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The Reel Deal


A Reel Deal Film Review

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

April 2011

Reel Rating: 4 out of 5


I was never the biggest fan of the Brontës, I’ll admit. I was always more of a Virginia Woolf / Katherine Mansfield type o’ guy. Not that I have anything in particular against the Brontë sisters, but as a young man, when I set about reading them, I found myself bored as I perused the pages of their masterpieces. I would like to think that the fact of my being male and of Jane Eyre being the quintessential and originary chick lit novel had nothing to do with my boredom, but I can’t say for sure. I was young and hard to please. I admittedly haven’t revisited any of the Brontës’ books in quite some time, but perhaps I should. Tastes do change. What bores you at 17 can captivate you at 27.

This new film version of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre convinces me that I must revisit the novel. And soon. One thing that can and must be said of this new adaptation is that the cinematography is so painstakingly beautiful that it truly helps the film achieve a certain poesy that no other movie version of Jane Eyre that I can think of ever has. And, after all, the poetry of Brontë’s book is what my patron saint of chick lit, Virginia Woolf, claimed was its great redeeming value. She wrote, “In other words, we read Charlotte Brontë not for exquisite observation of character–her characters are vigorous and elementary; not for comedy–hers is grim and crude; not for a philosophic view of life–hers is that of a country parson’s daughter; but for her poetry.” Indeed. And there is an undeniable poetic quality to Cary Fukunaga’s film.

Jane Eyre expands on the promise of Cary Fukunaga’s debut, Sin Nombre, which was highly-praised upon its release in 2009. This, his second film, is a masterpiece of restraint. Everything here is understated and told/seen in hushed or muted tones. It is simultaneously one of the most faithful and one of the most transformed adaptations. It keeps the best qualities of the book, but metamorphoses those qualities into a cinematic world seamlessly. That is the film’s greatest asset: that Fukunaga, and screenwriter Moira Buffin, understand that cinema and literature are not the same art, and specifically that in film sometimes silence can say as much as words can. That painterly eye of cinematographer Adriano Goldman perfectly accentuates the silent moodiness of the script, and the atmosphere takes on a near Terence Mallick or John Ford quality. As in the works of those two iconic filmmakers, the settings in this adaptation almost become characters in themselves. They inform the story and the mood rather than just act as locations in which the action takes place.

Along with the near-perfect direction, writing, and cinematography, the acting is top notch. I finally see in Mia Wasikowska what others have been seeing. Whereas I was disappointed with her portrayal of Alice in Tim Burton’s terrible adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, and was only moderately impressed by her acting in The Kids Are All Right, here she undeniably comes into her own. She is almost unrecognizable, and completely perfect as the titular character. She has an Eyre about her, one might say (if one enjoys a bad pun as much as I do). It is Michael Fassbender though that deserves the greatest praise. He is absolutely perfect in the sardonic and brooding role of Mr. Rochester. There isn’t really anything not to like about this new Jane Eyre. It truly is a breath of fresh Eyre. Uh oh, there goes my awful punning again…

Jane Eyre is a film directed by Cary Fukunaga, and written by Moira Buffini, based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë. It stars Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Written by Moira Buffini. A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret.

Reel Deal Review Written by Tyler Malone

Image Courtesy of Focus Features

Design by Jillian Mercado

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