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Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

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Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel from 1847, got another film update in 2011.  The Internet Movie Database (IMDb), lists 22 incarnations already produced for TV and film. With so many versions already available, do we really need another?

A classic can always use a fresh perspective and new readers may be introduced to the book after viewing the film. Director Cary Fukunaga does justice to the lush, gothic scenery of the book. His version of Thornfield Hall is as imposing as the descriptions in the novel.

Mia Wasikowska makes a marvelous Jane. The indomitable spirit of the plot’s heroine shines through her performance. Wasikowska’s Jane is headstrong, forthright and resolute in her convictions. She is well matched by Michael Fassbender as the brooding Edward Fairfax Rochester. He cuts a dashing figure and his chemistry with Jane is palpable. Judi Dench is delightful as Rochester’s maid, Mrs. Fairfax.

The concern with this version is the same for most book-to-film adaptations. A two-hour movie never has enough time to cover all of the novel’s characters and plot points. The early years of Jane’s life, which span almost 100 pages of the novel, are covered at breakneck speed in the film. While her time at Thornfield Hall rightfully fills most of the film, giving short shrift to her early life doesn’t allow the viewer time to fully appreciate the hardships Jane experienced, or the depths of her early relationship with Helen Burns.

The time Jane spends with the Rivers Family after her flight from Thornfield Hall is likewise glossed over. The film also misses the wonderful denouement of the book. The ending of the movie feels quite abrupt to anyone who has read the novel.

Although the time constraints cause parts of the film to feel rushed, it is still an excellent adaptation worthy of the name Jane Eyre. Fans of the novel will enjoy the chance to once again see Jane, Rochester and Thornfield Hall on the big screen.

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About Susan Portelance

  • Thanks for the comment, urbisoler. I do think a book as good as Jane Eyre can have multiple retellings without seeming tired. I hope you enjoy the movie on Thursday.

  • urbisoler

    Susan – It seems you have answered your own question. Do we really need another Jane Eyre. I read your article as a “yes” and I agree. One has to know the Bronte family to ‘feel’ Jane Eyre as almost a real person. I admit that I am guilty of thinking of Charlotte Bronte as Jane even where she herself has denied it. But it helps me to admire the character even more with each telling of the tale. What ‘chutzpah’ for this waif to dare confront the aristocracy as an equal. I look forward to this Thursday when Jane will live again in my heart.