Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jane Eyre Watch-A-Thon: Jane Eyre (1996)

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I would eventually be getting around to doing another watch-a-thon and finally I got a little bit of free time in my schedule. Last night I cuddled up with a cup of tea, my notebook, and set out watching the first in many adaptions of the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Sadly, I didn't have the time to watch one of the amazingly comprehensive adaptions, so I ended up settling for one of Hollywood's renditions. So without further ado let's get started.

Jane Eyre (1996)
Starring William Hurt as Mr. Rochester, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane Eyre, and Anna Paquin as Young Jane Eyre
Runtime: 116 minutes (About 2 hours...which is typically the norm for all Hollywood adaptions)
Here is a link to the IMDb page:  

Right off the bat I'd just like to say whoever gave this movie 4 stars really needs to be their head checked out pretty fast. Upon revisiting this adaption I found myself not liking this version as much as I had when I first bought it. That being said this isn't the worst adaption of Jane Eyre but it's a far cry from the best as well. As per usual with the movies I don't quite enjoy, I'll start with the pros because there are so few of them.


Jane Voiceover: While some people might find this a bit tacky, I rather enjoyed the voiceover that Gainsbourg as Jane provides at the beginning and end of the movie. It gives audiences almost the same feeling as reading the book because Jane is narrating her own story. So many of these adaptions get lost in the romance of Jane and Rochester that they seem to forget that this is Jane's story, her Bildungsroman that we get the chance to experience with her.

Setting and Attire: Everything seemed to be historically accurate to me, but there were a few moments where I was questioning what Rochester was wearing. That green velvet coat he wears half the time made me want to vomit.

The Red Room: I was so happy when I found out this scene actually made it into this version. Usually this makes the cutting room floor in most adaptions despite the fact that it really is a significant event in young Jane's childhood. I just wish that they would have pointed out in the movie that it was the room that Mr. Reed died in because for audiences who haven't read the book I can bet they are a little confused about why Jane is freaking out so much.

Anna Paquin as Young Jane: Out of all the versions I've watched her performance as Jane sticks out for me and I love it so much. None of the others really can compare to it and had this movie lacked her performance I might have considered it one of the worst adaptions. Paquin portrays a feistier Jane than what is represented in the book, but I still love it. She perfectly delivers the line about how she must keep well and never die to avoid hell.

These are the aspects that I really couldn't place in either the pro or con category. You'll see why.

Mr. Brocklehurst: This particular incarnation of Brocklehurst has some hits and some misses. I applaud the fact that the actor has his annoying sermonizing down pat and his particular brand of pious carelessness. In this version Brocklehurst is always hovering around, which is not something he does in the novel. The movie also ignores the hypocritical nature of his character. They make the haircutting scene rather prominent about how the vain girls shouldn't have braids or curls, but the makers of the movie completely missed the opportunity to include the scene where Brocklehurst's family shows up and all the ladies have prettily curled and braided hair.

The Jane and Helen Friendship: I found the representation of their friendship to be incredibly lacking, but I think that has to do with the limited time allotment. So much more could have been included to make the friendship more tender and believable. I do have to say though that I liked the scene with Jane and Helen before she dies. It was really heartbreaking and made me feel incredibly sad for Jane...that being said I think the success of that scene was due to Paquin's great acting.  

Here's the part where I list all of the cons, so you better get comfy. Maybe get a cup of tea or coffee :) I do have to say that most of these cons are related to the fact that with a limited time allotment, so much was cut out or edited for the worse. Since there are so many points I'll just be putting them in a bulleted list for convenience.

