A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he's hiding a terrible secret.
After scoring in the title role in Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Aussie thesp Mia Wasikowska is compelling with a plain Jane styling here again as title character, with her story told effectively in flashback, starting with her escape from the Gothic mansion of Rochester (Michael Fassbender), getting a school marm's gig from sympathetic young pastor "Sin-jin" (St. John, played by Mr. BILLY ELLIOT himself, Jamie Bell).
Her "tale of woe", as Rochester mockingly describes it before even hearing a word, is the familiar Charlotte Bronte yarn -suffering a scary childhood at the hands of such ogres as Mrs. Reed (Sally Hawkins, in her least giggly role to date -very effective). Years at a school for castoff girls, where corporal punishment is de rigeur, merely season Jane for life's hard knocks.
The romantic sweep of her dealings with Rochester are well portrayed, and director Cary Joji Fukunaga makes terrific use of the stark locations, shot in painterly fashion. The visuals alone make this remake worthwhile, backed by the BBC but definitely not a "Masterpiece Theatre" small-screen effort like the recent re-dos of all of Jane Austen.
The big reveal regarding Rochester's "secret" is well-done, though I was a bit disappointed that the hindsight of two versions of Jean Rhys' prequel WIDE SARGASSO SEA was not taken into account here. I guess screenwriter Moira Buffini adhered to a more purist approach.
Fassbender has already suffered casting criticism as being too good looking, but his acting carries the day -combining the right amount of sinister to temper the matinée idol veneer. After all, Jane is going to fall for him eventually. I still prefer Scott or Orson Welles in the role -tough competition indeed.
Besides the principals, Dame Judi Dench is solid as a rock as Rochester's housekeeper, giving it her always-A-game approach and adding nuance to what could be merely a stock role.
- Mar 7, 2011