Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jane Eyre 2011 Review...

Preamble:
WARNING: If you don't want any spoilers, then I advise that you go no further in reading this review...I just couldn't help but give specific examples and lines :)
I'm an avid Jane Eyre fan. While other teens have become Twilight junkies, the only book I've ever been completely addicted to is Jane Eyre; to the point that I read it almost every month. So imagine my excitement when I found out last year that the 2011 adaptation was being released..

As a Jane Eyre fanatic, I'm very picky about how films portray the novel, and my approval isn't easily won. I've seen every version starting with the Orson Welles 1944. I couldn't really criticize that version using my modern standards, so I always thought that considering the time period it was done well. There have been multiple versions released to the big screen and TV since then. I think the most popular of those have been the 1983 starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke, the 1997 version with Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton, the 1996 utilizing Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt, and lastly the 2006 with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

...I was fully impressed by NONE of these versions. Gasp if you want. Not to say that none of them were good because I was actually in love with the 2006 for a very long time; but I found good and bad points in each one and none of them really satisfied my true vision of "Jane Eyre". The 1983 stuck close to the book as far as dialogue, but it was dry in places where passion should have been exuded and over-dramatic in scenes where emotions should be subtle.
The 1997 wouldn't have been that bad if it had not been for Ciaran Hinds screaming his way through most of the movie. Hello, just because Rochester was moody and cynical does not mean he was always yelling! The 1996 was a degree better but I personally thought both Rochester and Jane were boring and monotonous. This hurt me to the core because I love William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg as actors, they just didn't fit as Rochester and Jane.
 All in all the 2006 version came closest. Because of it being a lengthy adaption, almost every detail remained completely in tact and the chemistry between Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens made my heart flutter. There was but one downfall: the dialogue was so dumbed down that it didnt even seem like it was taken from the novel. I don't know about you, but to me that is a HUGE downfall, seeing that it is the language that Bronte infuses into the novel that captures the reader.

So there are my criticisms of the former adaptions. Yes, I know that there have been more, but most were too horrific to mention and this review is already becoming long enough. Many of you may be pointing your mouses to the little red "x" in the corner of your screen because of what I've just said. I know my judgment tends be harsh. That being said, I wondered if I would ever find an adaptation of Jane Eyre that would stir my heart in the same way that the book does. It didn't have to be PERFECT, but it damn sure had to be close. I saw the trailer of the newest version and thought that this one would be taking a gamble. I doubted that it could be the one to uproot the 2006 from first place and actually serve as a definitive version of the novel.

However, ladies and gentleman, I was utterly wrong in that assumption. This movie is a MUST SEE. It has its good and bad points like every version, which I will elaborate on, but as a whole it is the best version I've seen so far. This movie captures the essence of the novel in the largest and smallest of ways. I did not write a review at first because I wasn't sure if I wasn't seeing what I wanted to see in the movie. Just to be sure, I went to see it a second time after all my excitement had worn off. I got pretty much the same results, and so now I choose to give my review.


Casting:
The first thing that immediately jumped out to me when I saw the movie was the casting choice. At first glance, I had my doubts about Mia Wasikowska. In the clips supplied by Youtube, she seemed kind of expressionless and a bit too reserved to project the character of Jane Eyre. Yet, Mia delivered. Actually, she did more than deliver. She completely embodied Jane. She was able to portray repressed emotions through her eyes, and I as a viewer sympathized with her. She exuded the strength and independence that I always imagine Jane having while also showing the more vulnerable, tender sides of her. I got a different take on Jane through her performance. Yes, Jane is strong willed, but there is also a child in her that is somewhat reserved and unsure of herself in many aspects. Mia shows the process of Jane's maturation. We see her go from that hesitant girl to a strong woman. Perhaps this idea of maturation was helped by the fact that for once, Jane actually looks eighteen, which seems to be an age other actresses just can't get right in previous versions.

Now, forgive me for being a swoony female, but we ALL know that the success of a "Jane Eyre" adaption is for the most part measured by its Rochester. The Jane may be very well played, but if you have the wrong man playing Rochester it takes away from Jane herself because the two are supposed to be interconnected. It is for this reason that I took great care in inspecting Michael Fassbender's performance.
 Rochester is not an easy character to play. He's brooding, sarcastic, and mysterious. Sometimes he even borders on eccentric. We never really know what goes on under the surface until it's actually revealed to us. When I first saw Michael Fassbender was casted, my immediate reaction was "NO!" Why is that? Because he's freaking GORGEOUS! How could Hollywood insult the very novel by inserting another copy/pasted pretty boy into the movie to play one of the most controversial and internally tormented byronic heroes in literature? But boy, was I wrong. From the moment he fell off the horse, I knew that Fassbender was going to be something great, and that feeling only amplified as I watched him more.
Michael Fassbender absolutely BLEW me away as Rochester. When we first meet him, he plays Rochester as a jackass. He's moody, arrogant, and sarcastic. What's great is that this is how Rochester is SUPPOSED to be! He's an asshole. Fassbender masters the role of Rochester by showing his steady transformation from the arrogant master to the man in passionate love. His facial expressions are on point in every scene. We can see Rochester slowly peeling away Jane's layers while also allowing Jane to peel away his. The book always refers to Rochester as so passionate that he edges on "dangerous", and Fassbender brought that kind of passion to the screen without making it over-dramatic. If you haven't seen the movie, then you'll know what I mean by the time you do. I could go on and on, but the point is that Fassbender IS Rochester for me. Hands down.

 Fassbender and Wasikowska had natural chemistry on screen that built as the plot progressed. There were scenes between them that brought tears to my eyes (which does not happen often). Both actors created this natural playfulness between the characters through body language, eye contact, and facial expressions. The simplest scenes were made into the most beautiful; an art that has been lost in Hollywood lately. There was one scene in particular in which there are only about four lines and yet Mia and Michael turned it into one of the most tender moments in the movie.
Rochester: Jane Eyre with nothing to say?
Jane: Everything seems unreal.
Rochester: I am real enough.
Jane: You, sir, are most phantom-like of all.
BEAUTIFUL.

The supporting cast was as sound as any. Jamie Bell gave a younger take to St. John. In this movie, he and Jane have these awkward moments of eye contact that show St. John might actually have a little crush on her. Jamie made St. John more likeable which in turn established him as more of a foil and rival to Rochester. However, he also kept the basic dettached coldness that is also required of St. John so by the time he proposes we know who Jane is really supposed to be with.
Dame Judi Dench was marvelous, as usual. There's not much you can criticize about her. She gave Miss Fairfax a maternal edge and didn't make her too annoying or "simple-minded." I loved her.
Sally Hawkins also turned in a credible (albeit small) performance. Mrs. Reed was really a sweet woman on the outside, it was just that she was wicked when it came to Jane.

Screenplay/Cinematography/Soundtrack:
The casting was amazing, but they wouldn't have been half so much had it not been for the fact that Moira Buffini created a beautiful script. The dialogue between the characters, though condensed, stayed faithfully true to the book in almost every circumstance. For "Jane Eyre" fanatics who are obsessed with certain lines in the book (as "Jane Eyre" fans are prone to be), I'm sure that you'll find most of those lines in the movie. This is also the first adaption that actually uses the true Yorkshire accent instead of the usual prim and proper British accent.

Cinematography: Absolutely beautiful. The darkness of the whole setting really emphasizes the gothic elements present in the novel and I found it intriguing to watch how the lighting changed based on Jane's emotions. There are sweeping views of landscapes that emphasize Jane's isolation on the moors.
Adriano Goldman made the setting a character of its own, which is very important, because Thornfield itself almost serves as an independent character.