  • The childhood scenes are cut down to the basic essentials. So many significant events are cast aside to be able to devote more time to the Jane and Rochester romance and that sucks. I missed the book scene where John antagonizes Jane and she gets punished for it. Her time at Lowood is also rather spare and lacking detail.
  • The musical score for this movie is SO OBNOXIOUS. In the first 5 minutes of the opening sequence I thought it was rather beautiful and then it just went downhill from there. Every scene begins with a crescendo of the same score over and over again and it really takes away from the action. The soundtrack to a movie is supposed to heighten the mood not completely destroy it.
  • The highly emphasized hair cutting scene is not exactly like it was portrayed in the book. Neither Helen nor Jane get their hair cut off and Jane isn't so overtly defiant as she is portrayed in this scene. I feel like there were some many interesting childhood scenes in the book that the creator of the movie didn't need to basically invent one to keep the plot during the Lowood scenes from being stagnant.
  • The quickness of the story telling was also pretty terrible in relation to Helen's character. We barely get introduced to her and then she gets dispatched rather quickly. I feel like the audience should have been given more scenes with her that way when she dies we can get all emotional over it.
  • The representation of the Lowood school is pretty tame in this version. Aside from the frozen water scene we don't see anything inherently wrong with the school. If you've read the book you know it really was lucky of Jane to have survived that place what with the shortages of food and the mass typhus outbreak.
  • Here Helen gets a pretty substantial gravestone whereas in the book Helen has no grave marking. When Jane finds out she has inherited her uncle's money she goes back and gets her a gravestone. Speaking of the gravestone, it's also the site of the worst transition I think I've ever experienced in a movie. Not only is it disorienting, but it cuts out SO much of the story. We never get to see Jane grow up or become a teacher. We never see how Helen's death affects the young Jane.
  • Miss Temple's character is also cut back pretty substantially and even changed. One of the factors that causes Jane to advertise for a governess position in the first place is because Miss Temple is getting married and leaving Lowood. This would leave Jane without any real friend at the school. Their friendship also goes beyond Miss Temple giving her lofty advice. I also want the movie to show me that Miss Temple and Jane have developed a great friendship throughout the years not have Jane tell me "Oh Miss Temple you are my one true friend." The whole point of the movie is to show me what I've been reading. If it can't do that I might as well read the book instead.
  • Gainsbourg as Jane: While Gainsbourg does look like the same age as Jane should be, she is rather gangly and awkward in some of her scenes. Not to mention she severely lacks inflection in her voice. Every line is given in that same hushed voice that does nothing to help the mood of the scenes. Some variance of emotion would have been lovely.
  • Fairfax is a little too chipper and overly friendly in my opinion. She is more like a lovable grandmother.
  • There is barely any chemistry between Jane and Rochester. I wrote this con in my notebook 3 times over the course of the entire movie. The problem I have is if you are going to make the conscious decision to cut out a ton of stuff to make room for the Jane and Rochester romance, the least you can do is make sure your actors can pull off some fantastic romantic scenes. So many of them went completely flat. The scene where Jane saves Rochester from burning in his bed had no chemistry whatsoever. I think they tried to compensate for the lack of chemistry by zooming in super close and playing that awful romantic music in the background. They also lack the witty back and forth that characterizes their relationship. This movie also never allows their friendship to develop either:(
  • The first encounter between Jane and Rochester also completely lacked drama and chemistry. Rather than having it be an ominous foggy day with Jane posting some letters, she randomly decides to abandon Adele in the classroom with ONE math problem while she decides to take a walk. Rochester's accident was so terribly staged that I actually laughed out loud when he fell down. Rather than have the horse buck or have Rochester hit a patch of ice, Hurt's Rochester awkwardly looks back at Jane, conveniently rides his horse into the soft grass and then randomly topples over. It was so awful and unbelievable.
  • There was no gypsy scene, so it's yet another opportunity missed the ratchet up the chemistry between Jane and Rochester. Not to mention that would have been a great way to have some character development for Jane.
  • St. John's character is completely screwed up and is hardly recognizable from the book. Apparently now he doubles as a lawyer who tells Jane that she has inherited from her uncle and he only has one sister. Not to mention the fact that Jane comes to him when she finds out her aunt is sick?!?
  • There is no struggle for Jane when she leaves Rochester after she finds out about Bertha. She doesn't wander the moors. Instead she purposely rides a carriage to St. John's house where she melodramatically collapses. Because St. John already knows who she is there is no lying about her name. Instead he gives Jane her inheritance, thereby eliminating the storyline where Jane works as a schoolteacher. The movie even fast forwards so we don't get any relationship building between St. John and his sister. We get a voice that again that tells us and doesn't show us that the three of them are friends.
  • Remember the scenes after Jane leaves to see her dying aunt. I mean the random montages of Rochester and Adele. I ask you WHY must there always be a STUPID CLIFF scene to indicate that the characters are thinking deeply. Can we all just agree to end that stupid cliché and find something different. Good?...good.
  • Jane's awesome speech, you know the one that everybody connects with this book. The speech where Jane asserts her independence while revealing to Rochester that she has come to care for him, well that gets cut short!!! I love that speech and it really pissed me off that it was spat on by the creators of this film. Jane just whines and blubbers her way through part of the speech before Rochester interjects. Not to mention that this romantic scene is supposed to take place by that iconic tree that gets hit by lightning and it doesn't.
  • What follows that scene is the creepiest kissing scene that I have ever encountered in my entire life. It's like he molests her face and she really doesn't look like she's enjoying him slobber all over her cheeks and eyelids. When she kisses him, it's so painfully awkward and lacks any sort of passion that I ended up looking away until it was over.
  • There are no scenes after Jane accepts his proposal. He doesn't take her shopping nor does he buy her anything. They also don't have any cute post proposal interaction.
  • There is no veil ripping scene with Bertha and at the wedding yet again Jane has no emotion when she finds out about the existence of Bertha. In fact all of the emphasis for some reason is placed on MRS. FAIRFAX!!! HUH. We get like a solid two minutes of Fairfax looking all emotional when this moment is not about her!!
  • Additionally to cram more plot events into the limited time frame the fire at Thornfield happens as Jane is leaving Rochester. As a result, logically she should have known about it. Don't you think she would have looked back at least once and saw the ton of smoke in the air. A giant estate burning would be pretty hard to miss I'd expect.
  • The whole scene where Jane hears Rochester is also completely messed up. The scene takes on particular significance because even far away the two of them are connected and Jane can't help but run to a suffering Rochester. Instead she hears him and leisurely talks to St. John about marrying him which if you stop listening for a few seconds you'll never know happened.
  • Rochester is never at Ferndean. Instead he seems to inhabit an unburnt corner of Thornfield where Mrs. Fairfax takes care of him rather than John and Mary. 
  • Rochester's injuries are also not accurately represented and nobody tells Jane what happened. She walks in to find the house is burnt and Rochester is blind and she doesn't ask a single question. I have no suspension of disbelief at this point.
  • The final scene is so full of clichéd dialogue and complete lack of chemistry yet again that it ends the movie at the lowest point possible. As if that wasn't enough, the terrible movie soundtrack kicks in again to remind you that there is no possible way you will get any enjoyment from Jane and Rochester finally getting together.   
As you can probably tell from the substantial list of cons, I didn't particularly enjoy this version. I acknowledge that some of the plot has to be cut in order to make the 2 hour limit, but I hate that at some points in the movie the story is unrecognizable. If you are looking for a movie adaption to introduce you to the story of Jane Eyre or like me you read the book and want to see a movie adaption, I urge you not to pick this one up. It doesn't do the book justice.

