Okay. I’ve seen two really good movies in the last week, and I thought I’d share them (and my reactions to them, of course) with you, The Internet, before I completely forget to do so. . .
Movie #1: Jane Eyre (2011, Cary Fukanaga; with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender)
Alright, The Internet. You should know I am a huge fan of Jane Eyre (the book). I first read it when I was 12 or 13, when I found an old edition with gorgeous woodcut illustrations in my grandparents’ house (it was in a two-book set with Wuthering Heights, which I am ashamed to say I have not yet read. . . Fie on me). I have looked up to Jane Eyre ever since – to be that innocent and yet that confident? As a painfully shy girl (as well as highly cynical) growing up, that was the pinnacle of awesome. As I grew up, I studied a lot of history, and so learned a lot about the 19th C. and the trials the Bronte sisters must have gone through to 1) be able to write as their profession, 2) be published, and 3) be taken at all seriously as authors. So the Brontes are also high on my list of awesome people. (And check out Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant! comic on them: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=202 she also is selling a shirt featuring the Brontes that I covet. . . Cause Kate Beaton is just the awesome)
And with the most animated language I can, I must tell you how much I loved this movie. One caveat up front – Michael Fassbender is a bit too gorgeous to be a perfect Mr. Rochester. He’s a great actor, so you occasionally forget how pretty he is, and he does a great job as Mr. Rochester. But still. There’s a reason Charlotte described him the way she did. Just saying.
Now the movie. I won’t spoil anything (there are some interesting choices as to timing that I think work so well that I don’t want to give any specifics), though if you haven’t read the book you are a simpleton and I don’t care for your feelings either way. But, the adaptation from page to screen (especially since this is only 2 hours long) is very cleverly done. You both feel the passage of time, and don’t feel like they’re bogged down in certain details or skipping over too many things. Unlike the recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2005), you don’t feel like there really hasn’t been enough time passing to justify the actions of the principal characters. Well, that’s what I felt, anyway.
And to finish – Mia Wasikowska is amazing in this movie. I was meh about her skills when Alice came out (but then, I am not a big fan of Tim Burton. Ever since Edward Scissorhands, he’s gotten more and more hung up on the aesthetics of his movies and less on any possible depth. And I like his style. He’s just not that good a director. . .). She is breathtaking in this film, and she really gets you to feel what she is feeling, and sympathize deeply with her trials.
So this one gets a full two thumbs up from me – beautifully shot, beautifully acted, beautifully adapted.
Movie #2: Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick; with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain)
Now. I’m lucky enough to live in a town with a Cinematheque, as well as have a boyfriend who is an inveterate movie-lover. My nerdities generally lie elsewhere (though I have become more movie-savvy in the last few years), and I had never seen a Terrence Malick film. For shame, I know. As luck would have it, with the release of Tree of Life this year, my Cinematheque decided to do a Malick retrospective (not too onerous, I know. . .). In the last two weeks, I was able to see all four of his previously released movies. All of which I really loved. Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The New World were all deeply moving and beautiful movies. You can quibble with his story-telling style, but Malick does make beautiful beautiful movies.
So I was really, really looking forward to seeing Tree of Life.
And now that I’ve seen it, I have no idea how I feel about it. The acting was all-round excellent. And Brad Pitt continues to grow and impress as an actor. Jessica Chastain was radiant, and tragic all at once. Sean Penn, while good, didn’t really have enough context for his minimal cameo. The child actors were also, highly surpisingly, very very good. And, like all of his movies, Tree of Life is a Beautiful Movie. I like that Malick, as a film-maker, doesn’t talk down to his audience – he leaves things for us to do as viewers. There are no neatly tied up packages at the end of his movies.
But for Tree of Life, I think I’d have liked a little tiny bit more tying up of loose ends in this one. I just didn’t quite see how it all came together as a cohesive film in the end. I saw how all the disparate elements related to each other perfectly well, I’m just not sure there was just one movie there in the end.
I enjoyed the various bits a lot though, and would definitely recommend this film to any discerning movie-goer. And if you haven’t seen any of Malick’s films before, I’d probably tell you to watch his earlier work before seeing Tree of Life.