*Quick note: I'm going to assume that the plot of Jane Eyre is widely known so beware because I'm going to talk about spoilers. You're forewarned.
I was seriously ready to drive 100 miles to see the new feature-length adaptation of Jane Eyre. Not joking. For over a month, the only movie theatre near me listed as showing Jane Eyre was in Des Moines. But all of a sudden...Focus Features and Marcus Theatres updated their websites to show more theatres in Iowa showing the movie starting April 8 including one in town. Finally, but I would have liked to have the information farther in advance of the opening than April 6.
I loved it. Jane Eyre in Cary Fukunaga's hands is a beautiful period film. The composition of each shot is sublime regardless of long or close, interior or exterior, and the natural beauty of Derbyshire is used to great effect. Occasionally the editing feels a little long, like the camera can't take it's lens off a beautiful scene. Although the takes are fabulous, perhaps a few seconds less on the exterior location shots, tighter editing, would allow for more interaction among the characters without taking away from the setting. On the other hand, the film does nod toward the Gothic elements of the novel through the editing without getting pulled into the supernatural. Good example: Jane telling Adele a spooky story then scares herself - and the audience - on the way to Millcote when a bird is startled out of a bush; the audience gets a good jump.
My friend (Jessica, thanks for coming to see the film with me!) noticed a an interesting interplay on the themes of imprisonment and freedom in the composition of the shots. Many shots include bars or items that look like cages (the lead holding the window panes, the windows in Adele's dollhouse, Jane's corset laces as she frantically tries to get out of her wedding dress); these contrast with shots of birds or characters looking out of windows. Jane frequently notes that she is a freeborn creature, contrasting with Bertha's imprisonment on the upper story of Thornfield.
The novel adaptation is quite good. Moira Buffini keeps the important events in the novel but reorders the story to give a fresh aspect. We start by watching Jane flee Thornfield and fortuitously wind up on the Rivers' front step. Jane's story is told in flashback, without voiceovers (thank you), keeping the adaptation unique while hewing to the novel. Buffini does compress the novel so I did miss a few things because I didn't get a good sense of time passing. Bronte gives fantastic verbal interplay to Jane and Rochester in the novel but the movie focused less on this and more on visuals; the composition and editing of the movie coveys much of the same feeling but you don't get as much intellectual depth to Jane and Rochester's courtship. Now, I heard some people muttering on the way out of the theatre that it was "boring"...did you expect an action movie? Did you never read the book? The book is good because a) the plot to get Jane and Rochester together, then apart, then together and b) Jane's inner monologue because she thinks a lot. Aside from a few moments of high drama, the book is quiet (I do have to thank Buffini for reordering the movie because we lose the very long section with the Rivers family and get back to Rochester much quicker).
The casting for Jane Eyre is excellent. Mia Wasikowska plays Jane with gravity and she also handles the period costume well (she does look plain but fascinating in her gaze, which the point because Jane isn't ugly, she's just not drop dead gorgeous). Judi Dench plays a wonderful Mrs. Fairfax, the sensible widowed housekeeper (who also gets the good asides). And my new favorite actor to watch (easy on the eyes and very talented) Michael Fassbender is a great Rochester; he plays Rochester as a frustrated man - doomed by his fate thus making him gruff, stand-offish, and changeable - and I think this allows him to show more emotion (when he introduces Bertha to Jane after the aborted wedding Fassbender chooses to be tender with Bertha, something that is handled differently than other interpretations I've seen). Additionally, I think Fassbender is the right age for Rochester, rather than too young; I've never thought of Rochester being close to fifty (if you assume he married Bertha when he was young and stupid, i.e. before twenty-five, he'd be no more than forty when he meets Jane) so the casting of Fassbender (in his mid-thirties) with Wasikowska (only about twenty during shooting) makes sense.
Now that I finally got a chance to see Jane Eyre I don't know what I'm going to look forward to seeing in theatres now. Anonymous (a thriller about the true identity of Shakespeare) opens in September with a great cast, the new Three Musketeers (which looks very over-the-top, I really hope so) comes out in November, the next Sherlock Holmes opens in December, the X-Men reboot is this summer along with the final Harry Potter movie, I think A Dangerous Method is slated to release this year (it's in post but I couldn't find a solid release date), and there is a new Wuthering Heights opening in the UK in September but I don't know if it has a US distributor.
Now, previews (there may have been another but we got there in the middle of a preview since we arrived a little later than planned):
1. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold: documentary by the guy from Super Size Me; seems too much of a gimmick to me but could be interesting
2. Beginners: looks very interesting, a people story about a man whose father comes out to him after his mother dies; great cast (Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, and Christopher Plummer)
3. Hoodwinked 2: I am not even kidding; WHY did this trailer show before Jane Eyre? Completely different audiences; the problem of simply being a terrible movie aside, it didn't even look funny