Despite the semi-misleading trailers and studio promotions, Cary Fukunaga’s new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic “Jane Eyre” isn’t a horror picture. At it’s core it’s a period love story but with just the right amount of reimagining to make it feel new and fresh. It hits all the right notes whether it be romance, humor, or mystery. And even though it’s far from being the central tone of the film, there is a bit of creepiness mainly conveyed through the dark, more Gothic setting and a couple of routine yet spooky haunted house styled scenes. The most important thing is that most of this works. It gels together to give some familiar material a slightly new and energetic appeal.
Moira Buffini’s screenplay branches out into several different directions but the centerpiece of the story is still the romance between Jane (Mia Wasikowska) and her wealthy yet mysterious employer Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). It doesn’t spend as much time developing the rags-to-riches component of Jane’s life as I would have liked instead jumping headfirst into the obvious attraction between the two leads. But once Fassbender and Wasikowska are together on-screen for the first time, I didn’t care. I was immediately drawn in.
The story is anchored by some wonderful performances, great costume and set design, and it’s moody yet captivating cinematography. Fassbender’s Rochester is sophisticated but abstruse. Even if you’re familiar with the source material, Fassbender will have you questioning his every intent and motivation. Wasikowska gives a very reserved and controlled performance that captures her character perfectly. She’s quiet and solemn early on but we also see an unfeigned spunkiness that shows itself in some of the film’s best scenes.
“Jane Eyre” isn’t an old English horror picture regardless of what the trailer may have you believe. But it does use some of those spooky elements to create a perfect environment for this story. The movie teems with bridled passion and haunting secrets. It’s heartfelt and emotional but not without those perfect moments of humor that gives the movie life. Even though it touches on it, the film underplays the class-based challenges that Jane faces and the pacing is a bit erratic in the third act. But it’s hard not to enjoy this film and to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into making this type of picture. I really enjoyed it.