EMMA. brings charm and brightness to the classic familiar tale by novelist Jane Austen, with humor and mishaps along the way.
Before the movie theaters shut down in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, I got a chance to see Emma., the latest rendition of Jane Austen’s classic novel of the same name, without the added period. (The period was used as a pun of sorts to signify the film as a period piece, as stated by director Autumn de Wilde in a Radio Times interview.)
The movie stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Peaky Blinders, The New Mutants) as the titular character, Emma Woodhouse, and Johnny Flynn as George Knightley, her sister’s brother-in-law and close friend of Emma and her father, played by the outstanding Bill Nighy.
The movie begins as usual with the marriage of Emma’s governess, Miss Taylor, to a Mr. Weston, a man whom Emma had the fortunate opportunity to introduce to her. This fuels Emma’s idea and desire to be a matchmaker for whomever she wishes, including her unsophisticated and not-so-privileged friend, Harriett Smith (Mia Goth).
If you’re familiar with the story of Emma, then you will probably find there is nothing unfamiliar with the storyline and certain major events that happen throughout. However, there are several occasions that stand out from previous adaptations.
One of those is that of the costumes. While I’m not educated in how people dressed during 1800s, I’ve found that the costume design for this particular iteration seemed especially stunning, much more exceptional than what I’ve seen before. Whether it be the colors complementing the cinematography of the majestic landscapes or the intricacies of the interior of each person’s home, special mention should be made to costume designer Alexandra Byrne for her efforts in this one.
The set decoration is also something to be noted as Emma’s house and Mr. Knightley’s house were quite the example of wealth at its most illustrious.
Performance-wise, a couple of supporting characters stood out, one being the previously mentioned Nighty as Emma’s father. His eccentric humor of the hypochondriac patriarch is really delightful to watch, especially in a character that can be overacted, or maybe even underperformed.
Johnny Flynn’s handsomeness comes through in his portrayal of Mr. Knightley’s stoic mannerisms and compassion and understanding of whoever he’s surrounded by, whether it be a person of poor circumstance, or one of privilege. For those who need that added (yet pleasant) shock value, there’s a scene in which we see more of Mr. Knightley than has ever been shown in any other adaptations. Many of the supporting cast was easy to embrace, as each actor seemed to understand their character quite well.
As for Taylor-Joy’s performance as Emma, I was rather pleased with her and her ability to make the main character sympathetic and likable by the end of the film, though I was not convinced of her ability capture empathy during her big crying scene.
Overall, I enjoyed this version of Emma. much more than the 1996 version, but not as much as the 2009 BBC miniseries. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s works, this is definitely one worth watching, and it just so happens that you can actually watch it through Video on Demand at any of the major online platforms out there, primarily Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.