Picks and Pans Review: Jane Eyre
Mrs. Winterbourne isn't the only new movie hoping to squeeze a few more drops of juice out of wizened fruit. Jane Eyre is the latest film version of Charlotte Brontë's classic gothic romance about a poor orphan girl who finds love and happiness (after much suffering) with the aristocrat who employs her as a governess. The novel hasn't been out of print since its original publication in 1847 and has at least twice before made the trip to the big screen (in 1934 with Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive, and in 1944 with Joan Fontaine and—be still my heart—Orson Welles).
Now Jane is once again tramping o'er the moors, this time in the person of 24-year-old French-English actress Gainsbourg (Paquin in the childhood scenes). As directed by Franco Zeffirelli, this Jane has a feminist spin and verdant vistas of the English countryside but never really captures the passionate romantic suspense that keeps adolescent girls turning the novel's pages late into the night.
Part of the problem is the starchy Gainsbourg. Though in the book and onscreen Eyre describes herself as plain, no true Jane fan believes she could ever be this plain. As for Jane's beloved Mr. Rochester, Hurt nails the character's sardonic humor but misses his dangerous edge. I kept recasting Sense and Sensibility's Alan Rickman. Now, there would be a Rochester worth crossing a moor for. (PG)