Movie Review: 'Jane Eyre'

Movie Review: 'Jane Eyre'

Grade: B Scene Says: Good acting, disappointing adaptation

“Jane Eyre” presents itself as a prestige picture, although at its core the story is a Gothic — even at times pulpy — tale of woe.

The film “Jane Eyre,” starring Mia Wasikowska as the titular character, is based on the classic novel by Charlotte Brontë. “Jane Eyre” is about a young woman who overcomes an abusive and neglected childhood to work as a governess at the home of the enigmatic Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender).

Simultaneously a social commentary, a coming-of-age story and a romance, the story — set in the 1800s — was very modern for its age, and Jane Eyre became one of the first modern heroines in literature.

The new “Jane Eyre” spares no expense advertising itself as a bold take on an already modern story. The film starts in an unconventional place in the storyline and juggles two timelines as Jane’s childhood is told in flashbacks. The abuse and neglect Jane experienced as a child are even more shocking in movie form and brilliantly filmed.

The entire movie seems to be an abbreviated version of the novel. Perhaps it is a too complex story to condense into two hours, but the film glosses over many vital scenes in the book, losing much of Brontë’s original intent. At times the movie seems to move at a snail’s pace, despite its inclination to speed through the events in the novel. Perhaps this is due to the numerous scenes of Jane pacing back and forth in front of an ominously-lit window set to music that seems to have been ripped right out of the “Pride and Prejudice” soundtrack.

The movie avoids any pretense of flashy or gimmicky filming styles, instead sticking to bleak cinematography and wide shots of barren landscapes. When the seasons shift to spring, even the shots of flowers and greenery appear haunting. This understated filming style allows the cast to shine, and they definitely make the most of it.

Wasikowska is pitch-perfect as Jane Eyre, exemplifying Jane’s quiet, reserved nature that masks the passionate individualist within. Her pale skin, long neck and wide eyes evoke a certain otherworldly-ness that she previously brought to “Alice in Wonderland.” Fassbender is smoldering as the harsh and enigmatic Mr. Rochester. He brings a weighty ambience to the moody character and looks good doing it. It’s hard to ignore his magnetic performance. Wasikowska and Fassbender share excellent on-screen chemistry, bringing the timeless romance to life, and making Jane’s motivations seem much more relatable to a contemporary audience.

Judi Dench is also excellent, balancing the cheerful naiveté of Mrs. Fairfax in a somewhat thankless role. She grounds the well-meaning but often silly character in an underrated performance that brings humor to the otherwise serious characters.

The talented cast and skillful filmmaking would be enough to make the film excel, but these glimpses of potential only make the film more disappointing when it fails to deliver. Scene upon scene of “Jane Eyre” build up suspense only to result in an anticlimactic ending. For a story with so many twists and Gothic horror elements, anticlimactic just won’t cut it.

hbui@theeagleonline.com

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