By: Angie Haddock
The movie opens with Jane running into the wilderness and getting lost. She is eventually rescued by a man, whose two sisters help nurse her back to health. Of course, this really takes place about 60% into the book version. The movie goes back and forth, between what we’ll call the “present” (her time with the Rivers family) and the “past” – including her early childhood, time at boarding school, and time at Thornfield Hall. The book is told in a more linear manner, but the back and forth is pretty common in modern books and movies alike, and I didn’t feel like it was hard to follow. Just different (from the book).
Another difference I noticed near the beginning was that her time at boarding school was presented as being very bleak and abusive. As I had stated in my book review, it does start out looking like it might go that way, but her time there gets better. She finds teachers she connects with, and actually thrives there. But in this version, we only see the bleak parts.
Of course, the main action takes place after she gets to Thornfield, where she is a governess for Adele, and meets the master of the house, Mr. Rochester. Naturally, the actions throughout these parts are all condensed, but they are otherwise very true to the book. For example, there is really only one scene with the Ingrams and the other party guests… whereas in the book, they stay at Thornfield for a month. But in that scene we learn what’s important to know about any supposed engagement between Blanche Ingram and Mr. Rochester, and then we move on.
With the constant back and forth, I feel like we see Mr. Rivers almost as much as Mr. Rochester in this version. I almost thought we’d get away without seeing his most cringey moment – him insisting that Jane marry him in order to travel with him – but it does happen with about 10 minutes of the movie left. Ah, so close.
I did like the casting here. Jane is only 19 when she leaves boarding school, so maybe 20 or 21 by the end of the story. Main star Mia Wasikowska was only 22 when this movie was released, and Michael Fassbender (as Rochester) is 12 years her senior. The members of the Rivers family looked as young as Wasikowska, too. So they seemed to avoid middle aged people playing younger, and actually had a cast that was age-appropriate. Add in Dame Judi Dench as Thornfield’s housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax… and what is there not to like?!