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Just before movie theaters shut down in March, across the US, I anticipated seeing the new theatrical release Emma. I love this story by Jane Austen and I’ve enjoyed previous film adaptations. In fact, the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role is one of my favorite movies.
Imagine my disappointment when the theater closed the same week I intended to view this fresh version of Emma. Although I appreciate so much the big screen experience with new releases, I’m grateful for streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video. This weekend I settled in for an afternoon of entertainment, watching this film at last.
How did it compare with the 1996 version?
Here it is, my Movie Review Emma.
Cast and Characters of Emma
Emma stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy, Gemma Whelan, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Amber Anderson, Callum Turner and Tanya Reynolds.
Autumn de Wilde directed this period piece romantic comedy. And Eleanor Catton wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Jane Austen. Emma carries a PG rating for brief nudity and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.
Emma the Matchmaker
Set in the early 19th century, in the little town of Highbury, England, the story focuses on Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy), the precocious younger daughter of Mr. Woodhouse (Nighy).
Emma is handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition. And she had lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
She is also spoiled, stubborn and meddlesome, although she’s motivated by kindness and people are willing to indulge her whims. Content to never marry, Emma nonetheless believes herself an excellent matchmaker. After all, she successfully brought together her former governess, Miss Taylor (Whelan) and the widower Mr. Weston (Graves).
Encouraged by that happy union, Emma decides to make another match, this time with her new friend Harriet (Goth) and the town’s vicar, Mr. Elton (O’Connor).
Emma’s closest friend and confidante, the moody Mr. Knightley (Flynn) warns the headstrong girl to beware meddling in affairs of the heart. She pays him no heed.
What pursues are hilarious misadventures as Emma’s carefully thought out plans falter.
Harriet, a sweet girl of unknown parentage, is wooed by a young man who farms in the area. Although he is kind and intelligent, Emma persuades Harriet that he is beneath her. She convinces Harriet to refuse the farmer’s attentions and set her sights higher. While she pushes Harriet toward Mr. Elton, the vicar is actually hoping to impress Emma.
Meanwhile, Emma looks forward to meeting Mr. Weston’s handsome and mysterious son, Frank (Turner). When he finally appears, he leads Emma on, but it turns out he is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax (Anderson) the beautifully sad niece of the tiresome spinster, Miss Bates (Hart).
After an astounded Emma refuses a marriage proposal from Mr. Elton, the vicar snubs Harriet by marrying a snobbish woman he barely knows. She becomes the new Mrs. Elton (Reynolds). Harriet then turns her romantic attention to Mr. Knightley, much to Emma’s consternation.
Emma’s matchmaking creates a tangled mess of emotions until she does what Mr. Knightley urged her to do all along. When she steps back, and allows people to follow their own hearts, true love draws people together naturally.
And Emma discovers that love is waiting there for her too, if she will only open her own heart.
My Thoughts on Emma
It’s interesting watching a new adaptation of this classic story. I’m so familiar with the dialogue, which is lifted from the novel, that I can quote portions of it as the actors say their lines.
However, I enjoyed the freshness of this version. The scenes are slightly different to very different from the 1996 film. And the actors brings their unique perspectives to the roles.
I loved Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. He is an amazing actor and his performances make me smile, or in this film, laugh outright. His delivery style is perfect for the role of the solemn, fretful Mr. Woodhouse. Hands down, he is my favorite as this character.
Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Emma. It’s hard for me to see anyone but Gwyneth in the role, however Anya conveys the good-hearted if spoiled Emma perfectly. She’s excellent at allowing her expressions to speak volumes while she remains silent.
And I never thought I’d appreciate anyone as much as I appreciate Jeremy Northam in the role of Mr. Knightley. However, Johnny Flynn, whom I enjoyed as Albert Einstein in the Genius Series, won my approval. He’s mastered that stern, brooding look. When he turns it on Emma, she listens. And so do I.
If you enjoy period piece films or romantic comedies, catch this one on Prime Video. I love that the roles of novel author, screenplay writer and director are all filled by talented women. It’s incredibly fitting for a film about a woman with strong qualities and values.
And, I appreciate the opportunity to actually see this movie. I’m currently very concerned about the future of movie theaters. The impact of COVID19 is keenly felt in the film industry as it is in so many other areas.
I’m grateful for services such as Prime Video and Netflix, that offer an amazing assortment of films worth watching. However, I’m not ready to give up seeing movies as they are intended to be viewed…on a big screen in a darkened theater. Movies have greatly shaped my life. I’m holding hope in my heart that the industry will continue on for many years.
Have you seen the newest Emma? Rent it HERE and let me know if you enjoyed it!
Amazon Prime Video
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And if you’ve never read this classic, pick it up below by clicking on the photo:
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