Director Cary Fukunaga took a risk when he tackled Charlotte Bronte’s classic masterpiece “Jane Eyre” (rated PG-13). Starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Michael Fassbender (Jonah Hex), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) and Judi Dench (Quantum of Solace) “Jane Eyre” has been done and redone time and time again. The actors change but the characters and story remains the same.
Mia Wasikowska stars as the title character. An orphan cast off by her Guardian and Aunt, Mrs. Reed (Sally Hawkins), Jane Eyre grows up in Lowood School for Girls. Here she is treated with cruelty and contempt but receives an excellent education thus providing her with a way of escape. After eight years at Lowood Jane advertises for a governess position receiving a reply from Alice Fairfax (Dench), the housekeeper of Thornfield Hall. Jane accepts the position and moves into Thornfield where she spends her days teaching Adele Varens a young French girl who is the ward of Edward Fairfax Rochester, the owner of Thornfield Hall.
Mr. Rochester (Fassbender) is rarely at home and Jane lives at Thornfield for many months before meeting him. Over the course of time Mr. Rochester comes to enjoy Jane’s company finding her to be his intellectual equal and that he can easily converse with her. It is during these times together that Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester and experiences deep jealousy with the introduction of competition in the form of Blanche Ingram (Imogen Poots). This jealousy, however, is not what eventually drives Jane from Thornfield and into the home of St. John, Diana and Mary Rivers, three siblings living together on the Moors. Jane eventually makes a life for herself with the Rivers family and even finds a job teaching at the local girls school. This is not where the story ends but I cannot tell you more without completely ruining it.
I have never claimed to be a book to movie purist, however, when it comes to “Jane Eyre” I am fiercely loyal to Charlotte Bronte’s original story. While the basic premise is still intact Fukunaga, and screen writer Moira Buffini, took some creative liberties. For instance, we meet St. John Rivers before we meet Mr. Rochester. By starting in the middle of the story the director is forced to create flashbacks in order to tell us Jane’s history. There were also multiple important details left out in order to adhere to the two hour time limit. Details I feel are needed in order to give the viewer the complete picture. I have concluded that if I had not already read the book multiple times and viewed other versions of “Jane Eyre” I would have been sorely confused about easily explainable details.
If you know the story of “Jane Eyre”, have read the book and seen the movies, I suggest you wait until this version is on DVD. I feel that it is not worth the high price of admission. However, if you do not know the story, or am indifferent about liberties taken, then by all means watch it. I personally prefer Masterpiece Theatre’s 2006 version starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens…by Stephanie Spurgetis