Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jane Eyre

I will never mix up a Bronte sister story with a Jane Austen. They contain similar settings and story arcs; however, the Brontes have an element of darkness and an extra dose of reality which Austen omits from her happy ending fiction.

The new Jane Eyre is a version which does not gloss over the troubles of Jane's life for the audience to get to the good and sunny parts. Jane's early exile from her aunt's home and the severe corporal punishment she receives at boarding school are unsentimentally served up to the audience to experience. It is quite a relief when Jane finally arrives at the forbidding and cavernous Thornfield House to the abrupt and obnoxious Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). At least now Jane's torment is more mental than physical.

The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), made an interesting decision to have Jane's temperament and situation affect the weather. This is a very dark and gray film. When there is depression or trouble brewing, the sky is naturally preparing for a thunderstorm. When Jane discovers Mr. Rochester's secret it looks like England suffers a hurricane. When Jane has that rare moment of happiness you will see the sun for the only time in the movie. Jane was not written as a classic beauty either and the cute Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are Alright) is made up to be especially plain and common. Fassbender, who appears to be in the majority of films released these days, tries his best to be a tortured soul, but it comes across as more self-pity and woe is me pouting. Wasikowska is far more convincing. Since it is an English classic, the requisite Dame Judi Dench shows up as the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax to ensure there are no anachronisms in her period piece.

For those who prefer their English period classics with an extra dose of reality and melodrama, go no further than the new and improved Jane Eyre. If you prefer your classics through a rosy hue and assured happy ending, stick to Jane Austen.

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