Film Review: Mia Wasikowska, Judi Dench Float on ‘Jane Eyre’

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CHICAGO – Film adaptations of classic literature are often lose-lose scenarios. The ardent admirers of the source often sour on what is left out, and the average filmgoer might wonder what the fuss is about when experiencing a truncated interpretation. There is obvious passion behind the latest adaptation of “Jane Eyre,” with performances that follow that lead.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

Director Cary Fukunaga does a sensational job providing a sense of scope and gravity to the oft-filmed tale (over 20 TV/film adaptations according to IMDB). The screenwriter Moira Buffini found a place in the novel in which to anchor flashback scenes, so Fukunaga can compactly tell two parts at once, capturing the essence of the whole story. Mia Wasikowska portrays the title character, lacking a bit of nuance while embracing an age-appropriate aspect of Jane.

In the beginning of the film, Jane is famously seen lost on the moors, floundering towards nowhere. She ends up lost and shattered onto the doorstep of complete strangers. Somehow, the home takes pity on her, and brings her in to live and foster a new school. St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his two sisters are Jane’s new family, and through her survivor’s narrative, we are treated to flashbacks of her difficult path.

Although born into wealth, Jane loses her parents at an early age, and at her uncle’s dying request moves into the home of her Aunt Sarah (Sally Hawkins). The cruel aunt treats her like a servant, and eventually banishes her to a boarding school. The school is even crueler that her home situation, as the headmaster is instructed to basically break her. Jane is tougher than her circumstance, and seems to gain strength as her schooling grows more difficult.

After graduating from that atmosphere, she advertises her services as a governess. The ominous Thornfield Manor is her new home, anchored by a moody patriarch named Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Her only ally is the bi-polar Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench), who cooly oversees Jane’s eventual romantic closeness with Rochester. The secrets and surprises, both with St. John Rivers and Thornfield Manor, stirs the plot and character of Jane Eyre.

“Jane Eyre” continues its limited release in Chicago on March 18th. Check local listings for show times and theaters. Featuring Mia Wasikowska, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, Jamie Bell and Michael Fassbender, Screenplay by Moira Buffini, directed by Cary Fukunaga. Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Jane Eyre”

Cliff Notes Twosome: Michael Fassbinder as Edward Rochester and Mia Wasikowska in ‘Jane Eyre’
Cliffs Notes Twosome: Michael Fassbinder as Edward Rochester and Mia Wasikowska in ‘Jane Eyre’
Photo credit: Laurie Sparham for Focus Features

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Jane Eyre”

Anonymous's picture

The Jane Eyre version from

The Jane Eyre version from the BBC is my favorite adaptation. Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens was spectacular in that version. It would be hard topping that but I’m looking forward to watching the 2011 film nonetheless. :)

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