Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

2011, PG-13, 115 min. Directed by Cary Fukunaga. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Simon McBurney, Amelia Clarkson, Imogen Poots.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 25, 2011

Jane Eyre, one of cinema’s most frequently filmed novels, is once again on our screens in a handsomely mounted new version. That Charlotte Brontë’s Gothic novel, which was published in 1847, has seen so many incarnations is a testament to her story’s enduring power to speak across generations and eras. The character of Jane Eyre, with her proto-feminist longings and strong moral center, and the love she shares with Edward Rochester, her employer and a classic Byronic hero, serve as bellwethers that beckon modern storytellers again and again. This new screenplay adaptation by Moira Buffini (who also adapted Tamara Drewe from Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel) is reasonably faithful to Brontë’s 38-chapter novel, and director Fukunaga in his sophomore feature (Sin Nombre) displays a firm visual hand and expressionistic mastery of re-creating the look of 19th century lighting modes. Even those famed foggy moors have a palpable look that’s capable of enveloping our heroine and her viewers within its murkiness. The only aspect of Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre that is not fully palpable, however, is the passion that passes between the governess and her master. Wasikowska and Fassbender are both splendid as Jane and Edward (and if you detect a whiff of intentional appeal to Team Edward tweeners in this remake of a classic work of literature, you’re probably on target). Wasikowska has the “plain Jane” look down pat, and she easily exudes the kind of intelligence and naturalism that made her work in two of last years films – Alice in Wonderland and The Kids Are All Right – so exceptional. Fassbender, too, is a major talent, whom most will recognize from his work in Inglourious Basterds (but those who want to check out the full extent of his controlled brilliance should seek out his performances in Hunger and Fish Tank). Despite individually excellent turns, there is little spark, hunger, or lust that ignites between the two separated-by-circumstance lovers. Buffini’s screenplay also makes little of the class differences that separate the pair, although to its credit, the screenplay includes many episodes from Jane Eyre’s childhood, distinguishing it from most other renditions that begin with her employment at Mr. Rochester’s Thornfield Hall. As the mansion’s housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, Dench is a thorough delight as she upholds the difficult line between discretion and compassion. Although Jane Eyre wants for the depth of passion and heat we might expect from this Gothic couple who feel united in their souls, this film can boast a wealth of attention given to other visual and narrative details. Perhaps every decade gets the Jane Eyre it deserves: Is the emphasis of conscience over passion emblematic of our times?

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Cary Fukunaga
Roof-Riding to an Uncertain Fate
Roof-Riding to an Uncertain Fate
First-time feature filmmaker Cary Fukunaga captures the immigrant experience in 'Sin Nombre'

Marc Savlov, April 17, 2009

More Cary Fukunaga Films
Sin Nombre
Winner of dual awards for directing and cinematography at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this immigrant drama is suffused with gritty realism, poetic imagery, and melodramatic hokiness.

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 17, 2009

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Nomadland
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Jane Eyre, Cary Fukunaga, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Simon McBurney, Amelia Clarkson, Imogen Poots

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle