Maria McQuillan, Contributor.
Emma. Is a worthy addition to the current roster of Austen adaptions. I’ll admit, that when I went in to see the film, I was sceptical as to how much I would enjoy it, considering how much I love the 2009 BBC adaptation of Emma, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. Emma has been adapted many times in the last twenty-five years, as film, television drama, radio and YouTube series, with the most well-known being 1995’s Clueless and 1996’s Emma (starring Gwyneth Paltrow).
For the most part, it is a loyal adaptation of the novel, only changing some parts to hurry the plot, but it does – without spoiling too much – add its own bit of flair to the original novel. Austen famously wrote of Emma that “I am going to take a heroine which no-one else but myself will much like”. Emma is certainly a polarising character, but this film endeavours to endear her to the audience in a different way than I have seen before. Certainly, this film shows an interesting take on themes of appearance and reality, with several scenes of Emma and others getting dressed or preparing for events. Unlike the perfectly poised Emma that we are accustomed to, we see more of her unsure side that is only revealed later in most versions. It reminds me of Greta Gerwig’s fantastic re-evaluation of Amy March in Little Women (2019) which if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend. One part of the film is a somewhat blatant rewrite of the character, which may rankle with some viewers – there is a reason that that part of the novel is usually left out or skipped over…
The aesthetic of the film is incredible, with the lush scenery, picturesque setting and gorgeous costumes. It’s a beautiful film, with an aesthetic that rivals the iconic Clueless. The cast of Emma. Is incredible; there is never a missed moment nor poor acting. Every look and line was delivered wonderfully and the use of close ups for individual character reactions, as well as reactions in the background of scenes, really enhances every moment of the film. Anya Taylor Joy and Johnny Flynn are superb as Emma and Knightley and are totally believable as the argumentative duo. I wasn’t entirely sold on Bill Nighy as Mr Woodhouse, but I really enjoyed the rest of the cast. Miranda Hart is fantastic as Miss Bates, and I loved Connor Swindells and Tanya Reynolds – I was already a huge fan of theirs from Sex Education, and both do not disappoint. Mia Goth is wonderful as Harriet Smith and Josh O’Connor was so brilliantly cringey as Mr Elton. Every actor has multiple times to shine, including servants, who are usually just another part of the furniture in this type of period drama, are used to fantastic effect here. Mr Woodhouse’s footmen, (you may recognise Angus Imrie in particular, from Fleabag) are hilarious with their reserved frustrations over their employer’s whims.
It’s an enjoyable adaptation of the novel, and the perfect Pal/Galentine’s film.