Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
France/Italy/United Kingdom/USA, 1996. Cineritino S.r.L., Flach Film, Mediaset, Miramax, RCS Editori S.p.A., Rochester. Screenplay by Hugh Whitemore, Franco Zeffirelli, based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte. Cinematography by David Watkin. Produced by Dyson Lovell. Music by Claudio Capponi, Alessio Vlad. Production Design by Roger Hall. Costume Design by Jenny Beavan. Film Editing by Richard Marden.
Strongly acted adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s milestone novel covers vast dramatic territory but fails to scratch beneath the surface. At the heart of it is a pitch perfect performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg as the titular heroine, who goes from being raised in a coldhearted orphanage (the young Jane is played by Anna Paquin) to working as the governess for a mysterious and brooding widower (a miscast but somewhat effective William Hurt), with whom she eventually has a romance. Elle Macpherson also pops up as a featherbrained heiress looking to wed herself to Hurt’s vast fortune, having no idea that the plain and simple governess who is far beneath her notice is her greatest competition. Franco Zeffirelli directs with his usual concentration on lush period detail, but the lack of attention paid to the more complex emotional points of the novel keeps the film from being too memorable. Even if Robert Stevenson’s 1944 version with Joan Fontaine covered less than half of the storyline, it’s still by far the better of the two.