On Balance: "Jane Eyre" Movie Review

I LOVED this book when I first read it in seventh grade. It was probably my first plain-heroine, aloof-hero story, the first one where I didn’t know whether he loved her or not, and actually squirmed in anticipation, hoping he’d express feelings for her. And yes, I was pretty sure they’d end up together, but as I was reading, I just didn’t know how. I think the first such story you read has all the magic (maybe that’s part of the magnetism of “Twilight” for many younger readers?)

Having said that, Jane Eyre itself is a fantastic, epic of a novel in other ways, too. So, I drove quite a bit out of my way to see the new BBC movie version.

SPOILERS are included in the review below! Read at your peril!

I’ve seen the miniseries “Jane Eyre” adaptation . I’ve also seen other movie with William Hurt. The less said about the latter, the better.

Anyway, onto Jane Eyre, 2011 Version.

The awesome:
– the structure was fantastic. I read an interview with the filmmaker where they discussed narrative choices, & explained the decision not to introduce critical characters like St. John in the last sliver of the movie. I think the approach this movie took – framing the narrative as a tale told in retrospect when she arrives at St. John’s house – was inspired. Also, the way St. John figures out her identity – through the solicitor from her uncle, not hearing rumors about Mr. Rochester – was also pretty excellent (I think that was a departure from the book? A good one, too.)

– Jane Eyre. Fantastic casting, both older Jane and younger. Younger was incredibly spunky, but I recognized her lines from the book– kind of gave me a new appreciation for how rebellious and spirited young Jane was.

– The pacing. Well done.

– Ms. Fairfax. How could you not love Judi Dench?

– I liked the casting of Mr. Rochester, too. He looked the part, and had moments of savagery that made him as bestial as the Rochester in the book sometimes is. I did not, however, adore him nearly as much as the miniseries Mr. Rochester, but I have to keep in mind that miniseries Rochester had a much longer time period to develop as a character.

– St. John– great casting. Very charismatic young actor, whoever he was.

My criticism:

– First of all, we were severely lacking in Mr. Rochester’s explanation as to why he was being such a douchebag, rubbing Blanche Ingram in Jane’s face! He’s still douche-y when he explains his motives in the book, but IMO, that’s a valuable little explanation for a viewer who might not have read the book. (However– I am almost tempted to let the ‘small social convention’ scene make up for it).

– A lot of the darkness was played up, but the light was cut out. I remember Jane Eyre from the book being (early on) contently entombed at Thornfield Hall because her emotions were in a sort of state of deep-freeze. On one hand, I loved that in this movie, she was aware of herself enough/spirited enough as a young woman to lament the isolation of never having met a man/having boundaries, etc. However, given the dark moodiness all around of the story, it might’ve been nice to retain some of that aspect of Jane’s from the book for a little while.

– Along those lines, the ending. She left out my favorite part– Jane teasing Mr. Rochester for thinking she’s a ghost, Jane teasing him with the fact that St. John proposed to her. Some of the fun was missing, leaving the movie with a weighty, dark feeling. And the moment Rochester could gaze upon his son’s eyes at the end of the book? Again, a great counter-weight to the darkness that was totally missing from this movie.

Anyway, just my first opinions. Very great movie, about as fantastic an adaptation of Jane Eyre as can be executed in a mere two hours, but I do think it was in need of some more balance of mood.

For the definitive Jane Eyre, I still point you towards the miniseries. I bought that connection between Jane and Mr. Rochester. It was very faithful to the book, and well, it’s just my favorite.

Anyone see it? What do you think?

  1. Thanks for the great review. Now I won’t have to break my neck to see it. Not showing locally. I haven’t seen the miniseries you mention, so I’ll have to NetFlix it. My favorite version is the one by A&E (1997) starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds. Both are super terrific. Laura Harling, who plays young Jane, is simply marvelous. Does have some weak performances, but on the whole, really satisfying.

  2. I haven’t seen this, either, but I’d love to. I think I’ve seen the BBC/A&E miniseries, but it’s been awhile. Those are almost always amazing, aren’t they? I need to see it again because I can’t remember it very well.

    Thanks for the review!


  3. Thanks! Glad you guys love Jane Eyre, too. I think a lot of the really awesome miniseries can be found on YouTube, actually, if you want a sneak peak. It really is worth seeing!

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