The new Jane Eyre was good, though slightly anti-climactic for the swoony 11th grader in me. By way of explanation: Jane Eyre was one of those books that I devoured in high school. A plain and chubby but plucky girl myself, I immediately imagined myself as Jane to a thrillingly Byronic imagined Mr. Rochester (at this time——circa 2000—most often manifested by a bearded Johnny Depp). The connection with the novel, re-read about five times since then, was so strong that no film adaptation could ever quite match up with my personal expectation. Previous movies were enjoyable, but left no significant impression, save for the version in which Sookie Stackhouse plays cheeky Young Jane.
Which brings me to the new film by Cary Fukunaga: Well-acted (check-nice supporting work by Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, and Sally Hawkins, to boot!), well-scripted (check plus-the script retells the story out of sequential order, breaking up the tedium of the earlier Jane adaptations) beautifully shot (check—Thornfield Hall is lovingly realized). I can’t fault the acting of the major players, though Michael Fassbender is decidedly waaaay too conventionally gorgeous to be Mr. Rochester. I’ve always considered Rochester to have a bit of a caveman about him which contributes to his allure in a bizarre way that was very appealing to seventeen-year old Me. Here, he is more like a gentle, scruffily bearded flannel-bedecked frontman for an Allston band that would be called Dear Mother Owls or something similar. Mia Wasikowska is lovely as Jane, though I’d love to see her retain a bit more of the ballsy confidence that animates Jane as a child. Upon reflection, my real disappointment with Jane Eyre is personal, nostalgic, and impossible to rectify: that after imagining myself so long as the character, it has become impossible to be pleased with a heroine other than myself.