© 2012 by James Clark
You might want to argue that the only thing these movies have in common is being overlooked as candidates for film awards deserved by features released in 2011. The nub of controversy here would be attempting to pull the sense of Moneyball significantly away from its apparent occupancy of a long series of bios about baseball All-Stars. If we can dare to dream that the (not, after all, full-blown) triumph of Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, is more about discovering his vocation as to what makes a baseball team tick than about personal glory, there is a chance we can imagine him and Jane as distant teammates in getting the hang of a brand-new game.
In the spirit of Billy’s analytics as to the talent pool, let’s take a peek at the writing bona fides that went into Moneyball. What impresses even a cursory survey about their pro potential is a vigorously applied and protracted involvement with freeing wiggle room within seemingly locked-shut systems of socio-economic advantage. The film is based on a study, by Michael Lewis, of the 2002 Major League Baseball season, particularly focusing upon how the Oakland Athletics, at a disadvantage in not being able to afford retaining home-grown and acquiring other superstar players, were able to reel off an unprecedented twenty-game winning streak and send the rest of the league scurrying to catch up with a hitherto untried schema regarding the elemental factors of the game. Lewis, expressing an abiding interest in the confrontation of “insiders” and “outsiders,” has also produced explorations of how businesses, like insurance companies, can fortify themselves against risk by means of entities called “catastrophe bonds,” which entice investors to carry much of the firm’s liability as to phenomena like hurricanes, by hedging on disasters’ not happening in a given time-frame. Getting back to the A’s, the GM and his recently acquired young assistant, Peter (fresh from graduating in Economics, from Yale), embark upon signing players not for their marquee value, but for being able to: draw walks and so get on base abundantly; and hit for extra bases or reliably advance runners by means of long fly outs (total base hits, ribbies, stolen bases and fielding be damned). The screen writers—drafted with a view to that burrowing interest—namely, Steven Zaillia and Aaron Sorkin, who, severally, probed in previous works the right stuff of a young chess prodigy and the cards to play in avoiding a military court martial, brought to the project a vivid kinship with Lewis’ passion for hidden corners of workplace acceleration. Finally, though not by any stretch of the imagination an auteur this time out (the same can be said, as we shall see, of Jane Eyre’s helmsman, Cary Joji Fukunaga), director, Bennett Miller, has two other films to his credit that stand out as having him quite ready to rock with this vehicle. His first effort was a documentary, The Cruise, in which a New York tour bus guide evinces for his customers the mysterious, hidden (generally ignored) powers of the City and its denizens. His second film was the feature, Capote, showing the writer putting together his documentary-novel, In Cold Blood, in particularly close proximity to one of the murderers on Death Row, and agonizing about how he might find a way to beat the rap, to beat the system.
Moneyball does have something to do with the game and business of baseball; but it is far from a jiggly bubble gum card. It does have a lot to do with the player valuation scheme known as sabermetrics; but its narrative structure keys upon the protagonist’s self-discovery concerning the limitations of that zeal of his for dominant advantage having latched onto sabermetrics as a potent new weapon. Fukunaga’s screenwriter, Moira Buffini, known in Britain for her other career of being a “metaphysical playwright,” comes to the nineteenth century prototype as to the protagonist’s (Jane’s) remarkable deployment of hard-won poise (as discerning advantages where few would imagine them to lie) with a view to exploding Old School (feminist/humanist) morality in driving the narrative’s reaching a breaking point for a steely occupation of a high ground (advantage) to an upshot of a secret heartland of consummate power. She propels her rejoinder, to a status quo undreamed of by Charlotte Bronte, from out of the orphan, Jane’s, riposte to the head of the girl’s school to which she is exiled (by a vicious aunt/ foster parent) going on along lines of, “Do you know what happens to those who are bad? They go to Hell, a pit of fire… How would you avoid it?”/ “I must keep in good health and not die.” (Fukunaga has remarked about his offbeat approach to the project in terms of, “I think it [Jane Eyre] is much more than that [a period romance]… I’ve spent a lot of time reading the book and trying to feel out what Charlotte Bronte was feeling when she was writing it. That sort of spookiness that plagues the entire story…” [His one feature prior to Jane Eyre dealt with the exposure of bankruptcy about rigid macho poise in Mexico’s gangland.])
