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March 14, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Filmmakers have been drawn to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre almost from the time cameras started rolling. The first version of the 164-year-old tale hit the screen in 1914; the most famous version was produced in 1943 with Joan Fontaine in the title role and Orson Welles in the role of Rochester. But, if initial reaction is any judge, the latest version, which stars Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), could turn out to be the biggest hit of them all. The movie opened in two theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles over the weekend, where it grossed $182,317 or $45,579 per theater, the highest per-theater average of any film released this year. The film also received outstanding word-of-mouth (the Los Angeles Times reported that ticket sales jumped 53 percent from Friday to Saturday) and mostly positive, although restrained, reviews. “This is a story that still grips the heart and the mind,” wrote Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, while suggesting that it falls short of the Fontaine-Welles version. Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News wrote that director Cary Fukunaga “deftly emphasizes the modern elements” of the Brontë novel, “though he’s less skilled at creating a gothic tone. Those unfamiliar with this story will find a respectable introduction; fans [of the novel] may be somewhat less impressed.” She also concluded that the two leads “lack chemistry” so that while the film is intellectually admirable, “every Jane Eyre should also deliver some emotional swoons.” On the other hand, A.O. Scott in the New York Times praised the production as “a splendid example of how to tackle the daunting duty of turning a beloved work of classic literature into a movie. Neither a radical updating nor a stiff exercise in middlebrow cultural respectability, Mr. Fukunaga’s film tells its venerable tale with lively vigor and an astute sense of emotional detail.”