Charlotte Brontë's beloved gothic novel Jane Eyre has been adapted 18 times for the big screen, and another nine times for TV movies. The 19th feature film version of Brontë's classic about a spunky, plain governess hits theaters this weekend, starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), and directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre). Do we really need yet another Jane Eyre flick? (Watch a clip from the film)
Yes, Mia Wasikowska makes it worthwhile: "Oh, no, you might say, not another Jane Eyre!" says David Edelstein at New York. Yes, "the damn thing pops up every decade," and it does seem "pretty well tapped out" at this point. But this new version is "worth seeing for Wasikowska, an actress so young yet so formed" that she's "hands down my favorite plain Jane."
Plus, the filmmakers brought new life to a classic: "Is anything fresh even possible?" asks Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. The answer, with this new film, is a resounding yes. Director Cary Fukunaga has "deftly brought out Brontë's gothic terrors," and "reanimated a classic for a new generation, letting Jane Eyre resonate with terror and tenderness."
And, all those other versions were lacking: "There has never been a definitive movie Jane Eyre," says A.O. Scott in The New York Times. There has also "never been a truly rotten one," and "even the sentimental 1996 Franco Zeffirelli version, with William Hurt embarrassingly miscast as a Rochester more nearly a mild eccentric than a brooding, Byronic type, has its moments." Maybe it's just Jane's fate to live in movie mediocrity.
"Another Hike on the Moors for Jane Eyre"
Not sure we needed this: Fans of the books are unlikely to be impressed by this latest version, says Elizabeth Weitzman in the Daily News. Sure, Wasikowska is an asset, but there's no chemistry between her and Fassbender's Rochester, and Fukunaga doesn't get the novel's gothic tone right. While the dirctor has "deftly" brought some modern elements to the story, the "emotional swoons" every Jane Eyre adaptation should deliver are missing here.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Israel's hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- What you need to know before you support the police in Ferguson
- Why China thinks it could defeat the U.S. in battle
- Why your employer should clean your house and do your laundry
- Welcome to the age of ambivalent feminism
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How the West produces jihadi tourists
- The big policy question libertarians can't answer
Subscribe to the Week