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Featured DVD Review: Jane Eyre

October 22nd, 2011

Jane Eyre - Buy from Amazon

Recently Jane Eyre was released in theaters and was a surprise hit, earning more than $10 million in limited release. Previously to that, the most recent adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel was released in 1996. That version of Jane Eyre starred Charlotte Gainsbourg and was also a sizable hit in limited release. Is the latest DVD release for the film worth grabbing?

The Movie

The film is a fairly strict adaptation of the novel, so there's less need to go over the plot in great depth. We meet Jane Eyre as a child, orphaned and living with her aunt. Jane's uncle agreed to take her in after her parents died, but he has passed away and her aunt and cousins are abusive to her. Her aunt quickly sends her to a Lowood Boarding School run by a clergyman, Mr. Brocklehurst. The abuse continues there and on her first day, Mr. Brocklehurst tells the other students not to talk to her. There is one student, Helen Burns, that doesn't listen to his command and the two become friends. Unfortunately, even this small break from the abuse doesn't last long, as Helen Burns dies of tuberculosis shortly after she and Jane become friends.

We then flash forward ten years and Jane, now an adult, is planning on leaving Lowood after being a student for many years and a teacher for the past two. She is hired by Mrs. Alice Fairfax to become the governess at Thornfield Hall and take care of one child, Adele Varens. The master of the manor, Edward Fairfax Rochester, is rarely at home. When he does return, Jane meets him and there's a connection. Could Jane finally find some lasting happiness in her life? Not quite. Rochester is a bit standoffish, despite the feelings they share. As Mrs. Fairfax says, there's bad memories in Thornfield Hall associated with family trouble.

What exactly those family troubles are runs into spoiler territory. Although fans of the book or those who have seen previous versions of the film won't be surprised. Compared to previous versions, the 1996 version of Jane Eyre has its strengths and weaknesses. It's a classic story about a young woman trying to rise in a society that puts little value on women and Anna Paquin is excellent in this part of the film and the short time the film spent with Jane Eyre and Helen Burns (Leanne Rowe) were the best part of the movie. On the other hand, I'm not the first to comment on William Hurt being miscast as Edward Fairfax Rochester. This hurts the chemistry between him and Charlotte Gainsbourg and drags down that last half of film. It's not bad, but it lacks the emotion and passion needed.

Overall more works than doesn't and if you are a fan of costume dramas in general or of the original novel in particular, then it is worth checking out. On the other hand, it is not a classic of the genre.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD. In fact, there's not even a real menu or subtitles.

The Verdict

Jane Eyre is worth checking out, but with nothing on the DVD to lift the replay value, it's worth just a rental for most. On the other hand, it costs just $9 on, which is not a bad deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre