! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Not to be cliche about it, but this ain't your (great great grand)mother's Jane Eyre. Hipster director du jour Cary Fukunaga took this classic tale and spun it into a great big fat Gothic thriller complete with physical assault, fire, blood, and so much sexual tension I thought *I* might need smelling salts just to recover.
For those that might not be Charlotte Brontë nerds, the title character is a girl who's been punished for not being pretty enough and treated cruelly all her life. She's outspoken, headstrong, and bluntly NOT ladylike. In other words, Jane is ahead of her time.
Thank god she learns to speak French at her hellish boarding school, because that allows her to escape to a giant castle-like estate way out in the middle of nowhere called Thornfield Hall that was clearly made for ghosts - and indeed, it seems like broody man of the house Rochester has plenty to hide. I can't say much else without ruining the plot for anyone who doesn't know it, so I'll just skip ahead to the brilliance of the film as a whole.
First off, the casting director should be awarded with his or her own castle. Every single actor in this was PERFECT for the role, most especially Mia Wasikowska, who completely killed it as Jane. Handsome Michael Fassbender (a favorite of mine from Inglourious Basterds) also worked the screen with just the right amount of tortured soul and cocky dismissiveness. And of course, Dame Judi Dench was amazing as the sweet busybody housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax.
Secondly, I have certain expectations when I go to see a period romance, and this blew every single one out of the water. Amazing atmosphere, dark, haunting sets, fantastic (but believable) costuming, and lots of great corset-clutching, swoon-worthy declarations of love, leading to heart-breaking sobs and fainting spells when the inevitable obstacles and objections present themselves.
This film left me full of great love for the team that put it together, and far and away wins the award for best adaptation of Jane Eyre (oh man - you'd think the William Hurt/Charlotte Gainsbourg version would be good, but it's so not. The 21-year age diff is just WAY too creepy). For those who love Bronte, Austen, and all kinds of romantic melodrama, I highly recommend.