27/31: Jane Eyre and the art of getting to the point
Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Jane Eyre is gorgeous — and savvy. Fukunaga and adapter Moira Buffini understand what everyone's come for, which is what everyone's come for since the nineteenth century: a woman who is neither conventionally pretty nor polite nor willing to compromise still lands her great love. The extended privations of Lowood, the endless Socratic dialogues with St. John about free will and moral relativism: nobody cares. The repeated pranking of Thornfield by Bertha Rochester (Jessica Chastain) (just kidding!) (OR AM I), at such unquestioned length that the manse's other denizens all begin to seem a bit dim: get on with it. Get Jane to the house, get her to the church, get her on the moor, burn the fucker down, wife's dead, path's clear, done.
The look of Jane Eyre is breathtaking, all the different sorts of fog, the low light that lets characters move about like ghosts. The casting is great, too; as I've said at some length elsewhere, the Jane part is difficult to fill, because Bronte never tires of pointing out Jane's homeliness, and when you do find an actor with an adequately plain mien and who can portray Jane's velvet-hammer interior life, good luck selling her on "you're plain, teeny, stubborn, and won't make out with Rochester even when he's played by Michael Fassbender and wearing only a nightie." BECAUSE COME ON.
But Mia Wasikowska slots in perfectly; she's pretty, but she can play plain, and you can tell it kills her to resist Rochester and flee. Her face gives the right combination of fleeting emotions and their quick tamping. Fassbender is also very good, playing Rochester with less one-note glowering thunder than the novel usually indicates, and Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax is nice and brisk. (Her expression when she comes upon Jane and Rochester canoodling is hilarious.) All in all, a shrewd adaptation that uses flashbacks to good effect, tones down some of the dickishness in the text, and freshens up the classic.
Tags: 31 Days 31 Films Cary Fukunaga Charlotte Bronte Eyresses Jane Eyre Jessica Chastain Judi Dench Kookoo Crazypantses Mia Wasikowska Michael Fassbender Moira Buffini movies