*There will be spoilers. This story is over a 100 years old but still, just in case…
Let me fully explain upfront my knowledge of Jane Eyre before going into this film. I had seen part of an older adaptation (I could not tell you about who was in it or anything like that) many years ago, and I knew that Rochester was already married to a crazy lady, and I knew Jane went back to him in the end. (I forgot about him being blind until the end of this movie, then I remembered from before. Nothing else in between or from before the wedding rang a bell for me.) I also went into this movie knowing it was not some happy, sweet Jane Austen thing. I expected it to be a little depressing. It was a beautifully shot film and all the actors/actresses were great. But something left me wanting in the end.
For someone who had not read the book, this movie feels ridiculously underdeveloped. It feels like it takes approximately two weeks (I know it’s longer) for Jane and Rochester to fall in love with each other, and they have like zero chemistry beforehand. The second they kiss they look happy, but before then there’s nothing, not even tension. What does Rochester see in Jane? Someone different and who speaks her mind? That was all I could gather. But really I want to know what Jane sees in Rochester. Uh, a dude? I have no clue. Aside from looking like Michael Fassbender (though not the best version of him), I’d say he really had nothing going for him. Especially when you watch the deleted scenes (or read the book, I imagine) and learn about his previous mistresses. I mean, dude is just not faithful. And I found him a little creepy. So… no.
Oh, and up until Rivers basically said, “Stop being silly and marry me already, you’ll like me eventually,” I was completely shipping him and Jane even though I totally knew that was going to crash and burn.
In two hours, I felt I got a pretty good grasp on Jane, which is good. The backstory was sad but intriguing and the non-linear narrative I think mostly worked for the film. The parts with Rochester felt so brief and so not-at-all romantic though that the whole romance just feel extremely flat, even in the end when Rochester is redeemed (though I did finally feel a little bad for him at that point, because he did actually try to save everyone from the fire and ended up blind).
I was just never convinced that either of them really loved the other. At all. She was like, “Oh, a boy!” and he was like, “Hey, I can manipulate this chick.”
So I need to know from fans of the book (Charlene and Alisa, for starters), is their relationship way better in the book? Is it better developed? Do you actually root for them? Does Rochester seem like less of a jerk, or at least start to become slightly less of one and become more likable throughout?
I’m also curious how creepy the book is, based on deleted scenes that I think put a bad aftertaste in my mouth, and may have even affected my overall rating for it, though I know it shouldn’t. There are two or three scenes not included in the movie where Jane’s dead childhood friend shows up. And I’m not a fan of paranormal or ghosts, not because I think they’re scary, I just don’t care for it. I thought the movie felt haunting enough without adding that, which is why I suppose they didn’t, but is this a theme in the book? Because I’m not interested in ghost stories.
The craft of the film and the cast are spot-on, but the story felt underdeveloped and left much to be desired for me. For these reasons, this gets a 3-star rating from me.
If you’re a Jane Eyre fan, tell me what I missed from this movie!
It’s one of those classic books I had to read in high school and never quite understood why it’s stood the test of time. It’s dark and foreboding and I can distinctly remember not liking any of the characters. You’re not missing much by not reading the book.
That’s the way it is with classics it seems… some of them are pretty great and some just make you wonder what the fuss is about! And I always hate it when I don’t like any of the characters, and in the movie most of the characters were pretty unlikable.
I’d say this adaptation is one of my least favourites of the Jane Eyre adaptations I’ve seen. I completely agree, the relationship development happens super fast in this movie and comes off as rushed and kinda out of nowhere. The book is 10 million times better! Everything takes place much more gradually and you can see Jane and Rochester coming together as a ‘meeting of minds’ so to speak, rather than just suddenly realizing they’re into each other as this film version seems to imply. In terms of other film adaptations, I’d recommend either the Timothy Dalton/Zelah Clarke version from the 1980s (which in my opinion is the most faithful to the book) or the Ruth Wilson/Toby Stephens 2006 mini-series, which is also quite good. This 2011 version just did not do it for me, and honestly my friends and I were cracking up in the theatre when we saw this one…and Jane Eyre is *not* meant to be funny. Some of the dialogue was just so over-the-top melodramatic! *takes a deep breath* Okay, rant over 😀
I’m relieved to hear that this adaptation does not do the relationship in the book justice, because I thought the relationship came from left field (even though I knew it was coming!). Maybe one day I’ll check out the mini-series or the movie from the 80s. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Danya!
First of all, thank you so much for asking my opinion on this because I would feel bad leaving these long paragraphs otherwise! 😀 And I got in before Alisa! I look forward to reading her thoughts!
I am a bit disappointed that you didn’t love this film, although I understand some of your issues. For me, this is the best of the ~2 hour film adaptations. (And in my opinion the best of the miniseries is actually the older 1973 version, but that’s another story!) I can understand not liking the movie as much because it is rushed, there’s lots that we don’t see, and I wish they had included some of those deleted scenes in the film as they would have been very useful in fleshing out the story. I really am not sure what I would think of the story if I had seen a film version of it before I read it – I might not have appreciated the film either. So it may be that knowing the characters so well allowed me to believe in their development on film so much.
For those initial scenes with Jane and Rochester, I think you are spot on with what Rochester sees in Jane, and as for Jane, I think it’s much the same – Rochester is different (kinda eccentric really) and he isn’t afraid to speak to Jane in a way that is very different to what she’s used to. They really could have showed more of their conversations – that would have helped to develop why they are falling in love. As for the attractiveness of Rochester’s character – definitely the book gives you more insight – he’s not perfect, but I think it’s easier to understand him better when you read the book. I root for Rochester because he is damaged and Jane is the one he needs to save him basically. Very over the top romantic to me. 😀 He’s really a good person underneath but ‘his principles have grown a little awry for want of attention.’ (there’s a line like that in the book.)