As thus augmented, the narrative of Jane’s eventful integrity receives a further nudge in the form of the schoolgirl protagonist—a clear-eyed pre-teen warmly responsive to her one and only friend (whom she assures, after that latter figure has been whipped in class for a moment of inattention to a jingoistic song, the Headmaster lip-smackingly referring to the correction, “I see you are mortifying this girl’s flesh,” “If she had hit me, I’d have taken that whip and broken her nose”)—embracing her friend (being in the final throes of tuberculosis) in her dormitory bed and being assured by her, “You are loved. There’s a kingdom of spirits all around. Rejoice!” Perhaps the film’s most concerted bid for incisiveness entails the actress, Mia Wasikowska, a former student of ballet and a presence bringing to quietly overt spookiness this breakaway from literary attainments and the cherished priorities of classical culture. Completing, as she puts it (to a more innocent figure who shows her kindness during her nightmare about going for broke), a “most thorough” education at that School of Hard Knocks (particularly trying for those not at home with the status quo—she being shown to be made to stand on a chair, for perceived insubordination—“This is the Chair of Infamy. Shut her out. Do not offer the hand of friendship to Jane Eyre, the liar…”), she leaves the old Alma Mater with resolute indifference that does not preclude warm smiles for some of the younger girls left behind, and settles into a manor as Governess to a little girl who speaks only French, a place populated by fluttery and flustered maintenance staff and guests alike, amidst which she emerges, with fully cinematic sensuousness, as an island of composure in a sea of embarrassed tension. Her placid and candid visage evidences years of gross violence having tempered her to circulate not only sharp, multilingual intelligence but physical verve for the sake of confronting the world at large with a view to touching its being now a market (not so open, but also not so closed) for scarce graces. Her having met dull fire with bright fire has included mustering a repertoire of warm but measured compassion which she evinces in bringing along her confident, forthright and very limited charge, Adele. After quite a while she first encounters Adele’s father, Rochester, lord of the manor (Adele’s mother, bearing the child as a memento from one of his trips to France, and being missing in action) in circumstances that would test any young woman. She is walking alone on a fog-shrouded path through woods (running an errand for the well-meaning housekeeper whom she treats with bemused kindness), has a large bird fly suddenly into her face and, in reeling from that, causes the coincidentally approaching horse ridden by him to panic and throw him, injuring him slightly. In a crusty mood, therefore, the aristocrat, on finding what her line of work is, taunts her with, “A governess? What is your tale of woe? All governesses have a tale of woe?” Jane quickly pulls herself together and informs him calmly that she has no tale of woe and spent her early years in a house more grand than his. She elaborates when pressed, “My parents are dead. My aunt cast me off. No tale of woe.” He darkly declares, “You bewitched my horse.”/ “I did not.”/ “You would be looking for your people here, imps and little demons.”/ “Truth is,” she fires back, “… the land is no longer wild,” a sprig of information encompassing, in its apparent disinterestedness, a stellar eruption of appallment. Though not pursued in the spirit of fortune hunting, Jane’s manner, which leaves him a bit stunned, plays out a repertoire of self-aware giftedness and attractiveness of physical carriage and distribution of gifts that precisely can yield further big rewards in the era (the 1830s) of incipient social and spiritual change. At the manor, he looks over her drawings, pretending to find them mediocre, and she states, “To paint is one of the keenest pleasures of my life.” Soon he is addressing her with, “Distract me from the mire of my thoughts… Do you think me handsome?”/ “No, Sir… I ought to have replied that beauty is of no consequence…” After his gambit, “I’d like to draw you out. You have rather the look of the other world about you,” she cuts across the frippery with, “I am your equal…” He marvels, “Not three in three thousand governesses would have answered me that,” and she, indicating that she has been thrilled by his tribute, goes way overboard with, “You don’t know such people. I’m an ordinary woman. There are many like me…” He still goes on enthusing, “I envy you your openness, your unpolluted mind.” And when he veers into the “fate” dealing him a blow when he was younger, and her being a rescue service in “the wings of an angel,” she, with a mixture of disappointment at his dipping into smallness and playful glee that he’s so fond of her, tweaks him with, “I’ve simply no need to talk nonsense.” (He does touch a nerve by way of his seeing her sensibility as a captive and remarking, “Were it free it would soar cloud high.” Prior to that, she had made the housekeeper very uneasy in declaring, “I wish a woman could have action in her life and not be constrained by the horizon she can see… I’ve never seen a city, I’ve never spoken with men.”)
The art direction chimes in with pervasive candle light upon faces and corners of the house, to further impress upon us the uncanniness, the “spookiness,” of Jane’s spunky exploration. Sailing by little reefs in the persons of a gawky and lightweight former girlfriend of his (“Blanche”) and a frantic visitor who gets knifed in the neck overnight and is bundled off by Rochester at dawn, Jane (having alerted him to a fire in his bedroom and thus having saved his life) peruses a globe of the world with Adele and hesitates, in some confusion at the suddenness of her successes. The little lesson about Britain’s global power and pressing on to very distant horizons seems to ring hollow in light of entering upon a zone of indecision, in harmony with the murky illumination of the site of her moment of truth. The long-term residency of the crude Blanche Ingram (one of her musical entertainments is even less musical than Adele’s, and infinitely less charming) seems to have become painful to Jane, though she has the litany of Rochester’s protestations—on the order of, “People talk of natural sympathies” and, “With her I feel I could live again in a higher pureness”—to guide her to discreetly press her case, in the form of soothing thoughts against some vague distress of his about being ostracized: “I’d stay with you… a friend.” The ominous muffled cries and other sounds of agitation in the gloomy and lovely night light emerge as an underbelly to be put in perspective by rigorous force of will, rather than a delirious horror. At this point, the aunt who dumped her into the residential school is found to have had a stroke and she summons Jane to a precinct the girl never expected to have anything more to do with. She informs an incredulous Rochester that she feels she must make that brief detour. Once there, she confronts the pale (another Blanche) and supine enemy with studied magnanimity (receiving the news of being swindled by her of an endowment, in addition to the operative hope that she would have contracted and died of tuberculosis at the germ-plagued dumping ground, with a remarkable, potentially lethal gathering of poise, and easing forward the additional ironic twist, “Be at peace. You have my forgiveness.”) Returning from what would have been a form of military training manoeuvres (Mia Wazikoska’s having recently stood for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has been neatly put into play throughout), Jane (who left Rochester with the ambiguously playful, “You’re not to be trusted at all”) comes in for some painful, misleading signals about a wedding from the hapless old housekeeper who always felt Miss Ingram to be “ever so elegant”) and has to weather a day in the trenches believing she’d lost him. “It strikes me with anguish to be torn from you! Am I a machine without feeling? I have as much soul as you. It is my spirit that speaks to your spirit!” Rochester replies, “Jane, I ask you to pass through life at my side,” and there ensues a stream of joy—right up to the altar, where the previously stabbed figure resurfaces to reveal that Rochester is married to his sister. Even the most patrician sangfroid would regard such a moment as shocking. But this episode exposes that, despite a “most thorough” engagement of the workings of composure, Jane’s impressive preparedness is not thorough enough. Buffering mightily against the myriad “polluted minds,” Jane could generate a special gravitational bite for her actions going forward, toward advantage, where so much disadvantage lies in wait. But in terminating the relationship—against his pleas that they make a go of it in face of a deranged wife he had had stashed away with staff in a chamber near his bedroom—she betrays a still jejune sense of the crucial problematic permutations of her oh-so-sharp skeptical/ sensual vehicle. Though Mia Wasikowska has attitudinal chops that might have bumped Randolph Scott in the eyes of Boetticher, her Jane is only too much in the mold of Ride Lonesome, locked into a template of interpersonal ideality that her loner history had generated along lines of a totally formidable bounty. Being part of a ménage à trois (however inoperative), and without public confirmation of her attainments, engenders in her a revulsion that her primordial schema should suffer such imperfection. Rochester realizes he should have told her about the polluted mind horning in upon their “higher pureness”—“Jane! Forgive me! I’m worthless… How could I?”—but at that point even a preparatory disclosure would not have held back the flood of desperate loss. “All is changed, Sir. I must leave you.” It would take a last current of lacerating reflection for her to realize he was right in saying, “The essential things are the same!” and she was petty and cheap in her retort to his “Be my wife”—“You have a wife… I must respect myself.”
