Archive | August, 2012

He Knew He Was Right Book and Miniseries Review

31 Aug

The Book

He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope, was published in 1869. It is one of the more popular of his many, many novels. It tells of the destruction of a once happy marriage, due to the husband, Louis Trevelyan’s jealousy, and his wife, Emily’s stubbornness. Louis does not like Emily to spend so much time with her godfather, Colonel Osborne, a ladies’ man who has some rumored scandals in his past. Although he does not suspect that she has been unfaithful, he thinks that it will give him a bad reputation as a husband. Emily, in turn, insists that she has done nothing wrong and so instead of acquiescing, she obstinately defies Louis just to prove him wrong. Both keep insisting that they are right until things keep spiraling further and further out of control. Like Trollope’s other works, there are about a million side characters and subplots as well, including a love triangle involving Emily’s sister, Nora.

I actually read this a few months ago but am only getting around to a review now to fill up time until my Jane Eyre DVD arrives! This was my fourth Trollope novel.I have not really cared for any of them, sadly. The Warden and Barchester Towers were okay, but I really hated The Way We Live Now. I like Trollope’s writing well enough, but I always have a  hard time because most of his characters are so unlikeable. Trollope himself was not fond of He Knew He Was Right because Louis Trevelyan was so unsympathetic. I have to agree. It’s not good if I like the subplots better than the main plot of a novel! I could not sympathize with Emily either. Yes, she was technically more “right” in the beginning than Louis, but the situation got out of hand largely due to her obstinacy as well as Louis’s. The two really needed to have a frank discussion without constantly blaming the other for everything. I do not hesitate in saying this will be my last Trollope novel, since I do not own any others.

My Rating: 4/10

He Knew He Was Right, the miniseries, aired on BBC in 2004 and was scripted by the (in)famous Andrew Davies. It stars Oliver Dimsdale as Louis Trevelyan, Laura Frasier as Emily, and many well-known British actors such as Bill Nighy as Colonel Osborne, Anna Massey as Aunt Stansbury, and Christina Cole as Nora. Andrew Davies also adapted Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and as you probably know from my earlier review, I was NOT a fan of that adaptation in any way. Since I did not care for this book very much, I did not have high hopes for this miniseries.

So, what did I think? It was actually not as bad as I thought it could be. That was, I believe, mostly due to my low expectations. The acting was good all around and it was faithful to the novel for the most part. I have mixed feelings about one big change to this adaptation, however. Namely- Emily Trevelyan. Davies paints her as MUCH more sympathetic than the book character, where she is nearly as much to blame as Louis for their failed marriage. Here, she is almost completely innocent and seems genuinely ignorant and confused about why Louis is originally upset. Louis in the miniseries actually believes that she and Osborne are having an affair for some reason, which never crossed his mind in the book. Emily in the series is a blameless victim, and can honestly be called “right” in the situation. I suppose Davies wanted to make at least one likeable lead and so altered things to make Louis entirely the villain and Emily only a victim, trying to do the right thing. I am torn about this change because while it does make for easier viewing, having someone to root for in the main plotline, the fact remains that it is not true to the book. I was unable to fully enjoy the miniseries for that reason because I just kept thinking “That’s not how it’s supposed to be!” Silly and too purist of me? Maybe. But that’s how I feel.

My Rating: 6/10

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

29 Aug

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme about books hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Yes, I am well aware that today is Wednesday. I didn’t have a chance to do this yesterday. In the past, I have occasionally participated in this meme on my Youtube Channel. But, partially due to my inability to film a video today, partially because I want to be more active on this blog, I thought this week I would change it up and actually do a blog post about it.

Today’s theme is Bookish Confessions.

1. I hate to spend money- unless it’s on books. Anything else I feel is a waste. While I do like clothes, I have some slight body issues and don’t like to spend too much money on them. Jewelry? Pretty, but unnecessary. Shoes? Definitely not. Whenever I buy something else, I only end up thinking of how many books I could have bought with that money.

2. I read way more books than I watch movies. And my favorite movies/series tend to be largely book adaptations.

3. I have read the entire Twilight series. I had no desire to do so, but I ended up being too curious for my own good. I borrowed my friend’s copies (I would not and will not buy them). I also saw the first three movies. But Breaking Dawn was so bad I won’t even see the movies.