If you liked this post well you're in luck. There are still plenty of movie adaptions to cover, so stay tuned for my next Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon post.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Books You Hate, But Also Respect

Well hello there! It has been quite some time hasn't it. My sad absence was not intentional, but rather has been due to the loads of reading I've been assigned these first couple of weeks at college. Oh English Major problems. That being said the only books I have time to read are the ones assigned to me:( It will be a little while before I can get back to posting about the books that I actually derive some pleasure from reading, so bear with me and we will all make it to midterm break unscathed.

Strangely enough though the books that I've been reading thus far have sparked this post. I was in the middle of reading D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow for the second time and thinking to myself that it really doesn't get better on the second read. I REALLY don't like this book, but the intellectual discussion it sparks in class is really rather interesting. I ended up coming to the astounding conclusion that while I hate this book with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, I can't help but respect what Lawrence was trying to do with The Rainbow.

Let me first discuss why I really can't stand reading Lawrence's book. Throughout my life I and maybe even you have been conditioned to expect a few things from everything you read. Naturally I expect the book to have a discernible plotline; something that I can trace throughout the course of the novel. I also expect there to be a modicum of character description and development. I have to know the characters and be willing to go on their developmental journey with them. The character's thoughts, feelings, and actions also have to be believable and rational.

You would think that a novel without any sort of real plotline, irrational characters, and little to no character development would never be allowed to be published and should not in fact exist....well you are SO WRONG. This is exactly the description that I would give about The Rainbow. The plot (if that's what you would like to call it) is about following the Brangwen family through the generations. Each of the characters just sort of meanders their way through their lives without really developing in any sort of way. Oh and let's not forget the book is literally drowning in details about what twisted sexually deviant thoughts the characters are dealing with. When the author decides to get around to actual plot descriptions, they are pitifully sparse. Frequently a character's death with be dispatched in one sentence without any real description.

The relationships between the characters are also highly irrational and often uncomfortable to read at times. One moment a couple will feel intense passion for each other and then without any sort of justification are consumed with an intense hatred for each other. I'd rather not discuss at length the creepy father and daughter relationships that go on during the course of the novel. I would tell you to find out for yourself, but I wouldn't wish this book on even my worst enemy.

Now that I've ranted about the book that has made the past two weeks of my life torture, let me get on to discussing why after all that do I still manage to respect Lawrence. I can see that he was going for a different type of novel. His novel is not wrapped in plot points, but instead deals with the psychology of his characters. He tries to make the point to his audience though his weird characters that people have this unconscious center of their self that they really have no idea about and completely differs from who you are in your conscious mind. His characters are constantly wrestling with ideas of who they think they are without ever really coming to any concrete solution. Not to mention Lawrence deals with the conflict between the individual and society. As individuals we strive to have our own distinct identity separate from society around us, but in reality we can't help but be shaped by the world around us.

Lawrence also puts his imagery and allusions above a plotline as well. Peppered in all of the chapters is this recurring reference to Noah's Flood (heck even the title relates to that story). We constantly get the descriptions of characters feeling like they have endured a flood and come out somehow clearer minded...that is until they are exposed to the outside world again. This coincides with other post apocalyptical imagery. So yeah...pretty complicated stuff right.

Hopefully you see what I mean when I say that this just happens to be one of those books that I can't stand to read, but somehow manage to have some respect for what the author was trying to accomplish. I can hazard a guess and say that many of you have encountered the same feeling that I seem to be having. Was there a particular book that you thought of the moment you read the title of this post?

All I can say with certainty is I'm looking forward to writing my analytical paper on this book and then chucking it into some dark corner, where come December I'll happily sell it off to some poor soul who will be forced to read it next semester.

Well that's all I have for today, so until my next post try to read something fun for me and always remember to be totally awesome!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Page #: 487
Name and # of Series: Book 1 in Divergent Trilogy
Book Blurb: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

So many people have been talking about this book and I had a number of friends tell me that I had to read this book. As everyone knows by now I have a weakness for popular books and the minute I saw a used copy of Divergent I snatched it up and finally began reading it.

Some of you will notice that I have already marked this book as finished on Goodreads and I neglected to post a review there. This was consciously done obviously. If you take one look at the reviews that have already been written, you'll basically see a gigantic mess of people either professing their eternal love for the book or those who profoundly hate it. I don't want to get involved in that, so I figured I would post my own honest review here where there is less chance for drama.

I would just like to make it clear right away that I belong to neither of those camps. I both enjoyed the book for its entertainment value and couldn't help but notice some of its glaring flaws, flaws that I will completely address in this review. * I am warning you here and now there will be spoilers, so please don't read on if you don't want to be spoiled*

Let's start off with the fact that Divergent is a YA Dystopian novel that solidly follows the typical tropes of the genre. The minute that I started reading, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins popped into my head. I tried hard not to think about it, but "factions" defined by one characteristic seems pretty similar to "Districts" defined by one occupation. I also felt like Tris' initiation had the same flavor and push for survival as the hunger games.

