Tag Archives: classics

Jane Eyre 2011

22 Jul

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.

The Characters

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?

Conclusions

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

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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

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

Jane Eyre 1949

11 Aug

So, today, I’m going to “review” (I use that term very loosely) the 1949 version of Jane Eyre. I had other plans for today, actually, but I wasn’t feeling well enough to do any of them so I watched this instead. This version aired on US Television as part of a series called Studio One. I downloaded it from The Internet Archive, where you can also watch streaming video. The video has the commercials from the broadcast intact, which are actually pretty neat!

This adaptation is only one hour long, seriously. Actually, including the commercials and everything, it would technically be even less than that! So, as you can probably guess, A LOT was cut. And I really mean a lot. Several key scenes and characters from the book are missing. And what we do have is, honestly, not that great, either. The acting is just not very good- some tried a fakey British accent, others didn’t even bother. The costumes are nothing to look at and not really historically accurate. The set design? Well, the front room at Thornfield is where nearly all of the scenes actually take place. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the low budget and time constraints. The result is unintentionally funny, more than anything.

We begin with an adult Jane leaving Lowood. Yup, no Gateshead or any scenes of Jane as a child at all. Her teacher berates her for leaving and says she will be punished, but Jane tells the teacher off, saying she will instead be punished.

Mary Sinclair as Jane Eyre

Of course, as usual, she is beautiful. She is quite outspoken and happy to be at Thornfield right away. She has no relatives in this- no Reeds, no Eyres, no Riverses. She apparently grew up at Lowood. Mary Sinclair did not even attempt to hide her accent. On Jane’s first night at Thornfield, she hears maniacal laughter and screaming coming from Bertha’s room. She goes to find Grace Poole, who warns her away.

Meeting

There is no scene of Rochester falling from his horse when coming upon Jane out on the road. Instead, she is called in to meet him in, of course, the front room. For the first few minutes, we don’t see his face- just his hands playing with his stick like that. It made him seem kind of menacing, actually! I don’t know what they were going for with that.

Charlton Heston as Edward Rochester

Yes, Charlton Heston is Rochester. Of course, like Jane, he is good-looking and it is silly to have them call each other plain and not handsome. Really? Audiences are not blind! He is quite kind to Adele in this version and she calls him “Papa” even though he is adamant to Jane that he is not her father. Great.

Bertha setting fire to Rochester

Instead of setting fire to Rochester’s room, it happens in (no surprise) the front room, where he has fallen asleep in front of a chair. We actually see a crazy old Bertha come in and mischievously light the fire with her candle- on either the rug or Rochester’s chair, it looks like? There is actually no fire shown, only smoke. Bertha looks old enough to be Rochester’s mother, and she seems to be happy and sneaky about what she’s doing.

Rochester is not injured at all by the fire and does not wake up. Somehow, Jane hears Bertha laughing and sees her candle outside Jane’s door. This leads her to know to go downstairs, apparently? I guess when her room is technically the only other room in the house, she knows there’s only one place to go! Despite the smoke filling the entire room, she and Rochester are able to easily able to put out the fire with a couple swats with pillows. Rochester says it was the coals from the fireplace that did it….despite there never having been a fire in the grate. Right.

“Party”

The house party consists of only Blanche and Lady Ingram. No expenses spared! Hee hee. I think Blanche is decent-looking at least, but that may be because you never really see her face up close. Rochester makes Jane play the spinet for them. What a jerk! Afterwards, she cries and confides her love for Rochester to Mrs. Fairfax! After Rochester sees her going to bed crying, he tells Blanche right there his story about losing his fortune.

The next day, Jane is already packing to leave for Ireland, hoping to do so before Rochester returns from taking the Ingrams home. How did she already find this position to go to? Rochester comes back early and they have their love confession.

Wedding

We cut to the wedding, which looks like it’s the next day, since there’s no indication time has passed. But apparently, it is sometime later, as Mason and his solicitor have somehow heard about the wedding and came to meet with Grace Poole for some reason. The wedding itself does not take place at church, but rather on the patio just outside the main room at Thornfield. At least it wasn’t in the room!

Bertha

All the while, Bertha is watching from her window, which happens to be right above the patio. I’m still not sure how Mason and Briggs found out about the wedding, but okay…

Jane in the Wilderness

After Jane leaves, the next we see of her is the above scene. She is somewhere out in the wilderness, debating with herself whether she should go back to Rochester. She suddenly hears his voice calling her and decides to go back to Thornfield. Okay…WTF? How much time has passed, here? Has Jane been living outside this whole time? How did she survive? No answers as to any of the above.

Reunited

Thornfield appears to be intact when Jane returns. We find out from Mrs. Fairfax that only the west wing was burned. For some reason, Rochester was not awakened during the fire until all of the servants got outside.  Nice one. Like most adaptations, he did not lose his eye or hand. His and Jane’s reunion takes place on the patio outside the front room. They hug, and that’s it.

Conclusion

Yeah, so, not a good adaptation! I laughed several times while viewing, but not at anything that was intentionally funny. It wouldn’t hurt to check it out, just for a chuckle, but don’t expect anything good or faithful!

My Rating: 4/10 (for the laughs)