Monday, March 21
Jane Eyre 2011 Review with Spoilers
So, I drove over an hour today to see the new Jane Eyre movie that opened last week. I am a HUGE Jane Eyre fan, having read the book more times than I can count and having seen all the previous versions of the book made for film and TV so many times that I have committed some of them to memory. I had held enormously high hopes for this film, as I am fans of the actors and because reviews had been excellent. I come to you now fresh from seeing it myself, and I have to say that I am highly impressed and only slightly disappointed.
As a warning to you, (if the title of the post wan't enough) the rest of the post will contain spoilers for the movie. Spoilers for the plot (which anyone who has read the book will already know) as well as spoilers as to what you will and will not see in the movie itself. Anyone not wishing to know such things, need not read on.
For the rest of you, here we go...
First off, I am going to give a quick rundown of all the previous version of the film as I will be referring to them throughout the post. I will give the year, the stars, whether it was a movie or a miniseries, and my general opinion. (I will only cover the versions made for the UK and the US, as there have been many made in other countries, India, China, France, etc.)
This was the first rendition, and was fine for the times, but doesn't stand up to more modern films, but hey it was the thirties.
Many people still believe Orson Wells to have been and still be the best Rochester ever portrayed, and this to be the best rendition of the book, even after all these years. I am not one of them. I don't care for the MANY liberties they took with plot in this version, nor do I care for Well's Rochester. He is harsh and broody. Period. He doesn't portray anything else in the character - or at least I don't think he does. Much of the, what we today would consider poor over-acting, can be attributed to the era, but not that.
A good version and very accurate to the novel. One major issue is that Cusack is too old for the part (and looks it) being in her mid twenties at the time. The dialog is, for the most part, direct from the book and well done, but there are times when the acting leaves something to be desired.
This is my second favorite version. I have found it to be the most accurate in dialog and general description. Dalton's Rochester is - for the most part - well done, though he was much too handsome for the role (he's a future James Bond for God's sake...). However, that, I suppose has to be forgiven as he was one of the romantic 'it men' of the time.
This version is changed a great deal and the acting is only soso. I don't tend to bother with this one - but then that's only my opinion.
This is a strange one. It is well done, but some of the character personalities are very altered. (As an example, Rochester and Adelle are very close, and he is very kind and loving towards her.) The acting is great and the changes that are made, while major is some cases, are consistent throughout the film. I do like this version, but I look at it more as a movie inspired by Jane Eyre and not so much a movie based on Jane Eyre. (Though honestly, my biggest problem with this movie is Ciaran's pervert-esque mustache! Eew!)
This is by far the general favorite amongst fans of the book. Every version of the book seems to be compared to this one, and for good reason. The acting is superb, the chemistry between the leads is undeniable, the dialog is faithful to the novel, and the casting as excellent. My favorite version for sure.
Alright, now on to the main event, which I will handle in sections...
Jane Eyre 2011 - Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender
In a word - fantastic! Everyone was spot on, Fassbender's Rochester especially. He was able to portray the necessarily moody, harsh, intimidating aspects of his character in a different and much more subtle way than his predecessors, and it was incredibly successful. The only complaint I would have is that he was not able to fully do justice to the more sarcastic and humorous side of Rochester, but that was due to the editing and direction, not the acting. The problem is that the scenes in which Rochester gets to show is funny and witty side are all cut down immensely or cut out entirely, which is not something that actors can help. Mia was a great Jane, also lacking in humor at times, but great all the same. Judy Dench as Mrs. Fairfax was wonderful, but then she's Judy Dench, so no big surprise there. Adelle was alright, not as good as the 2006's Adelle who was much more absurd(as she should be) However, I was impressed by the fact that in this newest version, Adelle spoke nothing but French and is subtitled throughout the entire movie. But don't worry, it's doesn't get annoying as Adelle says very little.
The Good Points: The scenery, sets, and costumes were all fabulous! Very authentic without feeling forced or stuffy. The dialog was also wonderful and almost entirely direct from the novel. They also used several lines and conversation from the novel that are rarely used which was nice to see. All the wonderful settings, props, costumes, and script enhanced and showcased the superb acting without getting in the way of it.
The Bad Points: The bad points can be summed up in a single word - time. Jane Eyre is really not a book that can be adequately told in two hours no matter how good your director or actors are. Almost all of the scenes feel very rushed and some of the major scenes simply do not appear at all, and it is all due to not having enough time. There is even a scene in the preview for the movie that does not appear it the actual film. It is the scene where Bertha Mason gets into Jane's room and rips her wedding veil. In the trailer we see the conversation between Jane and Rochester about that indecent in which Jane says, "I was not asleep, I know what I saw," and Rochester replies, "It must have been half dream, half reality." People who know the story know that they are talking about the veil ripping, but in the movie neither the veil ripping nor the conversation appear. Other missing scenes include the scene with the gypsy, shopping in Millcot, and the explanation of Adelle to Jane.(We never actually find out who Adelle is and where she came from. If you don't already know, you are left to assume.) Most of the other scenes are shortened, unfortunately in some cases to a fault. A lot is left out int he way of explanations. We never fully understand about Rochester's wife, as he only says like three words on the subject of how or why they were married. which is sad, but to be expected when the entire movie is limited to two hours.