4. Even after a year, I’m still depressed at the demise of Borders. Pretty much all I have left now is Barnes and Noble, but it’s not the same experience. There is not as much of a selection, the deals are  not as good, and the employees are less knowledgeable (at least in my local branches!). When I drive past an old Borders location, I still get sad!

5. I hate lending out books. It’s not exactly that I don’t trust others (but that’s partly it), but that I feel nervous having a book separate from the rest of my collection.

6. I buy way more books than I have room for/time to read. I collect books, even though my shelves are to the point of overflowing and there’s no room for more. It’s a form of hoarding, I guess. And this continues even though I have some that have sat unread for years. This relates to the next point…

7. I don’t use my ereader enough. I got this dumb thing last year because it was on sale, I didn’t have room for more books, and I thought it would be good to read public domain books on, that way I wouldn’t at least have to spend money on those. And it turns out that’s all I’ve used it for, and only a couple at that. I also have The Song of Ice and Fire series on it, because it came with a credit I used it on. I have not bought anything on it other than that. It just doesn’t have the same magical feel that books do. I tried!

8. My dream is to have a library that includes the works- a ladder will be a must. Think the scene from the Disney Beauty and the Beast, for reference. Yes, I know ereaders are more convenient, but it’s just not the same!

9. I prefer the look of hardcover, but the feel of paperback. Hardcovers look better on the shelf and they’re sturdier, but unless I’m getting a new book, I always go for paperback. Not only are they cheaper, I prefer how they feel in my hands. Easier to hold!

10. It’s hard not to judge people based on their reading preferences! I hate chick lit/romance novels but I know a lot of people who like them, and indeed will read only those genres. I try to separate those preferences with their personal intelligence but it can be slightly difficult-especially if the books in question happen to be Fifty Shades of Grey. I know everyone has different tastes, but I like to go by “If I don’t like it, that means it’s bad!” (obviously I am exaggerating, lol).
There are a few more I could mention, but I’m going to keep it at ten.

 

Jane Eyre 2006 Delay

28 Aug

I would have posted the review of Jane Eyre 2006 either today or tomorrow, but something was bothering me after watching my DVD. It turns out is a shortened version that was played on PBS’s Masterpiece. I had seen the original UK version which was 4 hour long episodes before, so something seemed off as I watched my DVD, which was two, two hour long episodes. I have actually watched my DVD once before, but I guess I wasn’t paying as close attention. This time I noticed certain scenes I had remembered from the UK version being gone! So, I have ordered a version that includes the full miniseries the way it was meant to be seen originally.  It should hopefully be no more than a few days.

Jane Eyre 1997

24 Aug

The 1997 version of Jane Eyre was originally shown on ITV and runs for only 108 minutes. It stars Samantha Morton as Jane and Ciaran Hinds as Rochester. I originally saw it as it reran on television here in the US several years ago, missing only the very beginning (I turned to the channel during Helen’s death scene). I purchased a (new!) DVD for only a dollar on Amazon Marketplace within the last couple years and watched it again when I received it. This time, for the review, makes for the third time.

I didn’t like this version the first time I watched it. Or the second. Or even now, the third, sadly. It is way too short and rushed- leading to a lot being cut from the novel, the production values are little better than older versions from the 80s and before, and a lot of the casting and characterizations do not ring true to the book characters (for me, at least). A lot of voice-over is used, but it’s not from the book (or at least the majority is not). Instead, most seems to be used to truncate scenes and just tell the audience what has happened rather than to show it. It’s not exactly horrible (there are a few good points), but this adaptation is just way too truncated for me to enjoy it.

The Reeds

Just like the 1996 version, this one starts with Jane immediately being put in the Red Room. Then Brocklehurst comes to take her. The Reeds have even less of a presence here, though. Deborah Findlay as Mrs. Reed is given little to do other than talk to Brocklehurst about Jane’s faults, and the children don’t do anything at all, really. We do get to see a bit of Bessie, at least. Again, in this version, Jane stands up to Mrs. Reed in front of Brocklehurst. While Jane does go to visit Mrs. Reed later on, we do not get to see that visit- just Jane leaving and then coming back. And Rochester complaining that Jane has written to everyone, including Pilot (yes), except him during that time.

Gemma Eglinton as Helen Burns and Laura Harling as Young Jane

Neither of them is really given anything to do, aside from Jane standing up to Mrs. Reed. The death scene is included but Helen’s piety, and indeed her entire personality, is nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately most of the Lowood scenes are only told through voice-over, so aside from Mr. Brocklehurst’s visit (which is kept), and the death scene, that’s all we get to see. Helen dies of typhus in this one.

Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre

The only other thing I’ve ever seen Samantha Morton in was the ITV Emma, which I also didn’t like too much. She didn’t impress me here either. She looked the part well enough. She was very close to the right age and they did their best to make her look plain, but I wasn’t fond of her performance. She was at times very reserved and meek, other times more confident and defiant. Her attitude with Rochester was quite rude and insubordinate in their conversations.

Ciaran Hinds as Edward Rochester

I usually love Ciaran Hinds (especially as Wentworth in Persuasion) but this was the exception. Like Samantha Morton, he looked the part, but that’s as far as it went. I hated his portrayal as Rochester. I doubt that he ever read the book. Even so, I don’t know what the whole production team was thinking. Whereas William Hurt was too subdued and emotionless, Hinds was the exact opposite, constantly getting angry and whiny to the point of shouting every line. It was ridiculous. He and Jane had absolutely no chemistry, and if she didn’t tell us in the voice-over that she was growing fond of him, we wouldn’t know it. In their scenes together, such as the proposal, Morton underacted and Hinds overacted to the point that it was ridiculous. The kissing looked rather uncomfortable to both parties. They may as well have fake kissed, like in 1996.

Timia Berthome as Adele

Adele was fine, but Rochester was way too affectionate with her in this. He holds her on his lap, gives her presents, and teases her. He does not seem to resent her presence because of her mother at all. Speaking of affectionate, he is also that way with Bertha- holding her to him like a child and kissing the top of her head. She is kept in a padded room. I know Rochester’s treatment of Bertha was actually enlightened and unconventional for the time, but I think that was taking it a bit too far.

Abigail Cruttenden as Blanche Ingram

I feel evil and shallow for saying this, but she was not beautiful enough. Blanche’s two big (only) characteristics are that she is beautiful and haughty. Cruttenden was neither. She was actually very kind and sweet to Adele, and only showed hints of her original nature (wanting Rochester’s money). And I actually didn’t find her attractive at all. She looked almost masculine to me. Maybe her strong features and jawline coupled with the girly hairstyle accentuated it, I don’t know. The charades and gypsy scene were both cut, but there was a bit with her reading Rochester’s palm.

Gemma Jones as Mrs. Fairfax

I liked her in the role (one of the few high points) and she actually looked more like a housekeeper than some others to have played Mrs. Fairfax. She apologizes tearfully to Jane after the aborted wedding and the reveal of Bertha, insisting she thought Bertha was Adele’s mother, but not that she and Rochester were married. That’s probably along the same lines of what Mrs. Fairfax thought in the book, and I actually liked getting a concrete answer as to the extent of her knowledge in this version.

Rupert Penry-Jones as St. John and Elizabeth Garvie as Diana Rivers

Yes, we have two Captain Wentworths in this! And RPJ is actually a very handsome St. John, for once. Unfortunately, the whole ending including the Rivers storyline was very rushed, and frankly, all wrong. Jane leaving Thornfield is not the moving, sorrowful scene that it is in the book and some other adaptations. It’s all anger. Jane does not seem sad or conflicted. She holds her head up high as she leaves. Rochester is just angry and yelling,  as usual. He tells Jane she is too predictable and needs to be more original, accusing her of only wanting to become mistress of Thornfield- even saying she is no better than Blanche. Jane does wander on the moors for a bit before collapsing and being found by St. John, but there is none of the begging or desperation from the book.

Although St. John is actually good-looking for once, his personality was nothing like his book self. He was actually a very warm and kind, understanding guy, always with a smile on his face. Um, what? Elizabeth Garvie, while I liked her as Elizabeth Bennet, was way too old to be Diana. (This time Mary is the sister to get cut). But that doesn’t really matter anyway, as she does essentially nothing. After Jane wakes up (and does not hide her identity) it skips ahead two months to her working as a teacher. Then it skips ahead to St. John proposing (in which Jane’s only argument is that they barely know each other) before she hears Rochester and runs back to Thornfield immediately. There is no inheritance, no Rosamund, nothing. Rochester, as usual, did not lose an eye or hand. There is a brief epilogue, in which their elder child is clearly a girl for some reason, and that’s it.

Like I said, way too rushed and truncated. And even what we did get ranged from poor to mediocre. The very few decent parts were nowhere near enough to make me like it. I have no desire to watch it again.

My Rating: 5/10

Jane Eyre 1996

22 Aug

I first saw the 1996 version of Jane Eyre when I was still in middle school. I believe it was shortly after I first read the book. I didn’t like the book very much on first read, but when I happened to see that the film was playing on one of the movie channels, I decided to give it a shot. The movie was already about halfway through, but I had nothing else to do anyway. What did I think? Let’s just say I was not impressed. I have seen it twice more since then. Once a couple years ago after buying the DVD, and once for this review. How did I feel those times? Still not impressed.

This movie is really just not very good. The story was largely rushed and truncated- especially the ending. I know things have to be cut to fit it into such a short time frame (less than two hours) but I feel it was just handled clumsily. The first two thirds of the movie were just mediocre, nothing to write home about, but the last part was just a mess. The acting was nothing special either. Those who were good were wasted in their too-small roles. Those who were featured more were not very good. The two words that appear most in my notes are “flat” and “emotionless.”  It was an all around disappointment, devoid of all of the passion and fire of the book.

Fiona Shaw as Mrs. Reed

Fiona Shaw was very good, but was entirely wasted as Mrs. Reed, in her very limited screen time. Gateshead was way too rushed. All of the Reed children push and attack Jane for no reason and Mrs. Reed locks her in the Red Room. There is no scene of her hiding in the window and John hitting Jane and her fighting back at all. Mr. Brocklehurst comes the next day to take Jane to Lowood. It seems like Mrs. Reed was just sending Jane to school to get rid of her. In this version, she also knows that Jane has an uncle in Madeira. I’m surprised she never tried to locate the guy to get him to take Jane!

Leanne Rowe as Helen Burns and Anna Paquin as Young Jane

Helen is made to be the curly redhead to get her haircut in this, because Jane asks her to let it loose in order to paint her portrait. Anna Paquin is very good as Jane, but the character is even more feisty than in the book. She stands up to Mrs. Reed in front of Mr. Brocklehurst, and she stands up to Brocklehurst again when he makes to cut Helen’s hair- she demands that her hair be cut as well. Helen was good in her limited role, and mentions meeting Jane again in heaven, but as usual, her extreme piety is cut.

Geraldine Chaplin as Miss Scatcherd and John Wood as Mr. Brocklehurst

Miss Scatcherd is made into the headmistress in this for some reason. I guess to make the situation at Lowood even more dire, what with her being on Brocklehurst’s side? Mr. Brocklehurst is evil and does not lose any power in this after the typhus outbreak….because there is no such outbreak. Helen is the only one who is sick.

Amanda Root as Miss Temple

Amanda Root was lovely in the role. Her Miss Temple is just a lowly teacher with no power in this, having to obey both Miss Scatcherd and Brocklehurst in this. She also does not get married, and actually tells an older Jane leaving for Thornfield that she feels it is God’s will that she remain at the school. Poor thing!

Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane Eyre

Even though she was near 25, she did look the right age for Jane and they did a pretty good job making her look plain. She was way too tall though (with an very long neck) and although she had everything to make a good Jane, she was pretty dull actually. She was even more reserved and quiet than the book Jane, which, given how passionate her younger self was in this, was especially jarring.

Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fairfax

Her Mrs. Fairfax was kind and on the flighty/absent-minded side, but she also had a sort of regal air to her. I could kind of see how Jane would mistake her for the lady of the house. Her distant relationship with Rochester is cut. She also seems to be fully aware that Bertha is Rochester’s wife, but that might just be my imagination.

William Hurt as Edward Rochester

If I thought Gainsbourg’s Jane was lackluster, that was nothing compared to William Hurt’s Rochester. My original feelings on  him were “block of wood” and my opinion remains unchanged upon the latest viewing. My above mentioned “flat” and “emotionless” apply to him more than anyone or anything else in this film. Not only did he and Jane not have any chemistry (I’m unsure how they even fell in love in this, since they have so few scenes together), he just didn’t seem to care at all. He was so dull! The proposal scene was so passionless, and even their kissing looked staged (i.e. their lips did not really touch). He did not show Rochester’s brooding/angry side or the humorous side. He just played a block of wood.

Elle Macpherson as Blanche Ingram

Another particularly bad bit of casting. She was  horrible! I have not seen her in anything else but I thought she was a model, not an actress? She was pretty, yeah, but she could not act. There was also no scene of Rochester singing, no charades, and no gypsy. They just had one dance together, pretty much.

Edward de Souza as Richard Mason

Odd beard on this guy. I didn’t know Mason was supposed to be that old.

Josephine Serre as Adele Varens

Adele was fine, I guess. I was not really happy about the above pictured scene between her and Rochester, however. They are both missing Jane when she goes back to Gateshead to see a dying Mrs. Reed. Adele leans on Mr. Rochester and he puts his arm around her. Yeah, right. Adele in this version is sent away to school before the wedding. I didn’t buy that Jane would do that, but it turned out to be for a reason.

Maria Schneider as Bertha

She was fine too. Adele was sent away so early in this version because the ending was so rushed. After the aborted wedding, Jane packs and leaves in a carriage immediately. Despite letting her walk out the door, Rochester decides to chase after her on his horse once the carriage is actually moving. He doesn’t get far, however, because he’s called back- Bertha has already started the fire. This is all in the middle of the day, by the way. He doesn’t help any of the servants out, instead going to Grace Poole, who is calling him for help in getting Bertha out. They are on the top stair landing, not on the roof. Bertha pushes Grace over the railing and kills her before jumping herself. We also see Rochester get  injured. Kind of ruins any surprise there. I’m only surprised that Jane didn’t see the smoke from the carriage and go back.

Samuel West as St. John Rivers

Two 1995 Persuasion actors in this! St. John in this is the parson of Gateshead, who originally summoned Jane to see a dying Mrs. Reed. After traveling for a while in the carriage, Jane decides to go to see him and Mary (there is no Diana). She does not run out of money and have to wander on the moors, desperate and begging for food. Not at all. Yet she is so exhausted somehow from just the carriage ride that she still has to be in bed for a month at the Rivers’??? Okay. Jane does not work as a teacher. Her inheritance is included, but she is not related to the Rivers. Instead, she gives a portion of her money to the girls at Lowood and part for St. John’s mission work. St. John does propose, and Jane says she will consider it, but the next we see of her is going back to Thornfield. Okay?

Rochester and Mrs. Fairfax are still living at part of Thornfield. Jane never actually learns what happens, she just goes straight inside, ignoring Mrs. Fairfax and then sees that Rochester is blind. His eye is gone, but not hand. They have another stage kiss and then we have the epilogue, which is pretty much intact except that they take Adele in and raise her as their own, which is not exactly the case in the book.

Conclusions

Yeah, this movie was pretty bad. Up until Jane fleeing after the wedding, it was just dull and boring. Then it became truly butchered! Such a waste.

My Rating: 5/10

Jane Eyre 1983

19 Aug


The 1983 version of Jane Eyre is the second adaptation of the novel that I saw (and the first that I watched in full). The first one I saw was the 1996 version, but only the second half, so that doesn’t really count. My 9th grade class watched a portion of it after reading the book (at 11 episodes a half hour long each, it was too long for us to spend so much class time on!). I later checked it out of the library to watch it in full. I remember I wasn’t too impressed with my first viewing.

But first impressions do change! I have seen it again since then (and once more now for the review) and I like it more each time. Like the 1973 version, it is very faithful to the book. I preferred it, on the whole, to that one as well. The acting is much better, overall, and it does not have such intrusive, redundant voice-overs. Some very minimal narration by Jane was used at times, but only for transitional purposes- not in the middle of scenes so that the characters have to work their conversation around it. This version includes even more scenes than 1973 as well- such as more of Bessie’s personality from the book, Miss Temple’s marriage,  the grown-up Eliza and Georgiana, and more of Jane’s journey on the moors before being taken in by the Riverses.

