Jane Eyre

According to the painstaking research I performed before writing this review (i.e., looking at Wikipedia for all of five minutes), Charlotte Brontë’s proto-feminist novel (I cribbed that phrase right from the wiki, FYI) had been adapted at least 15 times for the silver screen and an additional 10 for television before this year’s revival. That’s to say nothing of the other numerous attempts to sequelize, prequelize, or retell the story in literary form. What is it about this book that inspires so many people to tell the story until someone finally gets it right?

The latest Jane Eyre comes from director Cary Fukunaga, an American filmmaker of Swedish and Japanese descent whose only previous feature was the Mexican gangster film Sin Nombre. In other words, he’s exactly the first person you’d think of to make a British period romance starring an Australian actress and German-Irish leading man. The mind reels.

Many adaptations of Jane Eyre cast actors too attractive to play the homely Jane and square-headed Rochester. In 1944, Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine poured on all the resplendent movie-star glamour of the Hollywood studio system at its peak. Fukunaga gives us the gorgeous Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and studly Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class). At least he dresses them down a bit. That’s something. They’re both fine actors, and I can’t complain about the performances. In other respects, the director jumbles the story’s chronology

a little and plays up the gothic atmosphere to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, the central relationship feels condensed and underdeveloped. Rochester is essentially a big creep, and the film fails to convince us why a strong-willed girl like Jane would fall so instantly smitten with him. That’s kind of a big problem.

It’s really a lovely movie to look at, though. The 1.85:1 photography was shot mostly in natural light. Aside from an over-reliance on teal color grading (a personal bugbear of mine) during the night scenes, the film has some breathtaking imagery. The Blu-ray transfer is pleasingly sharp and detailed. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack has crisp dialogue, atmospheric ambience, and the occasional blaring thunderclap. Extras include some deleted scenes, two commentaries (one is an easily found Easter egg), and three puff-piece featurettes. Did we really need yet another Jane Eyre? Perhaps not, but even if it’s imperfect, this one is entirely watchable.

Picture: 4
Sound: 4
Extras: 2.5
Interactivity: 1

Studio: Universal, 2011
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 120 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench