Once again, I am a little late to the party. It’s not all my fault — Jane Eyre didn’t open here in Sarasota until early April, and other commitments kept me from going before yesterday.
I walked out thinking “meh.” I thought of all the glowing reviews I’d read, and all I could think of was that they’d either never read the book or they’d read it and forgotten the story. It was beautifully done (even more beautiful than the 2006 version), and the leads were outstanding, but so much was left out that I just couldn’t love it. It did remind me how long it’s been since I’ve read the book, and I really need to re-read it before seeing the movie again. My copy of the book is (say it with me!) in storage, so I went to the library to get one of theirs. Unfortunately, my local branch’s copy was checked out, but I’ll try the main branch downtown during a lunch break from work this week and see if one of theirs is around (the library’s website appears to be down, so I can’t place a reserve on a copy). I could actually read it on my Kindle, but I’ve noticed that the free versions of public domain books are often very poorly translated to electronic format, and I’d rather not have to work at ignoring all the mistakes I’m likely to find instead of paying my full attention to the story.
What did I like? I thought the two leads were excellent. Mia W. showed Jane’s inner strength and passion. Michael Fassbender is so good-looking that when he asks Jane if she thinks he’s handsome and she says no, the women in the audience all laughed. But he was very, very good as Rochester. This was the first Adele that didn’t make me want to slap her, Sally Hawkins was almost unrecognizable as Aunt Reed (in a good way), and Judi Dench was her usual stellar self as Mrs. Fairfax.
What did I not like? We didn’t see enough of Blanche. Richard Mason was far younger than I’ve always thought (he looked to be far too young to have been involved in the Edward/Bertha marriage). If you blink, you’d miss Grace Poole. I didn’t even know Miss Temple was in the movie until I read the credits. Plus, the gypsy scene is gone. Granted, it’s almost impossible to do well, but I did like the way the 2006 miniseries handled it. I guess that, if you have to cut the story down to fit into a 2-hour time slot, a lot of good stuff had to go. But that doesn’t mean I like it. St. John wasn’t cold enough and it actually seemed that he was in love with Jane and, as such, jealous of Rochester. There was no Rosamund at all, making it possible for people who don’t know the whole story to believe St John may have been in love with Jane. We do learn that Jane is an heiress, but they don’t tell us that the Rivers siblings are her cousins, so when she shares her inheritance with them, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And having him kiss her “as a sister” when she’s not related to him really creeped me out.
As I said, I haven’t read the book in a while and I couldn’t take notes in the theater, so I can only give you a rough idea of what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. But, it did inspire me to do a Jane Eyre-a-thon in the very near future. I’ve already added all of the available adaptations to my Netflix queue (I am very distressed that they don’t own the George C. Scott/Susannah York version; my copy is, of course, in storage, so I can’t even watch my own copy — hopefully I’ll be able to get it through interlibrary loan), including a TV version from the 19449 starring Charlton Heston as Rochester. I’d seen a clip of that version over at YouTube, so I am really looking forward to seeing it in its entirety. There’s also a 1934 version that looks dreadful, but I’ll watch it just because it’s there. I’ll likely also include the new adaptation of “Wide Sargasso Sea” simply because I’ve never seen it. I have read WSS, and I saw the Nathaniel Parker adaptation from 1993, but I hated both of them and don’t feel compelled to visit them again.
I’ve never loved Jane Eyre as much as I love any of Austen’s “Big 6,” but it still very dear to me and I am looking forward to this re-read. It’s the only book by a Bronte sister that I’ve managed to read in its entirety. I’ve tried Wuthering Heights and Villette and thought they were both unreadable. I’ve been assured that Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey are good, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. I’ll let you know when/if I do.