Plain Jen

As a high school sophomore I once earned major nerd street cred by getting my coach to excuse me from junior varsity tennis practice so I could go home and watch Jane Eyre on PBS. This earned me snorting laughter from my teammates and a used copy of the book later presented at the tennis awards dinner. (That battered paperback was--and remains--the only "award" for sports participation I have ever received. It was the "most creative excuse for skipping practice" award.) In any normal universe I would have been embarrassed. But on my own nerdy planet, I was proud. I may have been assigned to play bottom-of-the-roster doubles with a partner who hated my weak backhand in particular and my bookish guts in general, but in my mind I had struck a blow: a mighty blow for all the girls picked last.
 
I was not embarrassed then and I am not embarrassed now to admit that Jane is my homegirl. I have been finding Jane's tale compelling since I was twelve and bored and desperately scouring the house for something I had not yet read. My exasperated mother shoved a volume from a set of books we kept on our coffee table as décor into my hands and ordered me to read it. I was doubly astonished: at how riveting the story was, but also that it had been living there under my nose for my entire life as an ignored piece of red leatherette furniture.

The 2007 Masterpiece Theatre production of Jane Eyre is my favorite screen version to date. The casting is near-perfect and even minor characters (notably Adèle and Mrs. Fairfax) have warmth and depth they are not usually allowed. The chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester is undeniable and plays out against a visually lush landscape in an astonishingly sensual manner. (Fluttering red scarves in windows! Flocks of birds exploding from trees! Jane and Edward getting horizontal--in a completely clothed and Victorian way, of course!) The ending is satisfyingly triumphant in all its "Reader, I married him" glory. If you gravitate to underdog stories and have a need to spend 240 minutes with your television and a pan of brownies, this is for you.