Jane Eyre (2011)
If you're going to produce a new adaptation of Jane Eyre, it is a good idea to first ask the director if he actually wants to do Jane Eyre. This small truth is one that escaped BBC Films when they hired American director Cary Fukunaga. There have been almost a dozen cinematic adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel and this is by far the worst of the lot. With the Gothic elements emphasised by a director who has no grasp of how to handle Gothic, Jane Eyre is like some awful Dickens story directed by someone who has never read a word of Dickens. It is a travesty from the very first frame where Fukunaga uses a pointless flashback technique that only irritates and we learn another valuable lesson: Extreme close ups or shaky cam; choose one.
Mia Wasikowska is hopelessly miscast as Jane; one of literature's strongest heroines who is here played by an actress who comes across more as an over-caffeinated terrier trying desperately not to explode. Instead of the story of a strong yet kind-hearted woman who seeks some measure of happiness in a hard world, this Jane is an eternal victim subjected to an unending series of sadistic tortures that make no sense of her character development. Despite being the central charcter, Miss Wasikowska under Fukunaga's lazy direction is a mewing cipher who never engages the audience. Worse, Fukunaga's pacing is so glacial that it feels like one is watching a rock formation deform under its own weight as scenes go on for far too long.
The latter is unforgivable, given how much of the plot is left out. Granted, no film can provide more than the highlights of a book, but Fukunaga has dumped the highlights and tried to make a film out of the copyright notice and end papers. The result is a tepid and overlong contrivance that clocks in at two hours–the last half hour of which is pure torture. It's so bad that even Fukunaga can't seem to take it anymore and instead of giving the story a proper ending, he throws it all to the wind and gives us a pointless and infuriating blackout.
The appearance of Michael Fassbender breathes some life into this sorry mess, but it is too little too late. His Mr Rochester is compelling, but Fukunaga gives him too little to work with and he lacks the sense of anguish and elemental passion kept barely in check that the role demands and that Orson Welles captured so well in 1943. Even worse, there is no sexual tension whatsoever between him and Miss Waikowska. Far from setting the screen afire, whenever she shares a scene with Fassbender, Miss Waikowska looks as if she's going to burst into tears at any moment–and those are the happy ones!
A mirthless,. turgid, abomination of a waste of celluloid with a muddy colour pallet, Fukunaga's Jane Eyre is this year's greatest waste of money so far. If you're a Bronte fan (and even if you're not), don't waste you money on this; it will only encourage them.