Jane Eyre

I have a vivid memory of this book. I am a young reader, sitting on a shaded porch in the not-so-deep-south, flipping the pages anxiously to find out what will become of the young, spunky heroine Jane, who sparks a fiery feminism within me as she allows no man to bully her into a relationship that is not based on truth. Though plain and poor, she stands tall and speaks her mind. I am impressed with my young self in this memory, for not all preadolescents are intelligent enough to be able to grasp the message and the content of this great novel. I can remember each detail clearly, can even picture the fire and a cringing Mr. Rochester as he shields his face from the flames fanned by his crazy wife.

It then occurs to me that there were no color pictures in Charlotte Brontes masterpiece, and what I am remembering as a powerful novel experience is actually . . . a comic book. Specifically, a Classics Illustrated graphic novel, whose marketing copy suggests this series “features classic tales retold with attractive color illustrations to introduce literature to struggling readers”. Well, shit.

SInce it now seems entirely possible that I never even read the book (and I’m starting to doubt another classic that I remember vividly involving a whale and a dick), I’m living proof that no previous reading experience appears to be necessary in order to appreciate the latest filmatic version of Jane Eyre.

The opening scene is epic, long sweeping shots of a pale young woman running across the moors, the skies dark and foreboding. As was my mood, for although I know it must be really hard to do a tracking shot across a bumpy moor, the camera seemed to be heaving as much as Jane’s breast. Afraid that I would soon be too, I decided I would give it ten minutes and see if I would have to exit and look for something a little bit less literary, such as Sucker Punch. But after dramatic weather shifts and much falling and crying out “Heathcliff!” (oh, wait, that was a different comic book), the story finally settles down as we learn of the abuse and sad childhood of the plucky heroine.

Mia Wasikowska is Jane, and in addition to a fine restrained performance that shows the steely backbone under her curt manner, she also sports the wackiest hairdo this side of Princess Leia. Between her well-coiled snake-like braids and the muttonchop sideburns the men are wearing, it’s a wonder they are able to have conversations with each other without busting out in guffaws. There is lots of running while wearing capes and extreme desolation of both landscapes and souls. The darkness is suffocating and fire and flame become symbolic of both death and rebirth. Although no bodices are actually ripped (the clothing is too complicated for that), the passion smolders as nearly everyone seems to have a secret about something. It’s a laff riot!

Okay, it’s not, but it’s fun to see a classic brought to life with such fervor.

Barf Bag Ranking: ONE BAG Once you get past the heaving on the moors, it’s fine.

A sidenote: I wonder about the demographics for this film – are they marketing to eighth graders who are reading the book for the first time, or trying to tap into an older audience who read it (or the comic book) years ago and remember it as thrilling?

Perhaps both; but for the younger readers who may not be as familiar with those groundbreakers known as the Bronte sisters, here’s a way to introduce them to that coveted 14-22 years old market.

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