What he has is a pyromaniac slasher (a second and more virulent bit of baggage, along with Adele, derived from an unenthusiastic sense of humanitarian probity) who, after Jane hits the powerfully massive moors to arrive near death at a charitable household, completes her dazed mission by burning down most of the manor, hurling herself off the roof and having Rochester go blind from the flames in attempting to rescue other occupants. (This despairing, uncharacteristically tearful dash across the barrens opens the film, Jane’s shattered reverie at the haven constituting the narrative in flashback, in the form of a probe into how it could have gone off the rails.) Jane’s benefactors are a pious young landowner and his two sisters, solid and charming, and a resource Jane first of all wants to work with in terms of a newfound brother and sisters (of, that is, another run at the rancid homogeneity that killed it with Rochester). The brother installs her as the teacher of a one-room schoolhouse for village girls. This bid to regain traction is soon hobbled by her undeniable longing for Rochester, and the brother’s wanting to marry her and take her off to missionary work in India. “You are ambitious, I think. And this little school will not hold you for long.” Jane’s little stopgap unravelling at a violent clip (with a spate of abject capitulation in the form of bargaining that she’ll go into abetting such proselytizing if he agrees to keep treating her as a sister), she strikes out across those now less punishing wild moors, calling to herself (and the one she loves), “Where are you? … Why do you shrink from it? … I’m coming…” She comes upon Rochester sitting under a tree, bleakly staring into spaces that now have all but shut down. As their hands entwine and they gently kiss, she says, “…I’ve come back to you.” He says, “You’re altogether a human being, Jane…” “[It’s] a dream,” he whispers. She says, now embracing complications besetting their being a Power Couple, “Awaken, then.” When she fired back his way, “Truth is, the land is no longer wild,” Jane had in mind the string of wimps forever hemming her in. Her purchase upon primal (and effectively outlawed) overtures translates especially well to a penchant for drawing, for bringing entities to light from out of energies shared by the tips of her pencils and the heart of a panoply of sodden subjects, a nexus speaking to the steady traction she musters in their midst. As she sits across the room from Miss Ingram and her coterie thinking to be so daring in copiously defining governesses as ridiculous pests, Jane’s balletic stillness evokes not only a contentment with her own strictly-governed body but vaporizing of such damaged goods, from the ground up. Consequently, her lonesome ride seeks out (only) one (to be imagined) exponent of “natural sympathies,” while musing on what the world at large might have in store.
In Moneyball, Billy Beane leads off with pulverizing in his own way a smart phone spewing out some offensive chatter. His bailiwick is the dingy warren of the A’s clubhouse, and here he’s also seen seated in the stadium, empty and darkened, huge dark circles and gashes of crumpled skin under his eyes, in marked contrast to Jane’s taut and pellucid complexion. He has been peppered by the vapid voice of the Yankees, gloating about yet another coup—“Imagine being a Yankee and not loving the taste of champagne…” The run-up to this emphasizes the infrastructural heart of the drama, showing their Jeters, Clemens, Bernie Williams and their Riveras in grainy film finish, looming, more than standing there, and the rather dwarfish Johnny Damon (of the home team) moving as if on another planet, making the final out. Billy’s magic marker in drawing up that roster that came up short clearly lacked the incisiveness of Jane’s equipment. Moneyball traces his coming of age, in two stages strikingly resembling Jane’s rare and harrowing ascent.
