In 'Jane Eyre,' Mia Wasikowska portrays the titular character with aplomb and an incredible air of elegant poise — quite possibly one of the finest on-screen performances of the iconic figure from feminist 19th century literature. Coming to wider prominence after Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland,' Wasikowska takes command of the screen. This is her show, and she handles it as no other actress of her age. Even while surrounded by other well respected names such as Dame Judi Dench, Michael Fassbender, and Jamie Bell, the 21-year-old holds her own ground and is never overshadowed, maintaining audience attention throughout this well-made adaptation of the classic novel from Charlotte Brontë.
Wasikowska provides the story's heroine with the sort of fiery independence and intelligence expected of the character. As the orphaned girl living with her cold and uncaring step-aunt, but soon forced to live in an even worse all-girls boarding house, she has no qualms or fear of speaking her mind, displaying that fervent, complex sense of sovereignty that has inspired so many. In Wasikowska's young but very capable hands, she also reveals an uncomplicated woman with a passion and longing not only to see the world but also to be loved by another. And we understand all this in her expressive face and gestures. Though she denies it to others in the film, her eyes divulge a life story full of bitterness, strife, and woe. Fassbender as her employer, Edward Rochester, also takes notice of this.
Rochester is an irritable and short-tempered individual with many fits of unexplained anger, which he gladly makes known to anyone within earshot. One terribly heart-breaking scene is a quick exchange between him and his ward Adele, who, we wonder, might be his daughter and played by newcomer Romy Settbon Moore. He comments on the little girl's mother after also taking a backhanded swipe at his housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Dench). Fassbender suits the role particularly well — handsome and debonair, yet unpleasant and ferocious in a minute's time. Like Wasikowska, he, too, hides an anguish and desperation in his face, straining to conceal a shameful secret. And Fassbender is quite excellent at arousing our interest while also repelling us with his behavior.
Brontë's 'Jane Eyre' is the romantic drama of strangers with painful histories inexplicably attracted to each other. Along with the audience, the two have difficulty in understanding what they see in one another, despite Rochester commenting at one point on Jane's hidden spiritedness as being more appealing than her plain, homely exterior. It's not until his shocking secret becomes apparent that they each discover a partner that understands the other's emotional struggle with the social trappings of their class. It's a sweeping, idealistic romance of finding an equal in the most unexpected place — surprisingly, in the darkest and gloomiest of mansions, something reminiscent of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairytale.
Director Cary Fukunaga ('Sin Nombre') does exceedingly well in delivering precisely this aspect of the story — the heart and spirit at Brontë's novel. With cinematography from Adriano Goldman that nicely blends a natural gracefulness with the eerily gothic, Fukunaga constructs a believable environment immersed in mystery and secrecy, a place where love can grow amid personal strife and inner turmoil. On the downside, there are moments when the narrative seems rather rushed and moving with haste, as if expecting viewers to be sufficiently familiar with the novel to follow along. From a script by Moira Buffini ('Tamara Drewe'), the story can feel a bit episodic, jumping from one situation to the next. Still, Fukunaga is able to sustain our interest and keep us engaged, providing just enough of his own voice to make this 'Jane Eyre' standout amongst various other adaptations.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Jane Eyre' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc inside the normal blue keepcase. When placed in the player, we are taking straight to the standard menu selection with full-motion clips and music.
'Jane Eyre' arrives on Blu-ray with a terrifically detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer with only a couple of very minor flaws.
The freshly-minted transfer displays a great deal of sharp definition and clarity in the foreground and background. Viewers can clearly see the fine, intricate lines and stitching of the women's dresses and other various fabrics decorating Thornfield Hall. Outside, exterior shots are also very distinct and precise where we can practically make out each leaf in the tree and every blade of grass. The stylized cinematography comes with a grayish downcast aesthetic for creating a melancholic mood, but contrast remains well-balanced and comfortably bright with a lovely narrow depth of field. The palette is affected somewhat by the film's look with subdued primaries, but the few splashes of color are rendered accurately and cleanly.
The few and mostly negligible troubled spots are noticeable during the candle-lit interiors where some noise becomes apparent in the background. This isn't a consistently nagging issue, but somewhat distracting when it does happen. Black levels are true and deep for the most part though they waver slightly from scene to scene. The dark, penetrating shadows are generally excellent without ruining background info, but there are occasions of crush and murkiness in some sequences.
All in all, the high-def video is excellent with some superb moments.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also quite remarkable for a romantic drama, displaying a design that makes terrific use of the back speakers. During some of the hairier sequences with rattling noises and mysterious creaks, rears deliver those atmospheric effects with excellent discreteness and brilliant directionality. Pans and movement between the channels are fluid and smooth, creating a convincing soundfield that's satisfying and somewhat immersive.
Being a dialogue-driven film, of course, a majority of the lossless mix is maintained in the front, where character interactions and intimate conversations are very well-prioritized and perfectly audible from beginning to end. Channel separation shows wonderful balance and outstanding fidelity, which allows for an expansive and warmly inviting soundstage. The mid-range is not very extensive, but it maintains a sharp and rather broad presence throughout with exceptional, realistic acoustic detail. Low bass is generally reserved for the very few moments of action, and it's appropriately effective but nothing notable.
This is a marvelous audio presentation, one that exceeds expectations.
Hitting shelves day-and-date as its standard-def counterpart, this Blu-ray edition of 'Jane Eyre' shares the same set of supplements as the DVD.
The latest adaptation of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel comes with amazing performances from Mia Wasikowska as the title character and Michael Fassbender as her love interest. The film is a stylish and moody character piece filled with romance and the strangely gothic atmosphere the book is rightly celebrated for. From Cary Fukunaga, it's a passionate tale about two lost souls finding equals in each other's brooding personalities. The Blu-ray debuts with excellent audio and video presentations, but a rather disappointing set of supplements. Still, this comes recommended.