Fonda's feminist agenda was appropriate in 1973. However, when she accepted the role of Nora Helmer, her agenda should have stayed at home. Jane Fonda played the role of Nora in Joseph Losey's film version of the 1879 Henrik Ibsen play, A Doll's House. The play is set in the Victorian age of the nineteenth century. Perhaps Jane should have rethought her portrayal.
The character of Nora is revolutionary on her own. The very essence of the character of Nora defies the norms of Victorian marriages. She has cheated and lied, only to be found out. She leaves her husband. Women in that time and age just did not do those things. When her lies are discovered, she learns a great deal about the man that she has been married to for the past eight years. His concern is not necessarily for his wife and what may happen to her amid these charges. Her husband is more concerned about himself and how others will see him based on the charges.
Nora thinks that her husband treats her as his doll. He refers to her as various small woodland creatures throughout the course of the play. She is a "skylark" as well as a "squirrel." When she sees that his concern is not for her, and realizes that he is concerned solely for himself, she leaves. She is quite a strong character towards the end.
Jane Fonda's interpretation of Nora started out normally enough. Before long, though, the viewer wonders if maybe Nora had arrived in Norway via time machine. Her actions and language reveal a quite modern woman butchering a classic character. Fonda takes the character of Nora and turns her into this manic creature, jumping around and flirting. I think the staid times would have called for about half as much manic behavior from this woman. When Fonda speaks, it is at one hundred miles an hour. Her words run together, as do her actions, almost as if she is hopped up on pills.
Jane Fonda's liberated persona would have greatly benefited a character that desires such liberation. However, it just could not be pulled off. Instead of breathing her own experience into Nora, Fonda treated the role as a diving board for her views on patriarchy. If Fonda had not treated Nora as a vapid nitwit at the beginning, her personal views might have had a more effective impact.