Secretariat and Jane Eyre

Secretariat

I was in love with horses as a child, and read every book about them that I could get my hands on. So Secretariat (along with Man o’ War and Seabiscuit) was one of my early heroes, and I was thrilled to be able to see this movie. It was even better than I had hoped. I think I sighed more over that horse than I ever have over an actor. He was gorgeous. This movie didn’t have too many bad points, other than one really bad French accent (or maybe I’m just not familiar with Canadian French?).

I really liked the story line. In some ways, Penny Cheney was the typical underdog-who-makes-it-big-out-of-sheer-grit-and-determination character. But it was pretty refreshing to see a bright and successful woman on screen, who was not simultaneously young, sexy, and unattached. Despite being derided by most of the male characters in the film (including her husband) as a “housewife,” Cheney leads her horse to victory, and saves the family farm.

I love how the film portrayed her relationship with her oldest daughter, who was involved in the anti-war protests of the seventies. For both of them, furthering the causes they believed in strengthened their relationship, even when their political views were different. Cheney was a wonderful role model for her daughter (and the rest of her children). Here’s the preview, because I wholeheartedly recommend this movie (and because Secretariat is just beautiful).

Jane Eyre

My church young women’s adviser gave me this book when I turned sixteen, and I still love it. What a timeless story of courage, integrity, and yes, true love. This is the first movie adaptation of it that I’ve ever seen. There were some lovely moments, like the first firelit conversation between Jane and Mr. Rochester. On the whole though, it felt a bit rushed. And opening the movie with the middle of the story, and then replaying the entire scene when the story finally caught up to it came off as redundant and clumsy.

Character development was lacking in pretty much everyone, Mia Wasikowska’s magnificent Jane excepted. Rochester was too handsome and St. John too plain (although sufficiently insufferable). My husband (who hasn’t read the book) refuses to believe me that Mr. Rochester is anything more than a despicable cad, so I think his (significant) acts of atonement and reformation may not be played up enough. In any case, I did enjoy this adaptation, but I imagine there must be a better one out there. Any suggestions?

5 thoughts on “Secretariat and Jane Eyre

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  • November 28, 2011 at 12:02 pm
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    I thought Timothy Dalton was a natural as Neville Sinclair in the Rocketeer… Not so great as Rochester. It’s hard for any movie to compete with the book because they have to leave out so much of the wonderful dialogue between Jane and Mr. R.

  • November 28, 2011 at 11:43 am
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    Argh, I wish there were an ‘edit’ button for my comment… I moved Ciaran Hinds up via copy/paste and didn’t delete the first placing of it, then added my comments about Jane to the wrong one. Blaugh.

    Also, I just checked amazon (t’be sure I didn’t miss any), and Bridget likes the SAME ONE as me – I thought the Dalton version was Masterpiece’s… it’s not, it’s BBC’s version. My bad. Woot, woot, Bridget! You and I both have good taste! 😀

  • November 28, 2011 at 11:24 am
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    Why YES, I have some things to say. We did a marathon of every ‘Jane Eyre’ movie we could get our hands on this past spring (when we saw the version you just watched). I wanted to know which was best. It was fun to see them all.

    The thing I noticed about filmmakers was that they seemed to have NOT read the book, but based the characterizations on previous versions of cinematic Rochester/Eyre. I’m sorry, but I’m with your husband – I don’t think Rochester should be played as hard/evil/cranky/rude/obnoxious. I just don’t read him that way in the book. And I don’t think Jane should be prim and silent and looking if she were a hellion as a child, she didn’t somehow lose that at Lowood – they didn’t break her. Yet she’s always shown to be a mouse of a woman… and that’s NOT Jane (IMHO). Rochester wouldn’t be interested in that. No, there’s more to him and more to her than most of the movies show.

    Orson Welles’ cranky-butt Rochester seems to be the measuring stick all other actors weigh their part against. There’s no way on earth any woman – even a french opera singer or a neighboring money-grubber, would put up with his crap. And likewise Joan Fontaine’s personality-less Jane – suppressed and benign – was what every subsequent Jane seems to have gone one, too. She was eye candy (the only endearing thing about her)… but then we all know Jane actually was anything but that. Both were deplorably over-dramatized in opposite ways.

    Having said, the George C. Scott version had Jane rod-rammed and him cantankerous in the same vein as the Welles version, except that Scott added just that sliver of gentleness in his Rochester. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Rochester wasn’t 60 (Scott was just OLD). He was better than she, but the music was over the top and there was no chemistry with the marble statue that was Jane.

    The Ciaran Hinds version stank with a capital ‘S’. He was obnoxious, unloving, and left viewers wanting to repeatedly pop their fingers thru the TV screen at him. His Jane wasn’t at all memorable or noticably interesting, either. It brought nothing new to the story, and was worse than it’s predecessors.

    The Masterpiece version (Timothy Dalton) is my second favorite… Jane’s smile and… well, Timothy DALTON, hello… they both did it. It also shows WAY more of the movie than any other version (like, the fortune-telling scene). Bridget’s right – this one’s worth a gander. However, the sets look to be made of cardboard and there’s an overall feeling of ‘cheap theatre’ to it.

    The Ciaran Hinds version stank with a capital ‘S’. He was obnoxious, unloving, and left viewers wanting to repeatedly pop their fingers thru the TV screen at him. His Jane was the epitome of stuck-up, prim governess… SO not a good Jane.

    The William Hurt version had a 13 year old Jane lovin’ on a late forties Rochester – who yet again possessed the stink-eye. Jane hadn’t a fiesty bone in her body, either. It seemed wrong on many, many levels.

    The new version had the best Sinjun and Mrs. Fairfax (Dame Judy DENCH!!!), by far, but the Rochester was bi-polar and I hated Mia whats-her-face. She lay for long, rotating, Twilight-esque scenes on cold rock, she gasped and stared blankly and HoMiGAWSH, the cameraman should’ve been SHOT – what was with the running-with-video shots? It also looked like Thornfield was actually a dank, dark cave throughout the movie.

    The best Jane Eyre? Hands down, it’s the Toby Stephens version. ((I first saw him on Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night” – if you told me Orsino and Rochester were the same person, I would’ve denied it. He’s THAT different.)) He’s exactly what I imagine Rochester to be. Devilish, self-confident, mid-thirties, playful, but way smarter and more observant than anyone else around him, because of the trials he’d been put through. And his Jane is the feistiest, most *human* and real Jane I’ve seen – she really seals the deal for me. If you want to see the best ‘Jane Eyre’ – it’s the Toby Stephens’ one… and incidentally, Toby Stephens is the son of ‘Harry Potter’s MacGonagall. 😉

  • November 27, 2011 at 11:34 pm
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    Re: Jane Eyre – try the 2006 Masterpiece version. 🙂

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