First Hit: Beautifully shot, well-acted, but there was something dramatically missing.
This story has been done many times and this version was one of the most beautifully shot of all of them.
The feeling of the cold moist damp rain of England, the moors, the stone floors, the heavy drapes, the wavy glass windows, the candle and fire lit rooms were all visually arresting and felt true to the time. Here the director got it right.
The film begins with Jane (played by Mia Wasikowska) running away from the home of Mr. Rochester (played by Michael Fassbender) where she had been governess to his child ward. Her journey there began as an unwanted child (played by Amelia Clarkson) by her guardian Mrs. Reed (played by Sally Hawkins). Reed ships her off to a boarding school where she is treated poorly but becomes educated.
Unfortunately there is no resemblance between the actresses of the young and older Jane and this obvious mismatch was troublesome. Although there was a consistent feeling of Jane through these two actresses, and both were very good, the obvious physical discrepancies (mouth, lips, eyes and nose) were disconcerting to me and kept me from buying the story.
When the older Jane arrives at Mr. Rochester’s home she is greeted by Mrs. Fairfax (played by Judi Dench) who guides her into the role as governess. Mr. Rochester is intrigued by Jane and her direct fearless openness towards him and compels him to want to marry her.
In the rush to get the wedding done, a relative of his first wife barges in to object to the marriage. Jane is heartbroken and runs away (the opening scene). She makes her way to St. John Rivers (played by Jamie Bell) and his two sisters. They take her in and give her the opportunity to begin life again as a teacher in a small countryside school. But Jane’s heart yearns for Mr. Rochester and eventually she finds her way back.
Wasikowska is very good and endearing in this role, however I don’t know if it was something her acting, in the direction or in the lack of chemistry between her and Fassbender that left me unconvinced of this story. Fassbender was good as the troubled wealthy man looking for love and peace. But as previously stated something didn’t work in this film. Clarkson was wonderful as the young Jane and despite the obvious physical dissimilarities between her and the older Jane she did a wonderful job. Bell came off as fully untrustworthy from the get go. Whether his was supposed to come off this way or not, I don’t know. But the moment he picks up Jane from his front door, he felt creepy and it bothered me that Jane didn’t see it. Dench was strong as the house head housekeeper and guiding light for Jane. Moira Buffini wrote a good script from the Charlotte Bronte novel. Cary Fukunaga shot this film exquisitely, however there was something missing, a compelling chemistry, to make this version the best ever done.
Overall: I like this film, but left the theater wanting something more compelling.