As a former (though failed) bonus baby briefly basking in good standing amidst the Boys of Summer, and almost permanent resident of the stadium’s clubhouse (which comes, then, to resemble a rather spooky lab), you’d think Billy might actually watch a few games live; but as a mastermind drawing up a roster in touch with that “wild” translating into baseball predominance, his habitat is the phone and reams of player stats, along with a glance now and then at the TV, to get updated on how that raw data plays out as an entertainment investment. (He seldom goes on road trips, claiming a need to stay detached from the gladiators he may have to dump with alacrity; but as his saga progresses we realize the game that embarrassed him as a boy has become a reflective ordeal to him, not an object of undying joy and love.) Not that he’s some kind of a recluse, though; but he definitely could be characterized as someone alone in a crowd. There is a remarkable scene where he’s at a big table with his “scouts” (a remarkable word in itself, in this context of exploring primal power). Following their being found to be lacking in A-for-Alpha credentials and promptly having their Alpha-facsimiles (Damon was one) bought out by the big spenders of New York et al, the meeting is about how to go forward with a seemingly chronic embarrassment. The generally elderly brains trust show no alarm at the gutting of what was second-rate to begin with. “We’ll do fine,” one of the grandpas coos. Then they think to impress the boss with their assessment of the clutch of heroes in the pipeline. “Hey, I like Geronimo!” (Dicey primality is ever-present.) “He’s got a beautiful swing.” Billy asks, “If he’s so good, how come he doesn’t hit good?” The name, Perez, comes up, but an expert declares, “He’s got an ugly girlfriend… Ugly girlfriend means no confidence.” Billy mocks this questionable folk wisdom about diamonds in the rough by making swishing noises with his voice and flapping his fingers to denote old ladies’ gossip. Then he cuts them short with, “It isn’t business as usual. We’ve got a problem. What’s the problem?” After nixing their literal description about lost Damons, he resumes with, “It’s an unfair game. We’re organ donors for the rich… We’ve got to think differently.” (Earlier he had asked the owner of the team [to be found across the Bay, in San Francisco, where other priorities have been, if not generated, envisioned confusedly]—who was clearly, if not explicitly, fine with a fun, even if not a winning, outcome—“What are we doing here, if not trying to win a championship?” [to, that is, live up to the A in their name]. He goes on to declare, for our future reference, “I can’t leave here with this.”)
With a bit of attention to the slant of the details, we might see that rough stretch as Billy’s initiation to the kind of status quo Jane, at a precociously early age, came to despise and ready herself to beat. Unlike Jane, when we first see Billy, he has quite a bit of Old School about him. Visiting his ex and their daughter at their dazzling, sun-drenched modernist home overlooking the sea, he is troubled to hear that the twelve-year-old has a cell phone, and he routinely, in the course of arranging to argue the point with his ex, intimidates (however affably) the unathletic and over-Californiaed new husband with the Midas touch. “Her Mother and I will discuss it.” (Later, he expresses to the girl that she should not be into the Internet, nor should she watch TV or read (with rumors of his imminent firing gushing through the popular media). But a bit of hazing from the Chief Scout (soon to be an ex) on the issue of his (supposed aberrant) attachment to new (highly eccentric) thinking about value in personnel spurs him on to that Randolph Scott level of contrariness he had already embarked upon in the course of floundering in search of lively teammates, and encountering, at one of the setback points (the digs of the Indians—proof of a land no longer wild), one Peter, the Geek, and his absorbing thesis that there are 25 players out there whom nobody wants, but who could win it all. Whereas the Schoolmaster imposed an anathema upon Jane—“Shun her friendship”—the irate baseball traditionalist ran past his (soon-to-be-former) boss, “Baseball’s not a science. There are intangibles that only baseball people can know… What are you going to tell your daughter when she asks why you’re working at Dick’s sporting goods store?”