Soundtrack: When you have Dario Marianelli, it's hard to go wrong. Mark my words, this soundtrack will deffinitely be in talks for the Oscars. Using raw violin samples and subtle piano solos, the score helped the audience feel the same sentiments that Jane herself was feeling. It also flows so effortlessly that it doesn't overshadow the performances but rather finds a mold in them.

Other Positives:
    Though the plot left much to be desired, other very small details were included in this version that stayed extremely true to the novel. The costumes were perfect, the script was VERY faithful to the book, and while watching the movie I found myself matching certain details to quotes in the novel. I also liked how this movie managed to make the story still be told in first person without using voiceovers. There are many moments where the camera shoots directly from Jane's angle, such as when she's looking through windows, or when she first comes to thornfield. I still got the "first-person" feel, because I saw things through Jane's eyes without constantly having to be alerted by a voiceover. (Some people enjoy voiceovers, but I don't particularly like them.)


Negatives:

No one likes to sit in a movie theater for much more than two hours, which gave the film a serious disadvantage. There were many key scenes in the plot that were cut out no doubt to save time, but which hurt the overall impact of the story. A lot of scenes used in the trailer were actually taken out of the movie, which disappointed me because it made the plot feel a little choppy and rushed.
For example, no explanation is given as to who Adele actually is or Rochester's experience with her mother. That conversation serves a stepping stone in the relationship between Jane and Rochester, and without it their relationship goes straight from "do you think me handsome?" to "I knew you'd do me good the first time I met you." It feels like Jane and Rochester's relationship wasn't given a lot of time to develop. Blanche Ingram is also not really utilized that much. She appears in two scenes to project the idea that "hey, Jane is supposed to be feeling jealous", but she isn't established as a true rival. Also, a little more emphasis on Bertha's presence would have been great because when she was finally revealed, it didn't really feel as climatic as I would have liked.
To me, these are the only setbacks in the entire movie. Yes, they are major setbacks, but the movie was still utterly beautiful without the missing scenes. Not only that, but I'm not really worried about it because I'm sure that deleted scenes will be on the DVD whenever it's released and I fully intend on purchasing it. It turns out that Cary Fukunaga's director's cut was 2 hours and 30 minutes whereas the final movie was only an hour and 55. Just 15 more minutes would have almost made the movie impeccable. The lack of development in Jane and Rochester's relationship is easily forgiven because the performances are so strong that you learn not to begrudge them.
Trying to look from the perspective of other Jane Eyre fans, I realized that the reunion scene may serve as a negative to some. It was abrupt and didn't really expound on the "happily ever after" theme. Personally, this scene didn't disappoint me in the least. It's the type of scene that depends on the taste of the viewer. More screentime between Jane and Rochester would have been nice, but I think that the black out basically gave us this point: that Jane and Rochester are now together and nothing else really matters. Jane is telling Rochester to wake up from his "dream" and the black out tells the audience to wake up from theirs (because, let's face it, this movie felt like a perfect dream to me). I could easily forgive the fact that the scene took place outside instead of inside with the glass of water because Cary Fukunaga came up with the brilliant idea that Rochester would be sitting under the ruined tree that he proposed to Jane under. It all struck me as very symbolic and subtly romantic. Not only that,  but the emotion from the scene (despite its brevity) stayed with me as I exited the movie theater, went to bed that night, woke up the next morning.. The words echoed in my head in every spare moment.

