The latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic makes for good cinema. But is it a date movie?
A part of me wanted to dislike Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Jane Eyre. For one, there are so many versions of this movie with slight variations on Mr. Rochester that I didn't expect anything to surprise me. I also have issues with all those classics by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. I know I'm supposed to love them, especially because I'm a bookworm. But I don't.
Truth is, I have a really hard time reading a book that spends three pages describing the interior of someone's family's estate. And watching an actress wear a corset for two hours makes me want to put on a Snuggy. It's even more difficult for me to sympathize with a swarthy romantic figure who's got his crazy wife hidden in the attic. Oops. Spoiler alert? Win A Jane Eyre Kindle & Prize Pack
But the version of Jane Eyre in theaters now reminds me of why so many people love Charlotte Bronte's love story. Jane (Mia Wasikowska) is the ultimate Plain Jane, with hat hair, dingy dresses and a stoic face. She's bright and good, but life deals her some very hard knocks. She's orphaned and moves in with her despicable aunt, Sarah Reed, and cruel cousins. Jane's sent to a charity school full of typhus and corporal punishment and eventually leaves to become a governess at Thornfield Hall.
The housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench) introduces Jane to her charge, a young French girl named Adele, and speaks of the master of Thornfield, Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender, who gives Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy a run for his money with this performance). He comes and goes as he pleases. Jane's first encounter with him—though she doesn't know it at the time—comes when Rochester's horse throws him in front of her, and he accuses her of bewitching the horse. Ugh, men.
The flirtation starts when Rochester settles down for the night and officially meets Jane. He's taken with her intellect and honesty, and asks her to sit. He keeps dropping hints that he made a terrible mistake in his past. Jane keeps a professional, but friendly, distance and never asks.
For a smart girl, it's a bit surprising that Jane doesn't start putting things together. Might that stomping and groaning coming from the attic have something to do with Mr. Rochester's secret burden? (I mean, has the guy bought a rhinoceros he can't return or what?) What about that one night Jane discovers Rochester's bedroom on fire and saves his life? Or the time someone stabs a houseguest, and he begs Jane to help clean the wound without asking questions? 10 Startling Secrets Men Tell Their Buddies (But Not Their Wives)
Still, Rochester is the hottest thing at Thornfield, and all shadiness aside, he's a good man. He's kind to Jane in a way no one else has been and treats her as an intellectual equal. Rochester's smart and sees Jane's independent streak. Even more, he celebrates it.
I struggled at times to see love bloom between Jane and Rochester, because I didn't have the usual Hollywood cues. This is a slow fire—and maybe even a case for playing hard to get. Jane never lets her (flat, center-parted, dull) hair down. She doesn't flirt... or even smile. When Rochester goes in for the kill, she ducks away every time. They barely touch. Jane stays plain, and Rochester's captivated.
So is the audience. We want Jane and Rochester to just kiss already. Something needs to happen before Rochester moves on and Jane is stuck roaming the moors and dales all by herself. 4 Tips For Women Who Want To Make The First Move
The two finally come to terms with their feelings and get engaged (in the same day—efficiently), but there's the elephant in the room. Well, in the attic. Rochester's in love, but he hasn't come clean. That mistake he made is actually his wife. She's crazy and violent and prohibits him from marrying Jane.
Like all secrets revealed too late in a relationship, this one devastates Jane. She runs away from Thornfield. How can the only person who's ever loved her be tied to another person so wrong for him? Rochester asks if Jane will stay with him, even if they can't get married. But she wants all or nothing.
Oh, Jane. We've all been there.
If you've read the novel, like every other person who took high school English, you know what happens next. But catching Jane Eyre in theaters now just might make you reconsider your dating game. (Still, I suggest you stay away from married guys.)
So is Jane Eyre a date movie, then?
See Jane Eyre on a date if... you and your sweetie love English lit, specifically the Brontes, and period pieces.
Don't see Jane Eyre on a date if... Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy is the only Victorian leading man for you, and/or you tend to nod off in films that lack periodic gunfire.