At long last, my review for the 2011 version of Jane Eyre is here! Is this the most delayed review ever, or what? My DVD was still in the packaging, despite having owned it for nearly two years now! Well, I didn’t watch it right away because I was trying to watch the Jane Eyres in order, and then my computer died… Anyway, I have actually seen the movie, just only once, in theaters. It was actually at an advance screening before the movie came out, so it’s been over two years. The theater I saw it in was not the greatest (it’s since been renovated) but there were few options as the film got a very limited release. I remember liking the movie and thinking the two leads were good, but being disappointed by several things (the flashbacks, the ending). I actually watched my DVD twice for this review- once to refresh my memory, and a second time with the director’s commentary on to take screencaps.
I had very high hopes for this film, despite thinking it was too soon for another adaptation. I mean, the 2006 BBC miniseries was released less than five years before this one! As much as I love Jane Eyre, I do think think there’s such a thing as adaptation overload. They could have adapted another work instead…but that’s not really on topic.
So, on my rewatch, did I think any differently? Yes, and no. Overall, my view on the film is that it is a disappointment. It could have been great but it did not meet my expectations. One of my main problems was the structure. The film starts out with Jane fleeing Thornfield and being found by the Rivers. Any scenes from before that point are flashbacks, occasionally coming back to a scene in the “present” at Moor House. I remember reading about this choice before the film came out and being hesitant, but I thought it might come out better than I expected. Unfortunately, it did not. The flashback structure was confusing for my friends who did not read the book. To me, it was just an annoyance. I get that they were trying to do something different, but it just didn’t work for me in practice.
I think that the film could have benefited from about 10-20 extra minutes of run-time. A lot of the explanations and backstories are cut out. What really bothered me about this is that it looked like more things were actually originally filmed, but left on the cutting room floor. The DVD confirmed my suspicions on some of this- plenty of deleted scenes on it should have been left in the film, IMO! I do not know why some of them were cut. (I will get into some specifics in the character section below). Because I saw the film with several people who did not read the book, I know that a lot of it was confusing. And for me, even though I knew the backstory, I was just irritated not to see it! One major thing I felt they should have done with extra time would be to show more buildup to Jane and Rochester’s relationship. Some of their scenes together are great, but they needed more of these before they actually got engaged to show and explain their growing attraction more.
Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre
While the actress is not actually plain, I think they made her look the part well enough. They had her use a Northern Accent, which I thought was an interesting choice (however, John and Mrs. Reed do not have this accent, so I’m not sure where she picked it up from…) She actually looked small enough and close to the right age. I found her acting, however, to be underwhelming. I thought her performance was too restrained. In the proposal scene, in particular, I thought she held back too much. I don’t want Jane to be over the top, but I wanted a little more passion. A lot of focus in this version seemed to be put on Jane wanting freedom and developing into a woman, but I could have done without the scene of her examining the painting of a naked lady. Not that I had any issues with the picture, but the scene accomplished nothing (that time could have been better spent elsewhere) and this “nude image” was part of the reason the film got a PG-13 rating.
Amelia Clarkson as Young Jane
I really liked her performance. One of this film’s high points to me was actually Jane’s childhood. Given how limited the time was, I think they definitely made the most of it! Cary Fukunaga, the director, stated in the commentary that it was intentional- Jane’s childhood is essential for shaping her into the person she later becomes. The scenes at Gateshead and Lowood, though minimal, were well-done. I’m still not sure why she has a Northern accent, unless she picked it up from the servants? Speaking of the servants, we actually do get a peek at Abbot and Bessie, who act true to their book characters. Unfortunately, it’s just a peek- an understandable cut for time.
Ewart James Walters as John Reed
He has a small part but it was done well. His scene of finding Jane in the window reading was kept very close to the book.
Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed
Her performance was very understated and softspoken. Very subtle. I didn’t have too much of a problem with that in itself, but because her time was so limited, I don’t know if it was really the right direction to go.
Simon McBurney as Mr. Brocklehurst
Like Aunt Reed, I think he could have played up a little bit more. It’s not that I had a big problem with his performance, but because his role was so small, I think it should have been a bit more dramatic.