The core of the film consists of Billy and Peter’s riding, to everyone’s surprise, a wave of wins mainly due to their being on the money about finding probability fire at the grounds of the game, but also in attending to the Magnificent Nobodies’ being put at ease, by them, to show what they can do. (Another, barely discernible feature , is a wave of talent and inspirational factors, in those remnants of the old team, which also partake of golden moments.) At the critical center of this attack is a flurry of calls to acquire a key component for the run to the finish. The frenzy and self-delight in both of them bringing off the coup of juggling players-become-ciphers (fist-pumping, between wolfing down junk food) sends off alarm bells, particularly in light of Billy’s concomitantly attaining to disinterestedness about public praise for field boss, Art Howe (at the outset of the turnaround, after a disastrous Spring record, in fact a consistently deadening obstruction to getting the experiment underway)—while Peter is miffed by it. Riding that trajectory in the off-season, Billy is offered the GM role for the legendary (and big-spending [on his contract]) Red Sox, and he finds in himself (his new self, actually) the nerve to turn it down and take his chances with the low-rent A’s. (There is a nifty evocation of the flea-bag nature of the A’s headquarters, by comparison with the Five-Star accommodations at Fenway, and the Three-Star setup at Cleveland.)
The heart of the film concerns what goes into Billy’s move toward antiseptic power and toward full-fledged sufficiency amidst “polluted minds.” In recruiting his rag-tag crew, he is notably brusque with a personable has-been, in replying, “A daughter,” to the question, “Do you have any children?” That the grateful guy’s own little girl is on the scene, would have induced a bit more gushing from most dads. Then there is the moment in the locker room when an unorthodox (side-arm delivery) pitcher, generally deemed, by the scouts, “He’s a freak, and not in a good way,” has to tell Billy, “I’m gonna be prayin’ for you and your family,” and Billy goes blank and then nods, “No problem.” The tear he joins by virtue of an overweight ascetic (Peter) who gives scant indication of seeing beyond statistics—a tear punctuated by Billy’s strenuous dedication to weight work in the unlit clubhouse gym (the excellent Brad Pitt’s face and body on the cusp of heavily creased agedness)—has primed him for a form of lucidity in jock’s terms, but strangely transcending the limited physical inflection of sports. His becoming odious to folksy colleagues does not consist of mere atmospherics but remarkably includes putting on the line his livelihood. All around him, the gamesters are after his scalp (for supposedly wrecking the team, but also for becoming a piece of repellent anti-gravity). The extent to which he’s plunging everything to settle the basics becomes very apparent in his putting out more than $200,000 of his own to acquire a component of the puzzle whom the owner refuses to fund. Billy had squandered a scholarship to Stanford for the sake of a brief and humiliating career with the Mets, and he’s often reminded, in the course of this spooky adventure, that, as holding nothing more than a High School diploma, he’s flirting with ruin in not playing the safe but now obviously preposterous gambits. A flashback to being recruited by the Mets, has the recruiter palming off a spiel the dubiousness of which the boy-no-longer can finally comprehend. “This is a chance of a lifetime… There will [of course] come a day when we can no longer play the children’s game…” (With the grandpas at the brainstorming session, he had signalled his moving to an effective assimilation of that outrageous arrested development: “Adapt or die.”) Billy’s daughter goes on an outing with her Dad, where he buys her a guitar and she treats him to a little ditty (“The Show”) which he is far more effusive in praising than was a more advanced Jane, with Adele and the housekeeper who could only respond with, “How very French.” The Country/Western tune in the twenty-first century run-through has a subtext it would take Billy a while to digest. “Life is a maze and love is a riddle…/ I’m just a little bit caught in the middle/ I don’t know where to go, can’t do it alone, I’ve tried…/ I’m just a little bit lost in the moment/ I’m so scared but I don’t show it/ I can’t figure it out…/ It’s bringing me down, I know. I’ve got to let go/ And just enjoy the show.”
