I may not remember everything from when I read Jane Eyre as a young English major, but I don’t remember it being so lifeless. While I can understand that the filmmakers need to abbreviate certain parts (such as most of Jane’s early life as an orphan) in order to fit the important parts into the span of a movie, you’d think that it would make things move along quicker instead of being as glacial as this movie feels. When Jane (played by Mia Wasikowska, the recently grown up Alice in Tim Burton’s Wonderland film), the governess for the wealthy yet hard-hearted Mr. Rochester (played by soon-to-be Magneto in X-Men: First Class, Michael Fassbender) falls in love with her boss, it seems sudden and almost ridiculous because, in the film, it seems like they have barely met.
The visual colour palette of this film is very muted, with mostly grey-blues and blacks in everything from the clothing to the walls and floors. All the sets seem authentic, yet dilapidated and slightly worn down. Perhaps it was all meant to mirror Rochester’s emotional landscape, or the harshness of the English moors, but it definitely didn’t make the film more interesting to watch. Add to that a very moody violin that was playing in the background throughout many scenes. To me, the music was actually kind of distracting. Even the climactic scene from the novel where Jane flees from Rochester after learning his big secret (which is the scene that actually opens the film) was cold and dreary. I remember how tragic and emotional that part was in the book, but I didn’t feel much of that on screen.
I don’t know that either lead actors can be blamed. When they actually get some juicy interaction, they make the dialogue work and you can feel some embers between them, but that didn’t occur much. Wasikowska was pretty good at expressing a glimmer of emotion here and there with only slight changes in her face, but for me it was too little too late. Maybe it’s just that I’m so used to the Hollywood treatment of English literary classics (mostly of Jane Austen stuff) that I’m expecting a certain style that director Cary Fukunaga just wasn’t going for. All I know is that if anyone with my sensibilities is trying to use this movie to get away with not reading the novel, they’ll probably have a much more negative idea of this classic than they should. (3 out of 5)