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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Brontë's Brilliance, Wasikowska's Wonderbar
Mia Wasikowska in the title role of "Jane Eyre", directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Focus Features
by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com FOLLOW
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Mature, restrained and cerebral, Cary Joji Fukunaga's film adaptation of "Jane Eyre" is arguably one of the best film editions of Charlotte Brontë's classic 19th century novel. There have 27 film and television adaptations of Ms. Brontë's novel of the awakening of an orphaned young woman at Thornton House in the English countryside.
Told in flashback, we see that Jane is the object of scorn and ridicule at a school for girls. Isolated and vilified, she's made an example of. Jane bonds with Adele (Romy Settbon Moore), her lone ally. Jane (Mia Wasikowska) has an odyssey of the heart, mind and soul, growing up and working under the tutelage of the abrupt and coarse Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Jane gets an education, so to speak -- an unexpected one, in some respects. Secrets of a character's past have to be reckoned with. The strong ingredient of love makes events at Thornton ever more intriguing.
Mia Wasikowska is excellent in the title role. Her confident, calibrated performance is integral to the film and its varying tones. Ms. Wasikowska displays intelligence, warmth, sensuality and resoluteness in her Jane Eyre, and it's a riveting display. The young actress consistently projects a wise old-soul quality in her work. Whether here or in another 1800s classic novel-based film "Alice In Wonderland", or the modern-day "The Kids Are Alright", Ms. Wasikowska never sells herself or the audience short with her acting. Her Jane is a convincing, fully-investigated portrayal. She makes Jane knowledgeable, unobtainable and elusive.
Ms. Wasikowska avoids making Jane an easily-objectified commodity. There's a quiet, cool heroism in her Jane, a heroism always defined on her own terms. It's a beautiful piece of work -- Ms. Wasikowska's finest to date. Only in her early twenties, Mia Wasikowska has worked in her native Australia for many years and has developed a illustrious resume in the U.S. Watch out for her, for she will become a legend with continued performances of this magnitude.
Mr. Fassbender shows tenderness and tumult as the volatile Rochester. There's a dangerous streak Mr. Fassbender possesses in a lot of his portrayals (including "Inglourious Basterds" and "Fish Tank".) You watch him feeling that at any moment a lion is about to pounce and tear the screen asunder. That kind of danger, anxiety and tension matches the brawn and brilliance of Ms. Wasikowska's work to produce a smoldering chemistry that never alienates the viewer. I thoroughly enjoyed both actors and the rest of the cast that includes "Made In Dagenham" and "Never Let Me Go" star Sally Hawkins and the legendary Dame Judi Dench.
In his second feature film Mr. Fukunaga directs "Jane Eyre" with immense confidence and discretion. More subtle than many "Jane Eyre" films including the stark, thunderous 1944 effort by Bob Stevenson (with the famous bellow of Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine as Jane), Mr. Fukunaga's nuanced and balanced edition has a softer, feminine feel when necessary and a colder, mercurial atmosphere when events warrant. The canvas he displays is an intimate one, even if its scope appears vast. Mr. Fukunaga is loyal to Brontë's original work, employing a literal interpretation that allows us to be completely immersed in Jane's world.
Mr. Fukunaga again employs his debut film "Sin Nombre" cinematographer Adriano Goldman, who lenses a barren and glorious earth-toned English countryside, in and around Derbyshire. "Jane Eyre" is scripted wonderfully by Moira Buffini, who wrote the bawdy comedy film "Tamara Drewe", Stephen Frears' 2010 movie about a contemporary (and somewhat ostracized) woman in the English countryside.
With "Jane Eyre" Mr. Fukunaga has now executed two features on lone young women warriors who trek across countries ("Sin Nombre") or their own hearts -- one contemporary, the other centuries past. Both films are arresting in very different and similar ways.
"Jane Eyre" is a beautiful, palpable romantic drama that absorbs you. An all-around gem, poetic, tragic and uplifting, it's one of the best films of this early 2011.
With: Jamie Bell, Su Elliot, Simon McBurney, Holliday Grainger, Tamzin Merchant, Amelia Clarkson, Craig Roberts, Jayne Wisener, Freya Wilson, Emily Haigh, Imogen Poots, Sophie Ward.
"Jane Eyre" is not rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content. The film has brief French language with English language subtitles. The film's running time is one hour and 58 minutes.
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