After the tear registers that twentieth win, Billy, having been pumped to a territory he’d been fitfully visiting but not seriously occupying, comes to realize with gut-churning terror that his go-for-broke season has been about the madness of massively changing an old-fashioned endeavor of personality-to the-fore (not only or even mainly about baseball, and not completely without playable merit), and that therefore it puts into play the surprising truth that crushing the resistance to instituting that change is in fact self-defeating. Peter nails the horror, in referring to baseball, “It’s a metaphor.” And Billy is now right there with the non-civics enormity of that truth: “I know it’s a metaphor.” Now the irony of Micky Mantle’s epigraph begins to draw blood. “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.” At that first confab, Peter had declared, “Baseball thinking is medieval. They ask all the wrong questions.” (Showing he, too, has a way to go, we see a poster showing solid tear-guy, Plato, in his bedroom. We see by Billy’s desk at his office a poster for The Clash. That would speak to Billy’s on the job heads-up to Peter, “Don’t [explain]. To anyone.”) In the wake of this unsteadily declared war, Billy now puts the so-recently all-important streak in perspective. “It sells tickets and hot dogs. But it doesn’t mean anything. What’s the point? If we don’t win that last game (of the playoffs), they’ll dismiss us. If we win, it’ll change the game, and that’s what I want.” Tempted by mega-power Boston and its Fenway cathedral, he has to work through what’s wrong with that anal trajectory from out of a ballsy take-off. (The Boston owner had platitudinously reverenced him with, “First guy through the wall, he always gets bloody.”) Back in Oakland in a funk, he’s shown (by Peter) a film clip of a minor-leaguer who was so fat he’d never try to stretch a hit to a double. He makes decent contact, thinks to go to second, and then thinks the better of it. But he’d hit a home run, and didn’t realize it. Billy absorbs this strange dialectic where the odds are not-quite-hopelessly stacked against setting off fireworks. Kicking ass with a fat contract from the Camelot of Boston, he decides, is not the way to go. We see him, still in grubby Oakland, in his truck, putting on a CD of his daughter singing that song, with an added touch. “You’re such a loser, Dad/ Just enjoy the show.”
Enjoyment of the show coming our way includes an edifying director’s voice-over in the supplement to the Jane Eyre DVD. Fukunaga’s, on the face of it, pretty outrageous gambit (to fill us in on the techie issues—all those camera stop numbers we were dying to absorb—because, as he claims, “That’s what I, as a young student of film production, liked about this kind of feature”) declares, in effect, from the get-go, “You won’t get anything out of me about the thematic ‘technicalities!’” That doesn’t stop him from a run of obsequious humbug as to the crisis of Jane’s deserting the rancid groom. His Toastmaster aplomb hits some loose gravel in declaring Jane’s bailing out to be recognition that her “moral dignity” was at risk. (We might have gathered, from the narrative leading there [which he rather too smoothly covers with “Surrealistic”], that Jane’s dignity had nothing to do with nineteenth-century girlie logic.) On coming to her soon returning to Rochester, he treats her rhapsodic apparent obviation of old-fashioned securement as a case of finding that true love is compatible with easily recognizable self-respect. There is iteration that he’s done a lot of reading of the novel to get the real jist of Bronte’ work. But we have to suspect that he’s been put on course (sort of) by some long, productive chats with Ms. Buffini, whose script—nine years in the waiting at the vaults of the BBC—is in fact a time bomb, completely anathematic toward young corporate smoothies headed for some big pay checks. Of course Fukunaga has a brilliant way with atmosphere and enabling actors to bring off episodes palatable to contemporary demands. But his being out of his depth regarding “spookiness,” while unwittingly delivering vastly non-corporate proceedings, puts us in mind of other helmsmen raised to momentary heights by killer scripts—Resnais pushed by Robbe-Grillet in Last Year at Marienbad; Aldrich pushed by Bezzerides in Kiss Me Deadly; and Huston pushed by Miller in The Misfits.