The world was not yearning for another film version of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” (there have been at least 20 different film and television adaptations), and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s new spin only serves to confirm the old saying “leave well enough alone.”
If Fukunaga and screenplay author Moira Buffini had any new ideas or insight to bring to the well-worn source material, they didn’t bother putting it on screen. Not that you would have been able to see very much – cinematographer Adriano Goldman keeps most of the scenes so dimly lit that one is left to wonder whether he was trying to save the production company money on their electric bills or whether he mistakenly believed that “Jane Eyre” was supposed to take place in a coal mine.
Mia Wasikowska’s stiff Jane and Michael Fassbender’s cranky Rochester add to the confusion – anyone who is familiar with the Bronte text or the numerous other film versions will be baffled by the utter lack of emotion (let alone oxygen) in the stars’ performances. The rest of the cast carefully recite their lines in robotic monotones, as if they learned their lines phonetically. Judi Dench, serving a light hammy turn as the chatty housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax, is the only one who tries to pump life into this mess. But even an old trooper like Dame Judi cannot prevent this film from collapsing into hopeless inertia.