Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell
Moira Buffini, Charlotte Bronte
There have been numerous cinematic and televised adaptations of Bronte's Jane Eyre, but perhaps there's never been one quite so successful at blending what is best about both American and British filmmaking. Director Cary Fukunaga creates a film here that is magnificently acted, visually arresting and manages to blend together both a subdued BBC-style sensibility with a quiet, emotional bravado classic Westerns and the golden years of Hollywood.
Is the balance always achieved? Not quite. Is the balance always successful even when it is achieved? No, not really. However, when these two blend together and co-leads Mia Wasikowska, as Jane, and Michael Fassbender, as Rochester, are on screen it is consummate acting that is defined, disciplined and passionate.
It is quite literally astounding the name that Mia Wasikowska is making for herself, here making us forget virtually everyone who has stepped into the role of Jane Eyre with a performance that is so transfixing that it's hard to believe this is the same young woman who can be found as Alice in Alice in Wonderland and also appeared in the acclaimed The Kids Are All Right. Wasikowska captures Jane's plainness and the impact of the world from which she comes, but innately portrays her always as something more, something stronger than even that which we see. Wasikowska's Jane is much like your most admired friend, the person to whom you always look when you need a reminder that there is always hope.
Rochester, as portrayed by the vastly underrated Fassbender, is a sarcastic and embittered man who lives by his own law because there is no person who will call him on it. Yet, Fassbender wisely realizes that Rochester must also serve, on some level, as a crush-worthy object for a young woman and Fassbender infuses Rochester with a charisma that is weathered that inviting. Wisely, Fassbender avoids reaching for an Orson Welles impact, instead altering his interpretation enough to avoid comparison and to make the character his own.
Among the supporting players, Jamie Bell excels as the kindly minister who helps to care for Jane once she flees Rochester's estate, while Judi Dench is solid as the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, and both Sally Hawkins and Imogen Poots leave a lasting impression.
The film is scripted by Moira Buffini, who also penned the underrated Stephen Frears directed Tamara Drewe. Buffini captures nicely the tone of Bronte's work, at times lifting lines directly yet wisely setting aside unnecessary extraneous exposition. Adriano Goldman's camera work is filled with sweeping greys, while Dario Marianelli's original music vividly companions the film with tones of longing and gentleness and a sense of quiet desperation.
While not quite ready to consider this Jane Eyre a cinematic masterpiece, I am comfortable in regarding it as a sweeping and beautifully constructed film with luminous performances and captivating visuals. The film should only cement the growing reputation of Wasikowska and, hopefully, will make Hollywood even more aware of Fassbender's vast talent.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic