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Jane Eyre

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Jane Eyre

Starring: Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles
Director: Robert Stevenson
Rated: NR
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: April 1944
Genres: Drama, Romance, Classic

*Also starring: Margaret O'Brien, Peggy Ann Garner, John Sutton, Sara Allgood, Henry Daniell, Agnes Moorehead, Aubrey Mather, Elizabeth Taylor

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

"Jane Eyre" is a dramatic and entertaining version of the Charlotte Bronte classic. Part mystery, part romance, and part costume drama, the film has strongest appeal to women, but even men should enjoy the performances of leads Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles, as well as the crackling script. (Actor John Houseman, of all people, is given first credit for the screenplay. It was also his only screenwriting credit.)

The story takes place in England, during the 19th century. Jane Eyre (Fontaine) is orphaned at a young age. Raised in a dismal charity school, her only friend is Helen (Elizabeth Taylor, in a very early role). She is bullied by obsessive puritan headmaster Brocklehurst (Henry Daniell, whom you might recognize from "The Great Dictator"). Coming of age, she is employed as a governess at an imposing estate, where she falls in love with her employer, moody Rochester (Welles).

Welles has a booming voice, wild eyes and a commanding attitude. He talks in riddles, and has a mysterious past. There is also an insane woman that he is holding prisoner in one of the castle's towers.

Fontaine appears uncomfortable, and her acting mostly consists of silent suffering, which she does quite well, just as she did in "Rebecca". Her character falls in love very quickly with tempestous Rochester. This is credible, since her self-preservation instincts would sense the opportunity in marrying a wealthy man, and he is the first marriageable man that she has met.

The film's biggest weakness is the ending. I won't give it away, but it comes suddenly and is a bit clumsily crafted. Still, "Jane Eyre" is a very enjoyable soaper, especially Welles' campy performance.

Copyright 1999 Brian Koller

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