Jane Eyre (2011) directed by Cary FukunagaToday begins a short series of Bronte-related posts!
MPAA ratingRated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content
ZPAA rating12 and up--you'll have to judge for yourself how interested you child will be in the story
Gore level1 out of 10--Some bloody wounds but pretty minimal. The novel has more.
Other offensive contentThere's a painting of a naked lady that gets too much attention (Jane peruses it in detail for about 10 seconds); a little bit of violence and death but nothing really graphic.
How much funThere are some laughs but mostly this is a drama about Jane's life, not a comedy.
Synopsis & ReviewWhen it comes to adapting classic novels, many pitfalls abound. Fans naturally have their favorite parts and their own impressions of characters. The story is probably too big to be covered comprehensively. Related, films tell stories in different ways from written words so some alterations and abridgements are necessary.
This movie version of Jane Eyre is faithful to the book. It follows events mostly in the same order, though the movie begins with her flight from Thornfield Hall. The story before that is inter-cut with her arrival and life with the Rivers family. The settings are quite realistic, with the bleak moors and the dark buildings matching the novel's descriptions. The world of Jane Eyre is well-realized and atmospheric.
The plot is a mixture of too much being left in and too much being left out. All the major movements are in this movie: living as a child with her aunt, going to Lowood School, working as a governess at Thornfield Hall, interacting with Rochester, separating from Thornfield and Rochester under fantastic circumstances, living with the Rivers, etc. With only two hours of screen time, a lot of the details are left out of each of these. For instance, Blanche Ingram makes her appearance as a romantic rival for Rochester's affections. He seems to have genuine affection for her in the film but his ultimate choice of Jane has no inciting incident as it does in the book. The gypsy fortune-teller scene is not in the movie and nothing substitutes for the revelations of Blanche's superficiality and Jane's perceptivity. If the film makers had, for example, relegated the Lowood part of the story to a two-minute conversational recap at Thornfield they would have had more time to fully develop this part of the story. As a movie, I don't think it held the story together well enough.
The performances are generally good, though I thought Mia Wasikowska was a little too understated as Jane. Jane in the novel has a lot more passion and wit, though perhaps readers have more access to that since the narrative is told by her. In the movie, we are in a third-person narrative without access to her thoughts and feelings except for what the actress shows us. I thought the performance was a bit too reserved. The performance is serviceable but not great. Michael Fassbender is good as Rochester and Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax.
The movie ultimately feels like a Cliff's Notes version of the book with a couple of pages missing. The deleted scenes on the DVD fill in some of the holes but not all of them. The highlights of the book are in the film but what makes Jane Eyre a great story and her a great character doesn't come across. People who haven't read the book won't see what all the fuss is about; people who have (like me) will make a fuss about what isn't there.