Some who have seen the movie may have different opinions. This is the type of movie that each Jane Eyre fan will digest differently, so I can't ENSURE that you'll enjoy it because most likely my taste is different from yours. The key to watching it is to put aside all your preconceptions and strictures. If you go into the movie making a mental checklist of things that you don't like or things that you EXPECT, then I'm pretty sure that you're going to find yourself intensely miserable and miss the whole point of the movie. I know it's hard to push your judgments to the back of your mind, but that's really the only way you can enjoy this version. You can't compare it to the multiple miniseries' that have come before it because it stands alone and only had a 2 hour gap to work with. All in all, this movie was in no way perfect, and I don't want you to exit my review with that impression. I wish it HAD been a miniseries, though, because if it was then it really would be perfect to me.
Grade: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
As a whole, this movie blew away all my prior doubts and suspicions. I don't know about you, but I have found my "favorite" version of Jane Eyre. I realize that many will not agree with me. Some people hated the movie. Others were in that place in the middle where they weren't sure what to think. As for me, all I could think of as I exited the movie theater and went to sleep that night was...
                                                                     "This is a dream."
                                                                      "Well then awaken."

25 comments:

  1. I love the newest version the best - it captured the "feel" of the book. But I have to admit I had a huge crush on Timothy Dalton when I was young - and watched that version over and over and over and over so his voice is now stuck in my head! It was hard for my to actually adjust to the new Rochester, but I found he grew on me after the second time I saw the movie.

    Great review of the movie!

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  2. Thank you very much! :) I'm glad to see you're reading the book.

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  3. "There was one scene in particular in which there are only about four lines and yet Mia and Michael turned it into one of the most tender moments in the movie.
    Rochester: Jane Eyre with nothing to say?
    Jane: Everything seems unreal.
    Rochester: I am real enough.
    Jane: You, sir, are most phantom-like of all. "

    One of my favorite parts of the movie (beautiful in every aspect).

    Loved your review!

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  4. Thank you very much! I'm glad you stopped by my blog. That particular part was breathtaking in all its simplicity. I love finding passion in the most subtle of gestures. That is what makes a love story truly appealing to me. Not everything is always blatantly shown to the audience, they must decipher it a little for themselves. At least, that's my firm belief. :)

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  5. I loved this version too and I think it's my new favorite (with the 2006 coming in second). I loved the cinematography, the haunting music, the script, and especially the acting. Fassbender and Wasikowska became Rochester and Jane for me. If you enjoyed Mia's performance, I strongly recommend the HBO series "In Treatment"--she has a standout role in 9 episodes of the first season. Great review!

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  6. Thank you. The 2006 comes in second for me as well. I was extremely surprised by some of the reviews I read that pronounced Mia and Michael "awkward" because I just don't see how anyone could think that! Their chemistry was amazing to watch and truly refreshing seeing that lately there's been too much "manufactured" chemistry on screen.

    I'm much more interested in Mia now. I saw her play Alice but didn't pay much attention to her because the role didn't really call for much. I was glad that I actually hadn't seen her much before she played Jane because then I would have been thinking of all her other roles. It was the exact opposite with Michael Fassbender because I had actually seen his European movies and really liked them. I just hadn't ever pictured him as Rochester. But his performance changed my mind! I'm glad to see that his talent is finally being embraced in the US, because he's a GREAT actor.

    Definitely going to look up "In Treatment." Thank you for the tip.

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  7. What a wonderful review - thank you for this! I am a huge Jane Eyre fan, having read the book uncountable times. I also watched the Jane Eyre 2011 movie twice, and although a little dark, I thought it matches the entire mood of the book as well. The chemistry between Michael and Mia is sizzling, without them needing to dramatize their emotions. I also love how the lines stay close to the book, unlike the 2006 version. I like the 2006 a lot, for its passion, but would prefer to watch it in a detached mode, that is, not referring it to the book - because the script and dialogue (and some scenes) are so different from that of the book! I prefer the 1983 to the 2006 version, for its excellent actors and accurate dialogue, and I thought Zelah played Jane Eyre very well too. However, I do not think Zelah is the right age to play Jane Eyre and I thought Timothy Dalton and Zelah did not have a strong chemistry, unlike Fassbender and Wasikowska.