The main problem I think this book suffers from is the fact that the Dystopian genre is currently the "it" genre of the moment and a story has to be very original in order to stand out in a positive light. Roth would have been successful in this aspect had she provided more backstory or "world building" as other reviewers like to call it. I wanted to know more about this war that convinced people to make the illogical decision to split into factions (which makes no sense in a futuristic society where history has shown that societal rifts based on race, religion, and differing cultures has always led to war...but suspension of disbelief right?) Not to mention the fact that repeatedly the Dauntless have been referred to as the protectors from some outside threat. What threat? It's never mentioned and I'm of the opinion that its not some detail you should leave to be explained in the rest of the series. I also want to know more about the society before the war. Have they had any technological advances and how far into the future is this factioned Chicago? All of these plot holes prevented me from becoming truly immersed in Tris' world.

My next complaint is the lack of skilled foreshadowing. The minute Four was introduced I knew he was really Tobias because of the completely out of place and obvious discussion held about Marcus's son earlier in the book. I honestly think that if the pre-story had been cut out, the revelation that Tris has about Four being a previous abnegation member would have packed more of a punch. I obviously knew that the society was going to fall apart and that Tris would choose Dauntless based upon that awkwardly long moment where she gazes at the Dauntless train jumping.

Another small complaint that I have is the missing chapter transition between the Dauntless initiation ceremony and the brainwashed Dauntless attack on Abnegation. Tris surprisingly (not surprisingly) realizes that the injections will influence the Dauntless to fight for Jeanine and then I turn the page and the fighting has already begun. I was so confused due to the time gap that I actually checked to make sure I hadn't missed a page or a whole chapter for that matter. As much as I hate the going to bed and then waking up transitions, had that been better integrated I wouldn't be complaining.

Speaking of the decline of the factioned society, did anyone else feel slapped in the face with religious undertones? No? Just me? I'm going to rant about it anyway. I don't mind when books integrate religion into their plot, but it really has to be done tastefully and with tact. Not all of your readers are religious or even Christian for that matter. I almost considered taking this book down to 3 stars because of the overt religious references. "Valuing knowledge above all else results in a lust for power, and that leads men into dark and empty places" What does that remind you of...oh yeah... the fall of man and the story of Adam and Eve. Here we have the Erudite faction that values the quest for knowledge and SHOCKER it's headed by a woman whose knowledge has corrupted her and caused the whole downfall of a society.  Nothing quite like making the Eve figure the villain of an entire series.

There also were a whole lot of unnecessary deaths at the end of the book that carried no real shock power because readers never had a chance to connect with those characters in the first place. Character deaths are only useful when they generate emotion and it's possible to carry it out in one book. Take for example Rue in The Hunger Games. She was only in that book for a small portion, yet her death managed to make me pretty sad while reading it and it made me teary eyed when I watched the film. The death of Tris' parents were just uneventful blips that even she brushes off.  Speaking of Tris...

While I loved the continuous inner struggle that Tris has over her faction choice and her inability to be selfless, that awesome character development took a long walk off a short pier and disappeared the moment she becomes interested in Four and he reciprocates those feelings. She went from this strong kickass heroine to a sad Bella Swan-esque incarnation. All she ever does is comment on how unattractive she is and how completely undeserving she is of the hot boy's attention. Not to mention the fact that she stops spending time with her friends and keeps secrets from them in favor of devoting all the time she can on Four. She isn't even the one to resolve the central conflict of this book, which is what the heroine should do. No, instead she saves Four, who then saves the day by ruining the program controlling all the Dauntless. I'm crossing my fingers that this is remedied in the next book in the series.

As I've previously stated these are quite a lot of obvious flaws that I couldn't ignore while reading, but I have to acknowledge the fact that I still enjoyed reading the book. Its fast paced and action packed plotline kept me interested and I never encountered a boring moment. The ending also had enough of a cliffhanger to make me want to read the next book in the series and I plan to as soon as I get around to buying a copy. I'm also looking forward to watching the movie adaption and was pleasantly surprised to see the guy that played Pamuk in Downton Abbey is playing Four. If you enjoy fast-paced YA Dystopian novels, I would recommend that you give this book a chance and see how you like it.