Jane Eyre circa 2011 is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and is impeccably cast. Fukunaga has woven a tale using Charlotte Bronte's classic story framework and given movie audiences something to cheer about as the film truly kicks off Oscar awards buzz for the new year.
Jane Eyre's story is one that many women endured during the time period of the 1800s. With little options and parents who left her orphaned, Jane is brought up in a charity school and then finds work as a nanny of sorts for the brooding Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Immediately, there is a coy attraction between the two that ever-so-slowly develops to a romance over the course of the film.
Why Jane Eyre also works so well is the manner in which the tale is told. The story moves forward as flashbacks clue the audience into Jane's past and how she came to be the way she is and also where she is residing. At Mr. Rochester's estate, she meets the head of the household, Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench). The scenes between Dench and Wasikowska are priceless. It is a gift to witness the excellence of the veteran actress paired with the up-and-coming acting prowess of Wasikowska.
At the core of Jane Eyre is the romance, but this is no bright light romance. Jane lives a difficult life and with her options so limited, through Wasikowska's performance, we keenly feel her sense of personal uncertainty as to her place in the world. When she is shocked by a discovery in Mr. Rochester's home, she flees and is once again alone without hope. Taken in by a minister and his sisters, Jane takes up teaching at the church school and begins to carve out a life that is solely her own.
As Jane Eyre is mostly a romance, the chemistry between the leads needs to be electric and it is. Michael Fassbender adds to his building film resume after a stellar turn in Inglourious Basterds and in the highly-anticipated, upcoming X-Men: First Class. In Jane Eyre, he joins Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as setting the standard for a classic British literature role. After Fassbender's performance as Mr. Rochester, we can't imagine anyone else in the role…ever!
And then there's Wasikowska. A joy to watch, her power as Jane Eyre pops off the screen. The actress has a subtle strength to her that shines in roles such as the title character in Charlotte Bronte's classic. There's a power and grace to Wasikowska that is impeccable as Jane Eyre, no wonder there was so much buzz when news broke that she was cast.
Jane Eyre, from beginning to end, is a blissful movie experience. Rarely does a period piece deliver its power on so many levels. The costumes are exquisite and the cinematography is beautiful while capturing the brooding, gothic feel of the novel. Fukunaga has crafted a Jane Eyre for the 21st century that will stand the test of time as much as the Bronte book. It is the definitive Jane Eyre film.
Out of five stars…
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