As for the ghost-like Helen Burns in the deleted scenes – it’s not in the book at all – and I think it was just a way they were thinking of visually showing how much Helen Burns impacted Jane. Because she obviously doesn’t have a big part in the film (or the book) but Jane learned a lot from her. The creepiness of the book plays more on not knowing what’s up with the third floor, but you know all that already so the book probably won’t scare you at all. Unfortunately. 🙂
And hopefully you won’t kinda like St. John when you read the book! Cause he is not a nice guy really! 😀
The reason why I like this film in particular by the way (I should really stop typing now though!) is that it captures the mood of the story and the nature of the characters so well to me. With a lot of the 2 hour films, Jane comes off as weak and I felt like Mia was amazing at showing her strength with just her bearing and her eyes, and Mr. Rochester is almost always a mess in these films. One-dimensional at best, and at worst very disagreeable. And I thought that Fassbender captured Rochester’s mercurial, eccentric nature without being over the top. For me, my favorite side of Rochester is when he is teasing, and I can not resist Fassbender’s way of showing that. Like in the scene when Jane asks for leave to visit Mrs. Reed. For me, this whole film was a gorgeously shot, acted and subdued portrait of Jane’s life. It would have been so incredible as a miniseries!
Okay, I’ll stop. I will just highly recommend reading the book, I hope you like it! 🙂
Thanks Charlene for your thoughts, and I appreciate you taking the time to really explain your feelings! Based on what you said about the characters, I do have to agree that the characters were pretty well portrayed in the film. As you said, Jane does not come off as weak, even though she looks so fragile and and has had a hard life. And Rochester was certainly a bit eccentric. It was just the development of their relationship was so strange to me.
I would be curious to learn more about how Helen really impacted Jane, because I didn’t get a strong sense of how in the film, just that she did somehow. Even though I liked the narrative structure of the film, just getting little glimpses of the past were probably not enough for me considering I had not read the book.
And Rivers not nice in the book?! I mean, I guess that’s good for not shipping him and Jane, but he seemed super nice in the movie (again, until towards the end).
I’ll probably try reading the book one day, I just don’t know quite when. I may have to check out one of the adaptations you mentioned as well. Thanks again!
I agree with all your points especially St. John! He is really a horrible person in many ways, I think he cares more about his heavenly reward than people and how they feel in the book. I really intensely dislike him as a character! He doesn’t love or care for Jane in the way she deserves and though Rochester does really bad things I think his feelings are more sincere.
Wow, he really didn’t come off the way in the movie! So sad that he’s a jerk!
I was tempted to see this movie, although I felt I should read the book first. Your review has kind of put me off the movie, it doesn’t seem like one I am going to like. I feel like both characters would get on my nerves, and so would the romance between them. I might still try reading the book though.
If you read the book and like, maybe the movie will be a nice supplement since you’ll know all the details I missed out on.
I am sad that you didn’t enjoy this one that much! I really appreciated it because of the movie adaptations it was the most similar to the book in terms of themes and it actually used Bronte’s original prose rather than attempting to simplify it like so many other films have. I really liked Mia and Fassbender in the movie but I understand how you feel!
I think perhaps you will appreciate the story more if you watch a mini-series adaptation! I definitely recommended the 1973 version in terms of fidelity to the novel (though be aware that the set design and costumes are VERY dated, I really like the actors in this one) the 1980’s version with Timothy Dalton is more updated and I prefer Michael Jayston as Rochester but it definitely is true to the novel. The 2006 is very popular and a lot of Jane Eyre fans love it but I wish they had kept a bit more true to the novel in terms of some of the themes, Ruth Wilson however is EXCELLENT as Jane and it is worth seeing.
As for Rochester, he is a complicated character I think people tend to fall into two categories with him LOVE or HATE. For me I understand where he is coming from, he had a Father who really didn’t love him and basically sold him off in marriage to a woman he barely knew, who it turns out was mad. I think it gives more of an explanation for why he choses to keep it secret and why he keeps her in Thornfield, because of the bad conditions in asylums in this period. He certainly does some terrible things in the book but I think it is because he is desperate and you get more of his redemption/remorse for his actions in the book than you can in a 2 hour movie. I think in the book you get the sense of how much he values Jane and respects her, in spite of his selfish actions. I like that he is complicated and I certainly love his growth throughout the novel!
Thanks for your thoughts, Alisa! Hopefully I’ll have the chance to check out one of those other adaptations and/or the novel sometime, and get a better grip on the characters and everything. I can see how you would really enjoy the movie if you already knew the story, but I don’t think it was the best introduction into the story.
I could totally see that! I think perhaps it is just a story that is more suited to a longer format!
This is the only adaption I’ve watched but I have read the book and I do agree, their relationship was definitely underdeveloped. I’m a fan of silences in movies, of the quiet thoughts, but in the book there is so much contemplation, thoughtful and provocative discussions between the two that I missed them in the movie. In the book you can see their affections arise over the course of the book.
That being said, I found the book dry to read — it took me a long time to finish it. Maybe it’s because I’m not as smart as the characters, but they were talking so much philosophy and had such extensive vocabularies that I was lost a lot of the time just trying to understand what they were saying. That was five years ago, so maybe I should give it another go. I think you should read it too. Then we can have long-winded, intellectual conversations about it, haha.
That does sound like it might be hard to get through, but that doesn’t mean I won’t check it out one day. At least I know their relationship actually develops in the book!