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
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
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