Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DVD Roundup: Another Year and Jane Eyre

I had heard great things about both of these movies, and was really looking forward to seeing Jane Eyre as I've loved the book since I was a child (books on tape got us through many many car rides, but we didn't have too many - "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "Anne of Green Gables", "Little Women" and "Jane Eyre" in rotation).

Another Year is the story of Tom and Gerri (yes, they've heard the joke before) played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, an older married couple - he's a geologist and she's a counselor.  The story, written and directed by Mike Leigh (so anything can happen) follows Tom and Gerri through the course of a year and it plays more like four related short stories starting with Spring.  We meet Mary (Leslie Manville - we need more of her!) Gerri's colleague who can't really seem to get her life together.  She's divorced, single, and her current ambition is to buy a car.  She relies on Gerri and Tom to be her social life and conscience.  In the summer we also meet their son, Joe, who doesn't visit or call as a much as they'd like.  Mary always thought she might end up with Joe despite their age differences.  In Fall we meet Joe's new girlfriend and see Mary fall apart a little more.  And in Winter, Tom's sister-in-law dies and we meet his brother Ronnie (David Bradley - Filch from Harry Potter) and nephew Carl who hates his dad.  Ronnie comes to stay with Tom and Gerri for a while and meets Mary and they kind of hit it off in a fairly sad and strange way.
Overall, you keep expecting the movie to make cliched turns and make all the characters turn out great and have happy endings, but that's not Mike Leigh's style.  You do see almost everything through Tom and Gerri's happy, contented eyes, but all the other stories have elements of pathos that are hard to ignore or bend to be a happy ending.  Great movie with a strong concept executed well by terrific actors.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

**Some spoilers if you don't know the story already**
Jane Eyre is Mia Wasikoska's first adult leading role and she takes care of a beloved literary character extremely well.  However, it's sadly the leading men in Jamie Bell and Michael Fassbender that make the movie really memorable.  Jane Eyre is an orphan forced to live with an aunt to hates her.  She's sent to boarding school where the headmaster believes her deceitful and orders the girls not to befriend her.  So after she has a miserable childhood, she's pretty excited to get a good job in a fancy estate as a tutor to a little french girl, the ward of Mr. Rochester (Fassbender).  There are mysteries in the house, but the housekeeper, Judi Dench is able to explain them away.  Over time, even though she is "plain" and poor and Mr. Rochester wealthy and snobbish, they fall in love.  However, on their wedding day a man appears to stop the wedding arguing that Mr. Rochester is already married.  Bastard.  He totally is and has kept his crazy, suicidal wife in the attic (all the mysterious noises) but still wants to marry Jane.

Heartbroken, Jane runs away and is befriended by St John Rivers, the head of the local parish, and his sisters.  She becomes the schoolteacher and finally has a home of her own and is dependent on no one.  Finally, her evil aunt dies and she finds out that she inherits a TON of money.  Of course now Mr. Rivers wants to marry her and take her to India as a missionary.  She says no because she doesn't want to be dependent on anyone (and she still loves Rochester).  Lots of drama and I'll tell you it does end well, but I won't spoil the finale.

I really really liked this version of the movie.  Mia does a great job of being the down and out Jane who expects nothing from life and is suspicious of anything good coming her way.  But she can play the smart and witty character at the same time.  And the chemistry between Mia and Fassbender was terrific - even between Mia and Bell was great (but more platonic).  I really hope we get to see a lot more of all of these actors.  The overall cinematography of the film deserves to be nominated - it evokes the creepiness of the forests and English moors and doesn't make the movie rely on a cliched soundtrack to create the mood of unease.  Combining that with exceptional costumes, which are consistent throughout (if not historically accurate), I'd be surprised if this movie is completely overlooked come awards season.  4.5 of 5 stars/lambs


Buttercup said...

Really enjoyed "Another Year" and the characters have stuck with me. Generally they just fade away. Enjoyed your review.

Jess said...

Buttercup - I think you'd love Jane Eyre too. I really did like the characters from Another Year - not all likeable, but really stick with you.