. Yes, I've never read the book, have only seen this version, and I started watching the movie knowing only that it was my grandmother's favorite book, Arwen liked it, and that it was a Bronte novel. However, I think just watching the movie once convinced me that Jane Eyre is a very good heroine. She has very important characteristics that you want in a heroine, most importantly very strong convictions. Jane doesn't let down the barrier between the employer and the employee until the very last possible moment. *Spoiler alert!* When she finds out the truth about Rochester's past, she ignores her emotions, her deep love for him, and his pleading for her to stay and stays true to her deeply-rooted convictions, praying, "God help me!" *End spoiler alert* Truly a great heroine!
Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) did an amazing job with Jane's character. I could tell she delved deeply into Jane's story to figure out how to portray such a deep character. Every emotion that Jane felt was vividly portrayed by Wasikowska and didn't look like acting!
Edward Rochester.... I think I'll be very honest and say that when he first showed up I didn't like him. At all. He was weird! As the movie progressed, I found myself liking him, then liking him a little more, then despising him, then really liking him. Rochester was a very interesting character with a deep, dark secret. I truly didn't come to a final decision until the final scene (which was, by far, my favorite scene in the entire movie).
Michael Fassbender was a great pick for Rochester. Though I haven't seen him in any other movie, I think he made Rochester a very deep character - every look full of meaning, whether good or bad - and pulled it off in the end.
St John Rivers literally drove me batty. I found myself yelling at the TV, saying, "Are you for real?! What is your problem?!" He is a Catholic who is firmly rooted in his convictions, like Jane. He believes he knows God's plan for Jane's life - labor and not love. The last scene he's in... ugh, I nearly left the room. I couldn't stand him and was so glad when his character left the screen!
Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, The Adventures of Tintin) is a very convincing St John. I'd really like to see another movie he's in - he's such a brilliant actor! (I don't know if I'd be able to see past the St John Rivers character, though.... Depends on if Bell's lost the beard!)
Jane really had an awful childhood, but it just goes to show that what happens in your childhood shapes you as an adult.
As a side note, Amelia Clarkson did an amazing job with her character, the young Jane Eyre. First, she she looks exactly like what Jane would look like when she was younger - a very important thing for the casting directors to look for. I think it's so annoying when the different actors for the characters don't match up! (Belinda from the Love Comes Softly series, anyone?) Second, the wide range of emotions she pulls of is really astounding! Third, I think she did a really good job fainting. (Another issue I have with actors and actresses.) : )
Mrs. Fairfax is actually a relatively small character - a housekeeper at Thornfield, Rochester's estate - but I just wanted to mention her because it was so good to see Judi Dench again! She's been in a lot of movies, but you might recognize her from the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice or Cranford and Return to Cranford. When she first appeared, I literally smiled and said, "Miss Matty!" One of my favorite scenes that she was in was in the end. "You could have come to me. I had a little money put by.... You could have come to me!"
There are a few things I would warn you about, though. One of the very few things in this movie that you might be worried about is a painting of a woman that Jane looks at. The camera shows it for a split second first, then focuses on it later in the movie for longer than a few seconds. I've heard that it almost begged for a higher rating - PG-13 instead of "just PG."
The one other thing is some blood after an act of violence. You don't see this person get stabbed, but you do see the wound. My younger sister was a little scared and didn't look, but I told her later that, after seeing most of all three Lord of the Rings films, she wouldn't have been bothered by it at all.
Even though the film is a little confusing at first, I think it's worth it. (Definitely a movie you'd have to watch twice to understand everything the director, screenwriters, etc are trying to say!) I'm definitely going to see it again and might even buy it!
It's a thrilling, nonstop ride that leaves you hanging until literally the last five minutes!
8 out of 10