Oh, the Melodrama…Fukunaga’s Gothic MisstepApril 7th, 2011 | Posted by in Movie Reviews | New Releases
As a lover of period pieces, melodramatic Gothic literature and, in particular, all things Bronte, I have been anxiously awaiting this year’s adaptation of Jane Eyre. The dark previews emphasized the best elements of this classic tale; the mysterious nighttime noises of the Thornfield Hall, the brutish air of Mr. Rochester and the true love (sigh) between a poor, plain governess and her elder, wealthy employer. Although these principles were all touched upon, a choppy script and a few key omissions hurt the overall feel of Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, ultimately leaving this lover of the novel feeling underwhelmed.
Jane’s childhood as a lonely out-spoken orphan under the care of her malicious aunt and her subsequent years at Lowood School are depicted well; a moody background for what ultimately is the most angsty of all the Gothic love stories (in hindsight, perhaps Stephanie Meyer and I have both read this story of co-dependent love one too many times). Mr. Brocklehurst, the clergyman headmaster of Lowood, is as terrifying as I imagined him to be, although I must admit I did miss his comeuppance in this interpretation.
As Jane embraces her life at Thornfield Hall, the film begins to waver. The weakest element of this telling of Jane Eyre is the love story between the title character and her beloved, Mr. Rochester. Mia Wasikowska is remarkable as the determined, bright young Jane, although much of her best dialogue in the novel with her male protagonist has been cut. When Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane and admits his love, Jane, as a woman of poor social standing, is shocked. In this film, so is the audience. So much of their growing relationship is missing, making his affection seem outlandish and abrupt. Irish actor Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester, a true torn Byronic hero, is a decent cast, particularly considering that Colin Firth’s schedule has probably been rather busy lately and the poor man can’t be in every English literature inspired film. However, the two lacked chemistry on screen and this viewer couldn’t help constantly thinking about their age difference, no matter how true to the time it may be.
The uplifting love story is the backbone to Jane Eyre. However, in this film, it seems as though all uplifting storylines from the original work have been cut. Her childhood companion Helen is a few mere scenes and her friendship with the Rivers is boiled down to a few awkward conversations. I understand wanting to maintain a dark, melodramatic theme, but come on! This was a bit painful. The previews also stressed a supernatural, haunting theme, which was not fully realized within the film and could leave some viewers feeling mislead.
Ultimately, this version of Jane Eyre was more dramatic, more depressing and more…well, Gothic, than the original, which certainly is saying a lot. I understand I’m in the minority with this review; what do you think? Have you seen Jane Eyre? Is it too angsty and dramatic, or did you appreciate the heartache?