Jane Eyre

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Jane Eyre

Run Time 103 minutes.
OK for children

Mia Wasikowska is “Jane Eyre.”

If you want romantic, this is your cup of tea. With spellbinding performances by Mia Wasikowska in the title role and Michael Fassbender as her elusive love Rochester, some guys might find this slow, but I was completely blown away.

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga takes a fine script by Moira Buffini, translating Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, atmospheric cinematography by Adriano Goldman, and music by Dario Marianelli, and locates the story in the gothic house, Thornfield, at Haddan Hall in Derbyshire. Haddan Hall is one of the oldest houses in England. The original corner dates to the 11th century.

But it wasn’t just Haddan Hall that makes the Derbyshire location spectacular. The countryside, with its craggy rocks and bracken, provides the opportunity for vast shots of forbidding landscapes, especially when Jane is running away.

What really makes this film work is the heartbreakingly emotional acting by Wasikowska and Fassbender. Intentionally made to look plain, Wasikowska exhibits Jane’s feisty spirit and compassionate, forgiving heart, in portraying the 19th-century woman who overcame a horrible upbringing with very little love to still make her life worth living, even if it’s just as a governess.

Previous films have cast actresses who are older than Jane was when she’s involved with Rochester. While Jane should have been around 18 years old, Joan Fontaine was 26 when she played Jane opposite Orson Welles in 1943, and Virginia Bruce was 24 when she played Jane opposite Colin Clive in 1934. Wasikowska was 21 when this was filmed, which is much more age-appropriate for the sexually and romantically inexperienced Jane.

While I felt that Wasikowska was the moving force in the film, Fassbender contributes a powerful performance as the gruff, dark, emotionally spent Rochester, a man to whom Jane is drawn despite her youth, inexperience and low social position, which makes any proper relationship with Rochester almost inconceivable.

Even though I guess every girl reads this when she’s young, I never read it. So I was watching it with fresh eyes and it just swept me away. As far as I’m concerned, this is a don’t-miss-it film.

Red Riding Hood

Run time 100 minutes.
OK for children.

Amanda Seyfried is “Red Riding Hood.”

This isn’t the Red Riding Hood I remember from childhood. It’s much better. It also isn’t the horror film that advertisements would lead you to believe.

Even though it’s not particularly scary, it is an entertaining movie with fine performances all around, but especially by Julie Christie as the Grandmother with big eyes and Amanda Seyfried as Red Riding Hood. Red is in love with a woodcutter, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), instead of the choice of her mother (Virginia Madsen), Henry (Max Irons).

They all live in an isolated village in the forest, living in fear of a werewolf who occasionally forages and kills people. This is basically a mystery; who is the werewolf and why is it doing what it’s doing? A werewolf killer, Solomon (Gary Oldman), is brought in to find the answer. He conducts an Inquisition-type investigation of which Fra Savonarola would be proud, even though nobody is actually burned at the stake (which was the fate that also befell Savonarola, dying by the sword with which he lived). Oldman gives a fine performance, but the person who stands out is Christie, who looks terrific and acts better.

There are lots of clues incriminating most of the characters. Director Catherine Hardwicke and writer David Johnson do a good job of leading the viewer to and fro before the final dénouement. I thought this a fine mystery helped by mystical cinematography (Mandy Walker) and production design (Thomas E. Sanders) of the village isolated in the middle of the forest.

As a postscript, I think the producers made a big mistake advertising this film as a scary horror film. I don’t think they could figure out whether they were making a Twilight knock-off or a horror film, when, in reality what they were making was a mystery. I’ve had many people ask me if it’s a horror film when I tell them how much I enjoyed it. From what I can determine by the way people are reacting, they are staying away because they think it’s something it’s not. Those that stay away are missing an entertaining film with fine acting and ambience.

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