When C asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I told him that the only thing I wanted was for him to take me to see Jane Eyre. This newest incarnation of the novel by Charlotte Bronte appeared to be the one I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
Jane Eyre is my favorite novel. Hands down. No question. I love Charlotte’s writing style. I love the characters. I love the time period. I love the surprises. I love the changeability that Jane exhibits as she grows up in the novel even while she holds on fiercely to her ideals and identity. When I was growing up, Jane was the literary character I longed to be – she found a happily ever after (yes, and even true love) but it was on her terms. She was feminine and feminist, she was intelligent and teachable, she was plain and still beautiful. Can I be cheesy? This book speaks to my soul.
I know that when you love a novel the way I love Jane Eyre, that a movie adaptation is bound to be a disappointment. Thus far, my favorite has been the 2006 TV mini series done by Masterpiece Theater. It starred Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens (neither of which I recognized), who were quite good in their roles. It’s available in two discs on Netflix, and with the slight caveat of the unbelievably annoying Adele, I highly recommend. As a mini series, this adaptation was able to keep more elements of the novel, and the characters best matched my impression of what Jane and Edward should be over all the previously done versions. (Orson Welles??? Really?) Although I found Jane and Edward a little lacking in passion, it was a very true, very good movie. Not excellent, but very good.
But the previews for the new Jane Eyre looked so, I don’t know, mysterious and poignant and full of loss and redemption. Deeper than the previous versions. Even if it changed the story a little bit, it still looked like it might be passionate and moving and epic the way the novel is. I’ll admit, I went in with some pretty high expectations.
And… I was disappointed. It was a good movie, and I think Mia Wasikowska played a fantastic Jane. But (and maybe this wasn’t an issue if you hadn’t already read the novel) I didn’t feel like there was any understanding to the characters. There wasn’t enough history to explain Edward’s brooding or his need to love Jane. There wasn’t enough explanation to Jane’s loneliness and desire to share a fortune with relative strangers. It was more than leaving out elements of the novel, it felt like leaving out elements of the characters. And that’s never good for a movie. I knew their back story from the book, but I just wasn’t that invested in them.
That being said, Judi Dench played a great Mrs. Fairfax. So self-effacing for a woman that can pull off nobility with such ease. I loved her in that role. And, I loved the look of Michael Fassbender as Edward. He’s a little less classically handsome than the typical casting, and a little rougher around the edges.
But still, I think I’ll stick with the old mini series when I need Jane Eyre on DVD rather than on the page. Of course, that doesn’t happen to very often. In fact, I think I’m just about due for my annual reading!
(PS. C spoiled me rotten on my birthday!)
C’s rating of Jane Eyre: 7.5/10 mangoes
K’s rating of Jane Eyre: 6/10 mangoes