It was not perfect, however. In addition to the usual stagey production values of the time, there were a few flaws throughout that bothered me. Not every single thing from the book was kept, of course. One cut scene, in particular, really upset me- Helen Burns’ death. This was a crucial scene from the book, which for some reason was not kept in this version! Yet we did get an added scene of Rochester meeting with Briggs after Jane has left Thornfield, trying to make sure she is alright. I found that scene very odd, because Jane wasn’t present. We should have kept Helen’s death instead!

 

Judy Cornwell as Mrs. Reed

I found the Gateshead portion to be pretty underwhelming in this version. The Reeds just didn’t seem intimidating enough. John Reed, for instance, looked practically punier than Jane. She had no reason to be afraid of him. She looked like she could (and indeed she did) easily take him in a fight. Mrs. Reed, as pictured, looked too old to be the mother of such young children. These scenes were not bad, but could have been just a little better.

Sian Pattenden as Young Jane

I’ve thought all the young Janes were really cute so far, and she is no exception. I think I like her a little better than 1973. I think her acting and look was just a little better. But I kind of think I like the actress from 1970 better than both of them. Hmm.

Robert James as Mr. Brocklehurst

Very true to the book. Just as in the novel, he lost some power after the typhus outbreak, but due to his connections was able to keep his position and was not put down so severely as in 1973.

Helen Burns

She is not credited on IMDB. Her character with all her piety was intact, but my biggest pet peeve with this miniseries concerns Helen. THEY CUT HER DEATH SCENE! One of the saddest, most tragic  scenes in the book and other adaptations is when Helen dies in Jane’s arms. But not so here. The sickness outbreak is described, Jane learns Helen is ill and can’t see her, and then we cut to her grave. It was so disappointing that with everything this version includes, that such a key scene was cut. For shame!

Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre

I thought she looked a little too old (I think the actress was close to 30) but overall she had the right look for Jane. They did their best to make her look plain (that severe, unflattering hairstyle helped) and she was pretty tiny. I was happy with her performance, overall. Definitely better than Sorcha Cusack and her eyebrows. Her hair actually moved and got mussed at times. More time was spent on her advertising to leave Lowood in this version. That’s one thing I could have done without in favor of Helen’s death instead.

Timothy Dalton as Rochester

My favorite thing about this adaptation. Yes, he was definitely too handsome, but he’s probably my top Rochester to date. He really made the character come to life and his scenes with Jane oozed chemistry. His past with Celine Varens was kept intact and he actually did a believable gypsy scene. (His face was covered and he did a decent job disguising his voice). And this is the first (and possibly only?) adaptation to have him lose his eye AND hand.

Jean Harvey as Mrs. Fairfax

Something kept nagging me about her whenever she spoke. She looked, and especially sounded, so familiar. Yet I couldn’t place what I had seen her in. It turns out she played Mrs. Reed in the 1973 version!

Mary Tamm as Blanche Ingram

I was not impressed with this version’s Blanche. The never really focused on her, which was just as well, because she was not all that beautiful. The charades scene was included, at least.

Andrew Bicknell as St. John Rivers

He had the height and overall appearance of St. John, as well as the cold and rigid personality and piety. He wasn’t quite handsome enough but overall he was good. Jane almost looked like she was going to finally give in and agree to marry him at one point, before going back to Rochester. And…

Moira Downie as Rosamund Oliver

This is the first (and one of the very few) adaptations to include Rosamund Oliver! I was really happy that she was finally shown, but unfortunately, she was not in it enough to show that she and St. John were really in love. Oh well, at least she was there.

Conclusions

This is my favorite of all the versions up to this point. Unfortunately, it is not perfect. So much was kept in that the cuts they did make irritated me even more than they would have otherwise.

My Rating: 8/10

 

Jane Eyre 1973

16 Aug

Arguably the two most faithful Jane Eyre adaptations are the BBC miniseries from 1973 and 1983, respectively. The fanbase is divided over which is the better one on the whole. While I have previously seen the 1983 version, this was actually my first time watching 1973, for this review. It is comprised of 5 episodes of approximately 50 minutes each, and stars Sorcha Cusack as Jane and Michael Jayston as Mr. Rochester. This is the only production I have seen either one of them in.

