Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cary Fukunaga: Jane Eyre

Just got back from seeing the latest adaptation of this timeless classic ... which, if published today, would probably be derided as overly dramatic and lacking in credibility. A crazy wife hidden away in the attic, who'd buy that? ;-) That's beyond clichéd ... but of course, the reason it's such a cliché is precisely this book.

As for this adaptation, I liked it a lot ... I'm not entirely sure I see the need for it, I rather think that the TV version from five years ago is pretty definitive. But this was also really good. Excellent acting from everyone involved, a good script, fantastic hair and wardrobe, well chosen settings. Although of course very dreary - every single place Jane lives in is grey and drab and somewhere way out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe a little overkill on that score.

The screenplay is laid out in a slightly untraditional manner, starting with Jane running away from Thornfield and then telling the story in flashbacks from there. Yeah, that sounds kind of annoying, but it actually works really well. The early parts of the story are very sparse, just the bare bones of Jane's experiences, to the extent that it almost made me think that the screenwriter has intended this version primarily for those already familiar with the novel. But that's hard for me to say since I have read the book.

As I said, the actors are very good ... and we all really loved the fact that this version has been cast with mostly no big names. Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax is the only famous face, and she is of course just perfect. Michael Fassbender, who I know by name but don't think I've ever seen in anything before, is a little too good looking to be the perfect Mr Rochester (that honor would have to go to Toby Stephens ;-) but he acted the part pretty much flawlessly. Jane herself is also extremely well played, except that I was a little distracted by the incredible familiarity of this actress that I thought I'd never seen before. Her name, Mia Wasikowska, is one I absolutely didn't recognize. I couldn't tell if I had seen her in something before or whether I just thought I had because of her extreme resemblance to a young Claire Danes. Tanumine and Findabair thought it must have been the latter, since they couldn't remember seeing her in anything either. But it was in fact the former; she played the daughter in The Kids Are All Right and Alice in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. So of course I had seen her. I have to say it's a tribute to her talent that we couldn't bring either of these previous roles to mind while seeing her as Jane. :-)

Hair and especially wardrobe are really fantastic in this movie - I love the way they've managed to make everything, especially the women's clothing, just as cumbersome and unbecoming as it must have been. Because of all the underskirts, all the actresses look pregnant all the time. :-) And what a joy it must have been to play badminton in stays and an ankle length skirt. Those were the days. Beautifully, if that's the word I want, recreated here.

All in all great results of a fundamentally pointless exercise. The world didn't need another Jane Eyre, but this is very well worth watching.

What we really need is a movie version of Jenna Starborn. ;-)

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