I wanted to see “Jane Eyre” since I first saw its preview last winter. Unfortunately, Orion adamantly refused, having read and hated the book in high school. We finally got to see it this week, and by the time the movie was over, Orion was singing its praises while I was so bored I could barely rouse myself from the theatre seats. Go figure. (I remember my roommate being assigned “Wuthering Heights” in high school, written by a different Bronte sister, Emily. I picked up the book and read the whole thing, regarding it as the funniest things I had ever read. I began reading Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” but couldn’t get through the first chapter.) But the movie looked good, and I especially liked the slight tinge of mysterious, dark, gothic elements. There are hints of the supernatural, of secrets being kept, and of haunting ghosts – these felt surprisingly in an otherwise period piece, but were well received by our audience.
I’m not exactly sure why this movie was so boring, and I’m not exactly sure why I disliked Jane Eyre so much. She was great at first, being strong but reserved, fierce but quiet, but then she had to go and FALL IN LOVE. I couldn’t get into her after that. She seemed so strong for the beginning of the movie, so plucky despite her misfortunes – I just couldn’t forgive her for falling in love with the first man she met. It was almost as bad as Grushenka’s change of heart in The Brothers Karamazov. I don’t know if the book handled this in a convincing manner, but the movie certainly didn’t. There were barely five conversations before Rochester declares outright to Jane, “You rare, unearthly thing, I must have you!” (I later misremembered him as saying, “You weird, unusual creature!” That’s just the vibe I get from Michael Fassbender’s Rochester.)
Speaking of the actors, Mia Wasikowska was wonderfully plain, which I felt fit Jane Eyre very well. I guess it wasn’t her fault the story/movie took a turn for the worse. Judi Dench plays a supporting character, Mrs. Fairfax the housekeeper, and I just couldn’t get over how miscast this felt. I thought Dench was far too strong an actress to be written into this old woman’s personality. As for Rochester, like I said earlier, I thought Fassbender was just strange.
Overall, 1.5/5. This was seriously the lamest movie I’ve seen this year. I’m sorry for the terribly boring review, but really, I didn’t feel like the movie had any material for me to work with. Orion claims this is because I am immature, but I think some movies just aren’t to my tastes.
Full disclosure: I hated Jane Eyre when I read it in high school. It was the ending that frustrated me: a happy ending to a story wreathed in darkness and fear. I found it utterly unbelievable, so much so that I ended up rewriting the ending for my final project (I got an A-). My ending was depressing, but in my rather biased estimation, more realistic.
The film has all of the novel’s weaknesses, but beautifully renders its strengths on the screen. The first shot, darkness opening unto light, brought me back so viscerally into a story I had forgotten that I literally caught my breath. As the story of a cruel childhood unfolded and I remembered what I had read several years ago, I marveled at how much I had despised the novel. I was attracted to Jane Eyre’s quiet fire, the spunk and emotion of her youth, and the dignified sarcasm of her adulthood. I felt myself hoping for her happiness, for love to bloom and grace her face with a smile. To tell the truth, I was surprised at how sentimental I was being, which speaks to both the strength of the plot as penned by Charlotte Bronte and the strength of the acting. Amelia Clarkson is great as a young Jane Eyre, her strength dancing undaunted in her eyes when she declares to her stepmother that she is not a liar. Mia Wasikowska, a very young Australian actress (just 21!) is a marvel, stiff and reserved when necessary, but exploding into a sarcastic biting wit when bantering. Judie Dench, a legend, brings strength and dignity to the character of Mrs. Fairfax (where, to be fair, strength probably was hard to find). Michael Fassbender is excellent as the rather grumpy Mr. Rochester. I can gush on and on about the cast, but I think you get the point.
One of many great aspects of this film is the way in which it conveys not only the central romance of the book but also the gothic, creepiness of the story. Mr. Rochester doesn’t just brood because he’s a brooding person. There is a darkness behind him that is wonderfully captured. Jane Eyre’s own troubled past is explored in full detail. And this is all done absolutely beautifully: the film looks gorgeous. The lush greens of a rich countryside, the darkness that existed before the invention of electric lights, the gleam of rich wood, the bleakness of stone is all captured and expressed in a way that is hard for novels.
But, and there must be a but, the ending is still unsatisfying for your brain. However, I accepted it in my heart. This is a true adaptation, one that captures the soul of the novel in a way that I admire. The ending, as bad as it remains, was one that I appreciated. I needed a happy ending and hopefully so will you.