I do have to say, it is true that this version is very faithful to the novel. This was quite refreshing after seeing all of the older adaptations that changed so much! A lot of the dialogue is lifted right from the book, and most of the characters remain intact and true to their original book selves. The entire series is actually narrated by Jane as well, almost as if she is really reading the book. The result is a faithful adaptation that is sure to please purists, but it didn’t exactly come to life for me, either. The production values are not up to par with modern adaptations, as usual. The narration, while true to the book, was often redundant and just plain unnecessary. There was no need for Jane to tell us what was happening on screen when we could see it ourselves! The actors at times seemed to pause their conversation to make room for the narration. It even made me LOL at a couple points.

Mr. Brocklehurst and Mrs. Reed

The scenes with young Jane at Gateshead are mostly true to the book, except Bessie’s kind personality is cut. A scene I found odd was Mrs. Reed discussing Jane’s subordinate position with her children. It just didn’t seem like a conversation the kids would have! It was also interesting that this version includes a scene, after the typhus outbreak, of Mr. Brocklehurst getting put down by men whom I assume are the school governors, for the terrible conditions he has imposed on the school. The actors for Mr. Brocklehurst and Mrs. Reed are not listed on IMDB, and I don’t have the DVD right now to see if they are in the credits.

Young Jane and Helen Burns

Neither of these actresses is listed on IMDB, either, for some reason! It’s a shame because I liked both of their performances. I actually liked young Jane better than the adult Jane. For once in this version, Helen’s piety is not cut. Their scenes together are very true to the book, including Helen’s death. The only funny thing about it was the actress was clearly breathing when she was supposed to be dead! Miss Temple and Miss Scatcherd are also included and faithful to their book selves, though I don’t recall a mention of Miss Temple marrying later on.

Sorcha Cusack as Jane Eyre

Get used to that expression, folks, because it is the same expression that is on her face for almost the entire miniseries.  She had her eyebrows raised the whole time. I don’t know if that was a stylistic choice to make her look uglier, or it was just because she was a newbie at acting. Either way, it was very distracting! Even so, she’s not exactly plain, but not gorgeous either. Certainly more beautiful than her self-portrait.

Jane’s Self Portrait

The scene of Jane painting a portrait of herself and the beautiful Blanche Ingram of her imagination was kept, which was neat to see. As you can see, Jane sees herself as much uglier (and about 20 years older!) than she actually is.

Michael Jayston as Edward Rochester

Aside from those hideous sideburns and eyeliner (seriously, why was he wearing eyeliner???), he is not ugly. He never is, so I guess I just have to get used to it. His performance was pretty true to the book, including the gypsy scene. And he did lose his hand, if not his eye.

Stephanie Beacham as Blanche Ingram

I loved her performance as Blanche. She captured the character’s haughty personality AND she was actually beautiful! What a surprise to see a Blanche that is actually more beautiful than Jane, as she is supposed to be. Rochester did sing to her on the piano, but the charades scene was cut.

Geoffrey Whitehead as St. John Rivers

He was definitely St. John come to life- portrayed St. John’s cold, pious personality perfectly. There was just one thing that bugged me- he’s not handsome! He’s much older than he’s supposed to be and it cracked me up a little to hear Jane telling Rochester later on of how handsome St. John was. Sorry, but no. Rosamund Oliver is cut from this version, which I found very jarring, since almost everything else was left in! That was a vital part of St. John’s character/story in the book and it was disappointing she wasn’t in it.

Conclusion

If I haven’t mentioned anything specifically above, it’s simply because there is nothing to tell. If I haven’t mentioned that something is omitted, chances are, it’s in. Adele, Mrs. Fairfax, Grace Poole, Bertha- they are all true to the book characters and storylines. The visit to Gateshead (minus the Reed sisters) is there, as well as Jane’s inheritance and kinship with the Riverses.

This adaptation was definitely true to the book, so much so that when things were cut out or changed, it was almost shocking. I enjoyed it on the whole, even though it wasn’t magical or anything.

My Rating: 7/10