If you haven't heard already, the ending of the movie is MUCH different than that of the book. Basically, Jane hears Rochester calling her name, so she returns to Thornfield to find him. When she arrives she sees the Thornfield has been pretty much burnt to the ground. She goes in and begins to look around, when Mrs. Fairfax enters. She tells Jane that Bertha started the fire and that Mr. Rochester got everyone out, then went to the roof to get Bertha, who jumps off the roof. She says he then stands on the roof as if he is going to let it consume him. Mrs. Fairfax then tells Jane that she knew that Mrs. Poole had a patient, but she had no idea that it was Mr. Rochester's wife.Jane asks where 'he' is. We then see Jane walking up to the tree when they go engaged and we see Rochester sitting on the bench under the tree and he has a cane in his hand. (He also has this huge really bushy beard) She walks up, he says 'who's there', she says 'Jane', he says 'Jane?', she says 'I'm come back', they hug, he says 'it's a dream', she says 'awake then', and poof - black screen - the movies over.
So, needless to say that is my biggest problem with this version. No glass of water, no 'were there only ladies', no banter about St. John, no 'I want a wife', none of it. No that's not to say that this new version is bad because it's not. It is very romantic and the person that I went with who new nothing about the story going into the movie thought ti was great. It's just that the rest of us, who know how much more there could be, feel a little cheated. Besides that, I'm honestly surprised that a director doing Jane Eyre, who has such a unique, charming, and original ending to work with, would then go and make it so trite, mediocre, and run-of- the-mill. Like I said, not bad, but very much 'I've seen this before'. And thats all forgiving the fact that we are apparently supposed to assume that Rochester, Mrs. Fairfax and everyone are still somehow living at Thornfield, which when you see the house you can see would be impossible.
I liked the way they handled the overall layout of the plot. They didn't tell the story in sequencey, but started the film in the middle of the story where Jane is running away form Thornfield. they then tall the majority of the story in flashbacks, which is fun. It doesn't change anything, but it make it different, and - in my opinion anyway - makes Jane's time with the Rivers family much more likable. I usually think that in the film versions of the story, that the River's section of the story tends to sag a bit.
I didn't like the way they portrayed Bertha, but then I didn't expect to as I never do. In fact that is one of the only two complaints I have about the 2006 version. They always humanize Bertha far too much, none as much as the 2006 version where she is actually wearing nice clothes and has sher hair done. Bertha is supposed to be an animal. Not even human anymore. Bronte is very descriptive when she is finally reveled in the book, and I can't figure out why so many directors choose to ignore what is in the book. When Jane first sees her she doesn't even think that she is human. She actually calls her 'the clothed hyena'. It might not seem like a big deal, but ti really is as it is essential to Rochester's character. We are supposed to see her and - at least partially - side with Rochester. We are supposed to see her and think 'wow, this thing isn't a wife, it's not even a person, why should he be allowed to get remarried? He might as well be chained to a rabid dog.' However, when they portray Bertha as the poor, misunderstood, sick lady, we start to have too much sympathy for her whereby loosing sympathy for Rochester. Instead of 'he should be able to look for love', we start to say things like, 'Poor Bertha, maybe if Rochester spent more time with her she would get better', which is absolutely not true. Example, in this version, when Rochester takes everyone up to the tower and we see Bertha for the first time, she actually comes up to him and hugs him, snuggling in to his shoulder. She doesn't attack him until she makes a move towards Jane and he has to hold her back.(Hell, if my husband brought a woman he had just tried to marry behind my back up to meet me, I might make a move on her too...) Furthermore, since they don't really explain the nature of the marriage between Rochester and Bertha, those who don't know the story are left to think that Rochester and Bertha fell in love, got married, lived happily, the got sick so he locked her in the attic and went off to look for a new wife - which could not be further from the truth.
They did have the scene where Rochester is begging Jane to stay with him, and - thank God - is does not show they making out in bed. Thoes of you who have seen the 2006 version know what I am talking about. That is my other complaint about the 2006 version, which most people don't have a problem with, but I do. In the 2006 version, they should only two short clips in which most of the dialog is made up and they are laying on Jane's bed basically making out. In the novel, when Jane finds out Rochester is married, she won't even let him hug her because she believes it's wrong. So, we are supposed to go from that, to them making out? Yeah right. People don't mind the change because it's 'romantic', but I'm sorry it's wrong, and considering they went to such pains to make everything else so accurate, I don't understand why they went and changed that one scene. In this new version however, they have the scene accurate to how it was portrayed in the book - though very much abridged - which made me happy.
On a similar note, they also did a good job adding in the short scene where Rochester bursts into Jane's room looking for her after she has run away. Most version up until this point have made it seem like Rochester knew she was going to leave and then basically just watches her walk away. In this respect, this newest version is far more accurate.
This last point isn't so much about this specific version of the book, but all of them... I hate that all the movies do such a HORRIBLE job of maiming Rochester in the end! The book is very specific - lost one eye which is sealed shut, big scar on his face/head, blind in the one eye he has left, and lost his left hand. All the movies can seem to do is make him blind and maybe give him a weak little scar on his face that is so faded, it looks like he's had if for ten years! The only version that does a good job is the 1983 miniseries with Timothy Dalton. That is how he is supposed to look!
In conclusion, I am happy with the version overall, as most of the faults I find with it are things like length which could not be helped. I am not going to say that is it better that the 2006 version, because it's not, but then again I am not going to compared a 2 hour movie to a 4 hour movie because it just can't be done.All I can hope is that when the movie comes out of DVD, they will include all the footage that they shot but didn't have time for.
My Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
Would I recommend seeing it - Definitely
If you have any questions about the film, I would be happy to answer them, just post them as a comment to this post.