JANE EYRE directed by  Cary Joji Fukunaga (United Kingdom, 2011)

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Who are you calling ugly?

In the title role, Mia Wasikowska is perfect in the part of the repressed young governess whose pureness of heart and straight talking melts the cold heart of her employer, Mr Rochester.

She looks exactly the right age (19) and every inch the plain Jane of Charlotte Bronte’s novel. Judi Dench is also faultless as the kind-hearted housekeeper Mrs Fairfax.

Screenwriter Moira Buffini sticks pretty closely to the novel complete with stilted dialogue, and director Cary Fukunaga does a good job at recapturing the bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors.

The undoing of the movie is in the male characters. Jamie Bell looks like Billy Elliot with whiskers but the most serious miscasting  is Michael Fassbender as Rochester.

Fassbender is a great actor but also very dynamic and good-looking.  In Bronte’s novel, Rochester is described as an imposing, barrel-chested man with grim features denoting character more than beauty.  Of their first meeting (when he falls off his horse), Jane as the book’s narrator confides to the reader:  “Had he been a handsome, heroic looking gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will”.  

In the movie, there’s no getting away from the fact that Fassbender looks both handsome and heroic which throws the whole story off-balance.  When Fassbender asks Jane. “Do you think me handsome?”, her emphatic negative would surely have the females in the cinema thinking ‘Are you blind, lady?’

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