BY: Angie Haddock
A few months back, I read (and reviewed) my first foray into Jane Austen – the classic “Emma.” One of the reasons I picked that one was that a new movie version had come out this spring, so I thought it would be fun to read the book before seeing the movie.
I watched the movie at home this fall, and saved the review for today – Happy Jane Austen day!
The first thing I noticed in watching this film adaptation is that the look of it is very light and airy: pastel colors, lots of sunlight streaming through windows, that sort of thing. I must admit I envisioned the 1800s in the UK a little more… rainy? But it was pretty to look at. Another stunning visual was the costumes, especially some of Emma’s. The women sometimes appear in all white dressing gowns, but when they do doll up – they doll up.
The lead in this one is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. I didn’t recognize her at first, with the blonde ringlets she sports in this movie, but I actually did see her – and like her – before in “Split” and “Glass.” (Recently, she’s been making waves in Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit.”) I was on the fence about her performance in this. On one hand, she spends most of the movie just looking annoyed. On the other, that could be fair for the character. She has some more emotional scenes toward the end, so we’ll say she did an admirable job but took a bit to warm up.
Some other familiar faces appear on screen here, too: it was lovely to see Gemma Watson out of her “Game of Thrones” warrior gear, and “Sherlock” fans will recognize Rupert Graves. But of course, the cherry on top of this sundae is definitely Bill Nighy as Emma’s dad. Nighy is always good, and often gets to be a little “bigger” than he is here. But he does give some light-heartedness to the otherwise tiring Mr. Woodhouse.
For the most part, the movie follows the story of the book pretty faithfully. I felt like there was more hinting at Jane and Frank being a couple, but that could also be because I knew ahead of time watching the movie. There were definitely more hints about Emma and Knightley ending up together, and that’s probably for the best! In fact, it starts becoming really apparent around 60% in – as opposed to 80% into the book. I felt like their ending up together was sort of abrupt in the book, so I liked that they set it up a little sooner here.
Isabella (Emma’s sister) and her family aren’t in the movie as much, but I do feel that her character was much more annoying in the movie than she seemed in the novel. In her brief appearance here, she is shrill and over the top. My only thought was that maybe the director was using her marriage to emphasize why Emma did not want to get married.
The most important change, though, comes near the end. In this version, Emma actually goes and sets things right with Robert Martin, which prompts him to ask Harriet again to marry him. I have mixed feelings about this part. It’s definitely a redeeming move, and helps to make Emma seem like she’s grown as a person. But in theory, isn’t she still meddling here? Setting up her friend’s marriage instead of letting things play out on their own? Since she’s the one who messed up their getting together in the first place, I think I’ll give Emma a pass on this move – it was her problem to fix, so to speak.
This was an enjoyable movie. Nothing revolutionary by any means, but cute.
PS: While I was digging around for pictures, I came across some beautiful ones from Vogue. If you’re interested in lush photo shoots, check it out.