Monday, 19 September 2011

REVIEW: Jane Eyre

Hey didn't I just see this movie?

There's a theory I have about adaptations like Jane Eyre. Books of such stature and cultural presence that they have century-spanning legacies, simply can't make for a masterpiece. The story becomes to saturated, too loudly shouted. And Jane Eyre, with 22 cinematic variations already existence, simply can't outdo what's already been done. You can't possibly say anything new with the material, and even if you get everything right, even if you come out with something outstanding, it's just a landscape that's been painted by too many people, and any power it may have had to be powerful or bold has been removed by over-exposure. And in lieu of telling a story with a fresh perspective, we get a 23rd iteration of the same old thing, and at a certain point that's just franchising.

Jane Eyre as a marketing brand cuts more water than an original story about the same period or even an adaptation of a lesser known novel. It sells as instant credibility and quality coming at half the effort. Jane Eyre didn't even have to be a good movie to get good reviews, because to the viewers it's not about being challenged or being told a story. It's about finding something they know every moment of in advance and seeing it play out exactly as planned. Intellectual comfort food. But isn't then the goal to be familiar? And if it is, then how can a movie of Jane Eyre ever be great. It's nothing against this movie in particular, I found it to be strikingly shot and as always, terrifically acted. Mia Wasikowska in particular, showing the kind of subtlety and intelligence she did way back on the first year of In Treatment, and she is certainly one of the best young actresses around. Michael Fassbender would no doubt be everyone's immediate choice for a role like Mr Rochester, a dark mysterious figure, who just might be Charlotte Bronte's version of the bad boy with the heart of Gold.

I think Fassbender can be great, but I've yet to see him completely pull of being subtle, and seeing him acting opposite Wasikowska only brought this home to me. I don't think he's bad by any means, and he certainly has more than one moment of powerful charismatic intensity. But I wanted him to bring something more to it, something maybe a bit more cerebral. Judi Dench turns up in what might be the most obvious piece of casting of all time, and Jamie Bell turns in some great, sure to be overlooked work in what we shall call the 'Jacob' role, to suit the parlance of our times. Everything is perfectly fine, and the story is a classic, with some surprising and welcome darkness. It's just, I already knew that. And I was expected to already know that, and the movie can only be forgettable when deliberately choosing a story with such a level of saturation. Literary classics are not a reason to never try anything new and this damn modern age inferiority complex is getting boring.

Rating: 6/10

No comments: