Once upon a time, I used to read books. I devoured them ravenously, one after another, focusing on traditional and modern-day classics. I discovered a fondness for the genteel world of Jane Austen and the wild, feverish ramblings of Jack Kerouac and the Beats alike. Then I went to college, where I was forced to spend all of my time reading books that were of little or no interest to me, until I was so burned out that I more or less lost my ability to enjoy reading in my free time. Now my reading pursuits are limited to food blogs and magazines, and online editorials and opinion pieces on sites like Salon and Slate.
Back in the days when I used to read though, I discovered a particular fondness for the story of Jane Eyre, which I read as a preteen. I remember being so eager to read it that I checked out the large-print version from the library when the regular edition was checked out because I didn't want to wait for it to be returned. Given that the book is fairly long, the large-print version was epic in size, and I remember dragging it on a trip to Grandma Betsy's house because I was determined to find out how it ended. The story of the orphaned Jane, who endures a tragic childhood only to take a governess job at an isolated, eerie country estate and ending up falling in love with her employer, only to be beset by further tragedy captured my imagination. Jane is a strong, passionate heroine that a modern girl can relate to, and I found myself rooting for her through all the gazillion pages of the copy I read.
Given my love for the story, I've always had a fondness for movie adaptations of the novel. Although the 1944 film version with Orson Welles is very popular, I've always found it a bit too Gothic for my tastes; I prefer the 1996 Franco Zeffirelli version (though I've always been a fan of Zeffirelli's films, especially his take on Romeo and Juliet), and I also have fond memories of a television miniseries I saw based on the book, though so many have been made that I'd be hard pressed to identify which one I saw. It was natural then, that I would make time to see the latest cinematic retelling of the story, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, so I scheduled a date with Lauren, my go-to pal for seeing period dramas, to head to the theater.
While the film was largely faithful to the book, I felt that the plot was a bit too compressed and simplified, despite the two hour run time. The characters' motivations were often not entirely clear, due to the parts of the story that had been cut for time, and I was glad to have read the book before seeing the film. Fassbender's Rochester was a true Byronic hero, and was truer to his portrayal in the book because of it, although I found his performance to be somewhat overwrought at times, and his dialogue slightly preposterous. Wasikowska's portrayal of Jane was excellent, though I would have liked to see her a bit livelier and feistier. However, the self-restraint evidenced in this version of Jane was probably more accurate given the prevailing social norms of the time.
Furthermore, the film did what any period piece ought to do, which is have amazing costumes that make you long for a time when women wore beautiful gowns every day. Sure, it would have been inconvenient and hot to have on so many layers of clothes, but the clothes were so pretty! Even as a plain, impoverished governess, Jane had a wardrobe that was worthy of coveting. The cinematography was also admirable, rendering the bleak English moors as an external reflection of Jane's state of mind. Beyond the performances, the film was simply beautiful to look at.
If you enjoy period dramas, I think you owe it to yourself to catch this rendition of Jane Eyre. Round up one or more of your girlfriends (though I love this story, I wouldn't drag a heterosexual man to see it) and bond over the swoon-worthy romance and costumes. You won't regret it.