    All said, I love all the adaptations of Jane Eyre (except the 1996 version in which I thought both the actors were very stilted and unnatural) - because Jane Eyre is my favourite book! However, nothing compares to reading the actual book itself. It is resplendent :)

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  8. My words exactly! Mia and Michael's chemistry is truly amazing in this movie. I remember watching the leaving scene and sitting in the theater sobbing. But what I noticed is that the leaving scene is completely raw! There's not a note of music to hype up the emotional intensity, which is something that filmmakers often use to make a remedial performance seem better. Mia and Michael just used their talent and natural chemistry and created a breathtaking scene that just blew me away. If you can create that type of emotion without all the effects, then that's real chemistry. I agree with your analyses of the '06 and '83, though I would put the '06 in front of the latter by just a hair. I too did not particularly like how the '06 changed the dialogue and the scenes, though I did like what they did with the gypsy scene.

    You are right, just reading the book moves me more than any adaption ever could. But it's always great to see someone bring your favorite novel to life, even if it wasn't your mental image. Just seeing how many adaptions have been made over the years is a testament to how well the book still resonates in readers.

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  9. AGREED. Although lacking in some important plot, this was the best version yet! I love Mia, I felt she portrayed Jane pretty perfectly.

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  10. Hello there! I (of couse) agree with your comment. Thank you for taking the time to stop by. I hope to see more of you.

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  11. Hi LitLover! I just stumbled across your blog googling photos for Jane Eyre to share with a friend, and I couldn't help but read this and think that we are twin souls! lol I completely agree with all you said in your review and I can't WAIT to get the DVD version! Jane Eyre is my favorite book ever, and so far I've seen this movie 4 times. :) It was truly spectacular! On a different note, have you seen Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea? If not, I know you'd love them!

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  12. @LaurenB: YES! Another Jane Eyre lover has been found! I too saw the movie four times when it was in theaters and I have the DVD now. Have you seen any of the other versions? I haven't seen Anne of Avonlea or Anne of Green Gables, but I have read the book. I will definitely be giving them a look. Thank you for the recommendation. Hope to see more from you!

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  13. Loved your review! You really captured the many details and overall feel of the film. I will be buying this version of Jane Eyre as a treat for myself sometime this month. I can't wait to see it again.

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  14. Thank you very much. I've bought it and am really enjoying it. :)

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  15. As I saw it today I was a little dissapointed, as you say key elements were missed out, I agree not much was made of Bertha's presence and nothing of Jane's distrust and dislike of Grace Poole, nothing was made of the after events of the fire-which I thought a strange omission given that it did happen. The distain of the "society" ladies had for the mere governess was not properly brought across and in fact, the whole visit made little of. I agree that the explanation of Adele's parentage would have been better put in. My opinion is out on how the film started and went back as a reminiscence--it worked but it was a bit odd, or maybe that's just me!! I did like the film, but I don't think it will break the box office, the passion, to me, just wasn't as passionate as it should have been

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  16. Hello there Nuttynurse :). I'm very glad to see you've found this blog. I enjoyed seeing all of your comments, and I see that there are many points that we agree and differ on. I completely understand why some people will not like this adaptation. It takes many new steps that some Jane Eyre puritans might or might not agree with. I'm the type of Jane Eyre fan that wants to see a bit of the modern take intertwined with that of the traditional text, and for me this film gave me exactly what I was looking for. At the same time, I wouldn't recommend it to a fan who is looking for spot-on faithfulness.

    I also think that the British audience might not like this film as much as the Americans did. Across the see, you guys are valiantly protective of your great literature in a way that the Americans don't really understand. With the director of this version being American, I don't think he really understood the impact of taking out simple details such as Adele's mother, Jane's cousinship with St. John, and the impact of the Ingram's visit. The director came at it from what seemed like a cinematographic and technical standpoint (where he executed wonderfully) but might not have paid enough attention to the importance of the Literature behind the story.

    I have to agree to disagree with you on the "passion" aspect. I think that this particular version showed a primitive and rather subtle passion that I found completely palpable. The ending was very abrupt, but it left this echoing stillness that I loved. It's also hard to execute the further explanation of Jane's life with Edward after the marriage because there's no voiceover and it might come across rather cliche in a movie. In that aspect, I like the artistic license taken. On the other hand, the importance of a scene like the explanation of Adele's parentage hit me hard. I wish it had been put in.

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  17. Thank you! I have seen many positive reviews of this version, but yours captures what I am thinking perfectly. I have been haunted by this movie for a few weeks now and think about Fassbender's Rochester almost constantly. I bought my own copy of the DVD and am wearing it away by how many times I have watched certain scenes. If there is one drawback to the film, it is that it left me wanting so much more. While the DVD has some of the deleted scenes, from watching the trailer and behind the scenes featurettes, I suspect other scenes were cut. I would dearly love to see the full director's version plus all of the trailer/extra scenes.

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  18. @Mary: I AGREE. The only downside to this movie is that there just isn't enough of it. I too have the DVD now and I watch it constantly. Though the deleted scenes included gave me a little taste of what was missing, I was dearly hoping for a director's cut. It pains me that they didn't release it.

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  19. Is this blog strictly for people who only liked the 2011 version the best? I havent seen it yet. I will rent it from the library and try very hard to be totally objective. 2006 seems to come in 2nd on this site. And I have seen sites where people do not like 2011t very much. I guess its a toss-up which one people liked better (at least according to all the reading I've done on the internet). I guess there's good and bad about both. I guess I agree the 2006 did not use the more complicated and sophisticated vocabulary of 1840's England. However I felt it got the point across by nuance, and was in no way "dumb" as some people would say. And I felt Ruth and Toby were sizzling and it will be hard to top, but alas, maybe it can be topped. Truthfully, I will admit my shallowness, and admit its my favorite so far simply because of Toby Stephens. Yum! (Even though he is supposed to be unattractive). (But to be fair, Michael Fassbender is good looking too, so neither toby or michael follow the book's description of an unattractive Rochester! Anyhow, I am in love with toby's rochester so 2006u is first to me so far. I can't imagine someone else being as seductive and sexy and handsome as him. I think he has set the bar high for Fassbender. But if Fassbender can do it, good for him. You go, Michael! Give it your best! You are a great actor. I guess regarding the two versions, beauty and satisfaction is in the eye of the beholder. I will probably wind up liking them the same. So that would be a tie for first place. We'll see!

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    1. Ha ha I'm sure it comes off that way, but this is by no means just for people who love the 2011 version most. Obviously, it's my personal favorite but what I love most about this site is that there is a lot of disagreement if you look through the comments. Everyone has their own opinion, and I love hearing the debate. There are fans of almost every version who come to defend their favorites when I seem harsh. I hope you watch it soon and come back to tell me what you think!

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  20. I'm a huge fan of this adaptation. Having watched it 5x now, I'm noticing subtle details that wasn't so obvious at first. When Jane ran away, Rochester shouted "Jane! Jane! Jane!" from her bedroom window. His echo or voice in the air, was heard 3 distinct times after that, but not all in the same scene. The first time was at the school house where Jane was standing outside. The 2nd and 3rd time when she turned down St. John's proposal. Lovely twist on an iconic scene.

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  21. I love Jane Eyre to pieces- I've been reading it back to back for almost a year and every time I find something different in it that I love (best book EVER written!) I totally agree with what you said, it's amazing to find someone who loves the book like me! I think that the 2006 version was incredible, the plot was almost perfect but the dialogue was a huge letdown- in the 2011 version, the plot was missing key bits that I was so looking forward to, but the acting and casting was near impeccable. Sometimes I just want to make a movie about it myself, so that I finally have one that's perfect for me!

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  22. Great review! I haven't read the book, but I have seen 2, or maybe 3 other versions, and I felt that the story was rushed in this movie.

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  23. Theatrical release feels rushed and Jane's female rivals are under-developed, leaving it hard to care about the characters due to lack of arc and impact.

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