Freya Parks as Helen Burns
I think Lowood was very effective given how little time it was given. Helen was very cute and innocent, and although her piety was not as extreme as in the book, for once it was actually not cut altogether! I loved her death scene. It was very touching and haunting at the same time- Helen’s eyes are open after she dies. I don’t remember a typhus outbreak but Helen did seem to die of consumption. She does actually mention going to God after death! I’m so thankful they didn’t completely alter her personality.
Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester
Of course, yet again, Rochester is anything but “not handsome.” I don’t even remember if that line was kept in, despite just having rewatched the film twice. He also gives his character a hint of a Northern accent. Although my favorite remains Timothy Dalton, I liked his performance as Rochester, and I thought that he and Mia did have good chemistry. He was a little more understated than some of the others to have played the role, but not too much so. Unfortunately, as I stated above- there was not enough build-up to them falling in love.
After the fire
Rochester was very sexy in this scene and I could really feel the tension between him and Jane. There is also an added touch of Jane’s hand shaking the morning after during her lessons with Adele. They should have put in some more scenes!
Begging Jane to Stay
The scene after the botched wedding attempt, in which Rochester is begging Jane not to leave him, is probably my favorite in the movie. This and the fire scene proved that the two actors had great chemistry, which makes me even more disappointed that we didn’t get more scenes leading to them falling in love.
Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax
I have to admit that I’ve never not liked Judi Dench in anything I’ve seen her in. Mrs. Fairfax is no exception. Like the book, Jane mistakes her as the lady of the house. While she does give off a certain regal air, I’m not sure how Jane could have thought she would be mother to Adele, given her advanced age.
Romy Settbon Moore as Adele Varens
That’s Sophie in the background. She appears to have a unibrow and reminds me of Freida Kahlo… Anyway, I thought this Adele was really cute. She was close to the right age for the character (only 8). She spoke only French in the movie, but could understand English. A deleted scene that I was really angry and confused about was Rochester telling Jane his history with Celine. Why in the hell was that cut? It was barely a minute long! Did the filmmakers just want audiences to believe that Adele was Rochester’s daughter? Leaving that explanation out was a mistake because the audience doesn’t know why Rochester has the attitude he does towards Adele.
Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram
Finally a brunette Blanche! She looked the part, but her role was really too small for anyone to really look at her as a real rival for Jane. She did sing, but Rochester did not. The gypsy scene was cut as well. I wish they could have just put in another couple short scenes with her!
Harry Lloyd as Richard Mason
His wound from Bertha’s bite is quite deep and gory. Unfortunately, the scene of Jane “tending” to him is one of the worst in the film. She helps him for all of a second before going to listen at the wall, not knowing there is an inner panel behind the tapestry where Bertha is. The whole time she was listening there I kept thinking, “Mason is gonna bleed out!” Thankfully the doctor arrived in time.
Adult Georgiana and Eliza
They are not named and have no lines (and are not shown as children) but I thought it was neat that we at least got this peek at them.
Valentina Cervi as Bertha Rochester
She looked the part, I guess, but I didn’t find her menacing enough. I suppose they didn’t want to make her too crazy so as not to be offensive, but she just didn’t have enough of a presence. Grace Poole was there, but just in the background and I think had one small line. There was no blaming of Grace Poole for any of Bertha’s doings, which I felt to be a mistake.
Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers
He looked the part! I had no issues with his performance, really (but he didn’t have a Northern accent). Rosamund Oliver was cut but St. John hinted at having loved someone. My complaints about the Rivers have entirely to do with the script- for one, as I mentioned above- I was not a fan of the flashback structure. But the Rivers, for whatever reason, are not Jane’s cousins in this! I guess they wanted to get rid of the cheesy coincidence from the book, but I had a major issue with it. It makes no sense to me that Jane would share her fortune with them. Yes, she was grateful for what they had done for her, but Jane in the book also gave them the money because she felt it was unfair for her to inherit everything. In the movie, it makes me feel like Jane is trying to buy a family. I don’t know if anyone else felt that way or it’s just me.
Holliday Grainger and Tamzin Merchant as Diana and Mary Rivers
Their roles were quite small but they did a good job with what they were given. One thing I thought was weird was that Diana seemed to be the only one of the three siblings to have a hint of a Northern accent. I know I’m no linguist so maybe I just didn’t hear it?
This film did do a lot of individual scenes right. It was pretty to look at and gave off a dark and moody feel. But it still was a disappointment to me. I want a director’s cut!
My Rating: 7/10