Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of re-imaging of classic British novels looking to perk up the stodgy old genre with sex and gore. From the work of Seth Grahame-Smith and Ben H. Winters (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) to the upcoming Catherine Hardwicke Twilight-inspired Red Riding Hood, geek culture is being told that these old classics can be an awfully lot cooler by exchanging the lovey-dovey romance and stuff with unadulterated sex and thrills.

Cary Fukunaga’sJane Eyre seems to be a part of this new trend. The sixteenth feature film version of Charlotte Brontà«’s 17th Century novel follows a young orphan’s “tale of woe” from a family that doesn’t love her to her position as a governess for a mysterious man in a creepy old castle. Although I am in no way knowledgeable of the novel or any of the previous adaptations, I have been told that this is a “bold new vision to a beloved classic” — in other words, we’re going to make this better for you, young people.

Don’t be deceived by this train of thought. Jane Eyre is a film true to its source while capturing a tone that may be new, but is completely engrossing. While the trailer may slightly overplay the ghost-story presence of the film, its dour mood and intensity are a great fit. There are many hints at the supernatural, but the film doesn’t make the mistake of sexifying the source just for the sake of sexiness — every choice the film makes is both believable within the story and helps enhance its world. Throw in well-trained, classy actors like Judi Dench, Michael Fassbender and Sally Hawkins, the film nails the look and feel of the time and place. The film’s star, Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) does her first capital-A-acting and she fits the character well. She is able to be damaged and plain while having an allure that must grab the attention of Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender).

Still, the real star of the film may be its director, Cary Fukunaga. Only his second film, he previously directed 2009’s Sin Nombre, which follows a group of young Central Americans who ride trains through Mexico in hopes of crossing into America illegally. Jane Eyre seems to be an odd choice for his next film, and while the films don’t have a lot in common in terms of plot, they are both satisfying and beautiful dramas. Fukunaga’s vision is completely realized; there is no point where he doesn’t feel in control. He not only makes a beautiful character-driven period piece, but he also has the chops to make an exciting genre film, as well. Considering his first two films, it is interesting to see where Fukunaga may go next — whether it be more toward the smaller drama that both Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre inhabit, or branching into full-fledged genre work. Fukunaga is definitely an exciting young filmmaker to keep on the radar.

If there is an obvious fault with the film, it is its inability to successfully set up some of the character relationships. Not being acquainted to the story previously, the two main love relationships feel rushed over, especially the dynamic between Jane and St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), who are to have this brother-sister bond. But, for a film that could mostly hinge on its love triangles, the moodiness thankfully takes the center stage and is the driving force behind its impact. This tone may be too much for casual viewers, especially considering its bleakness over its entire run-time, but it played wonderfully for me.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
5 Star Rating: Fantastic


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'Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)' have 5 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 8, 2011 @ 12:15 pm Reggie Oline

    Don’t care to know anything about Jane Eyre but I’m going to check out “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.”

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 15, 2011 @ 6:51 pm Passport Auto

    Good to hear! I was worried that they would make the movie to appeal to the youth today and I’m thankful that although they have freshened it up a bit, they still held true to the story. Cause lets face it, today’s youth thinks twilight is the best thing since sliced bread. They need to be educated to know that the Twilight series is indeed horrible, and instead should focus on classics like Jane Eyre.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 8, 2011 @ 9:15 pm elsa

    Hi, read your review. Reading the book would help many who go to see this film I think. Not much to say except the biggest issues with this movie are that others films and TV versions (esp. Rochesters – Orson Welles, Timothy Dalton, Toby Stephens and even William Hurt) stayed true to the intensity of the novel and its characters’s nature – something I really did not sense with this version. Unfortunately, because not enough time was dedicated to developing the characters (an hour 1/2 would have helped) and to showing the chemistry of their interactions, the viewer is left with a bland distorted image of the story – so much was missing. No true tension is seen with regards to various dynamics, temptation vs fidelity, secrets vs truths, independence vs security, Grecian vs Morose (a novel’s joke), Dark/Sexy verse Puritan/Clean etc. An argument such as there was not enough time to illustrate these interplays may suffice but there are too many theatrical devices and adaptations that assert the opposite. I would also like to add that it was an insult to Michael Fassbender’s talent not to give him the opportunity to explore the darkest/deadliest corners of Rochester’s psyche along with the struggle to be free of past demons and mistakes – I say this because I am a fan of the man and he is capable e.g. HEX, Hunger, Angel. Most persons who adore the book and read it in the past five years or so have commented on the missing elements. Others seem to doubt Wasikowska’s ability to bring forth a mature, complex yet seeking character. I mostly blame the script and some of the direction and it is true that you cannot cram everything in a movie. But selection is key. Jamie Bell was good and Judith Dench of course was perfect, not only because of her acting ability but her intimate knowledge of the character, history and culture of time (check out her other historical pieces). Cinematography and the score was also compelling but not enough to ignore the issues.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 14, 2011 @ 2:49 pm Joan

    I have recently listened to the audiobook unabridged version of Jane Eyre, and the film in no way lives up to the story. I found the views of Jane’s early life interspersed with her present life, to be a choppy, clumsy annoyance. A novel of such incredible scope would at best be difficult to film. The last chapter of the novel in which Jane is reunited with Rochester should have been touching and satisfying. It was neither, and before I knew it, the credits began to roll. What an abrupt ending! Other reviewers are correct when they say there is no character depth in this version. I am beginning to think that all such famous works can only be done justice through serialization in the way of Colin Firth’s version of Pride and Prejudice. StJohn is sadly miscast being neither the charismatic character, burning with religious zeal, yet very handsome. He is a sad replacement for the character in the novel.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 4, 2011 @ 12:49 pm Food Fan Frank

    I’m excited to see jane eyre the movie. The Iove the book so far, i’m about half way through it. I think it may be getting a little more chick flickish…but it still seems pretty good. I love the inteligent conversations and the interesting philosophies that the book portrays. The actress for the new jane eyre movie looks pretty much how I imagined her in the book, and at least in the trailers, she seems to play the part really well. I really hope I enjoy the movie.

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