Jane Eyre and Ray La Montagne opened a few weekends ago to limited release. I had to see it first before anybody else, so Jane and I got all tarted up, grabbed Sarah and drove to LA. I had three Diet Cokes that morning, so I wasn’t fit to drive, which is how I got put in the backseat, and since I couldn’t move, I talked. That’s how Sarah got the video – once I’ve edited out the profanity (Jane talks like a trucker on the third day of a junk-food fast), I’ll post it.
Adapting a classic novel into a film is an epic suckfest for any director – you’re either going to try to do something wholly original and alienate at least fifty percent of your demographic; you’re going to try to remain faithful to the book and want to claw your skin from your face because your highly-paid, highly-sensitive actors are going to feel as though they’re not free to express themselves, or you’re going to try to create a commercially successful film which will elicit endless sniping from the op-ed columnists and absolutely kill your Rotten Tomatoes percentage. It’s not easy to repeat the triumph of A&E’s Pride & Prejudice, and to be brutally honest, I really hope no one does. For reasons best known to someone smarter than me, that damn film has somehow been granted canonical status, and nearly every bit of resulting fan-fic has somehow managed to incorporate it into the author’s pathetic attempts to recreate Austen’s characters. I have no interest in watching that happen with Jane Eyre, and for this reason, I’m disposed to being super-lenient when it comes to critiquing film adaptations.
We thought it was pretty well done. I, for one, think that Joe Wright ought to get a cut of the profits, because Cary Fukunaga blatantly ripped him off – there was enough soft lighting to satisfy Loretta Lynn on her worst day; every third shot of Michael Fassbender (Rochester) and Mia Wasikowska (Jane) was backlit (apparently someone told him lifestyle shots are chic, now) – he even used the same composer. Easily the most unsubtle attempt at cinematic-plagiarism I’ve ever seen. He did mix it up a bit by telling the story in a non-linear fashion, which was both refreshing and appropriate, considering how Jane’s character develops over the novel, and he stayed pretty true to the book.
It’s too bad that Jane didn’t take my bet, because there was no wet-shirt scene. Instead (in between snippets of Gretchen Wilson and Fleetwood Mac [someone didn’t put their iPhone on silent]), we got treated to a scene of Mia Wasikowski (voss-eh-KOV-ski) trying to sneak a peek at Michael’s boy-parts, which I thought was terribly rude. I didn’t see him ogling the twins; if she’d have caught him trying to watch her button her chemise she would’ve slammed the door in his face. Dame Judi Dench didn’t get nearly enough air time (though Fukunaga did try to do more with her character by making her less austere and more matronly), but she did well, as we knew she would. I can’t say that I thought the gentleman who played St. John Rivers quite handsome enough to do the part justice, but he did a good job portraying the well-meaning, ascetic hierophant who tries to win Jane to a life of religious passion. His foil, the Rev. Mr. Brocklehurst, was also well-done, but came across as more awkward than cruel and domineering (directors heretofore have usually cast him as a straight-up sphincter [no pun intended], so perhaps this was Fukunaga’s way of attempting a more charitable interpretation of the character).
Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds) did a great job as Rochester – he made very good attempts at rudeness, curbed vulgarity and a rough manner; he has an expressive face and can portray fierceness, levity, and charm in good turn; he was sarcastic and bitter, winsome and genteel, all without missing a beat.
So why Fukunaga decided to sack him and have Ray LaMontagne do the reunion scene, I’m not quite sure.
So, Jane Eyre has just paid the modern-day equivalent of the taxi-driver the modern-day equivalent of his month’s rent to take her from the modern-day equivalent of a Howard Johnson to the modern-day equivalent of a house in the Hamptons. She stumbles along, eyes blinded to the beauty of an English countryside spring, looking for her lost love, and what does she find?
A bona-fide, dyed-in-the-wool, I-used-Arcade-Fire-for-my-documentary-soundtrack-in-2007 hipster, complete with the comb-over and the jeggings and the most magnificent beard you ever saw. Sitting bolt upright (no angsty slouch for Rochie), oxfords at an appropriate angle, hand resting on a cane so vintage you never even missed the pipe.
I was really grateful that the entire theater started sniggering, because no amount of Jane’s pinching and Sarah’s exasperated eye-rolling was going to get me to stop. I mean, I know we’re aiming for a certain look and attitude with the rain and the mist and gloom and the Seasonal-Affectiveness Disorder, but damn – I half-expected him to whip out a Fender and start crooning ‘Rock and Roll Radio’. It was at this point that I heard Stevie Nicks and the rest of the gang start shouting, ‘You can go your own waaaaayyyyyyy, go your own waaay-eeeaaaaaaayyyyy…’ and I really lost it, and as Jane was getting seriously pissed, I excused myself and went out to covet the theater’s display of the Criterion Collection.