Emma: A Review

I have so many posts I need to do including the third (and final, I promise) vaca recap but I have to postpone those till another day for I have to write about the latest M.T. Austen film. This week it was Emma.

I have to confess that I love love love the Gwyneth Paltrow (GP) version. It was my first taste of anything Jane Austen related so I have a hard time criticizing it at all, even if I should. But I did try really hard not to dislike this movie just because it was different. And I succeeded, mostly.

The Good:
I like Emma. She was played a little different that Gwyneth did but again, that is okay with me. She seemed a bit less intelligent, a bit more silly and since that is what makes Emma, Emma I can't really complain about it especially since she does it in a way that still makes Emma seem likable and kind. And she was great in the scene where she does NOT tell Harriet how to respond to Mr. Martin's proposal! Harriet was good too, I liked how she was more of a pretty, sweet, but very naive young lady as opposed to so clumsy and stupid.

Frank Churchill was also good. I like Ewan in the original, but I think I liked him too much since you aren't really supposed to like him all that much. He isn't really a bad guy, just selfish and you should notice his lack of character and ill treatment of Jane Fairfax and Emma. In this version, you really could so I give him thumbs up.

The Bad (or maybe just not as good):

Miss Bates was not nearly ridiculous enough for me but I do believe it is the comparison that is doing this version in for me. In the GP version, the Miss Bates was so great. Very amiable yet very silly. This time she just talked a lot but it wasn't the same.

Mr. Elton was not nearly ridiculous enough for me either, again it's the comparison. Mr. Elton is a lot like Mr. Collins, although not quite that bad. It is a good thing Jane had Edward Ferris become a minister or I would have though she disliked clergymen altogether. But until his weird proposal, he seemed like a nice fellow. And while Emma is supposed to be oblivious to his real character, I think the audience shouldn't be shielded from that. Even after his refusal, he didn't seem mean, just a little hurt from being snubbed as would be expected. Mrs. Elton could have been better too. The only reason I thought she was insufferable was because Emma kept telling me so. Her one good scene was at the picnic when she got all mad at being told what to do.

The Ugly:

Mr. Knightley. Yes, he was not as attractive as Jeremy Northam but that could have been overlooked. And while I do love the GP version of him, enough to name my cat Mr. Knightley, it wasn't that Jeremy was better, it was that this versions was just bad.

He and Emma didn't seem to have much of a friendship at all. Where was the witty banter? And he gets mad at her too often. Yes, he is supposed to get upset after she insults Ms. Bates but the other times he is supposed to teasingly criticize Emma's faults but remain levelheaded and calm. He didn't remain level headed and calm so he just came off as grouchy and mean. Plus, he isn't enough in the story and the conversations. He seemed almost like an outsider of the community when he is really supposed to be the one they all look up too, the ideal gentleman, the man every man wants to be, the man every woman wants to marry. He summons his carriage for the poor old maid, he dances with the snubbed girl even though he dislikes dancing, he sends people meat and fixes their glasses. He may have done some of those things in this version, but they didn't seem to contrast his character with Frank Churchill's enough even though with this better Frank it should have been easier to see what a great guy Knightly was. Badly done.

The dream moments when Emma imagines people getting married or when Frank Churchill's picture comes alive were just weird and I didn't like them at all.


  1. What I have learned from these shows is that everyone in England back then was rich and did nothing all day.

  2. I was watching the John Adams special, which is really good, but I had to flip over to see how this version was going . . . after watching only a few minutes I knew it could never live up to the Jeremy Northem/Gwyneth Paltrow version.

    Aside to Craig: Yes, but they all had 5,000 a year!

  3. I HEART the Paltrow version. I got married to the main orchestral theme.

    I have this version DVR'D. I'll have to see what I think as I am not the biggest Kate Beckensail fan in the world.

  4. Craig: Not *everyone* in England did nothing all day, only the ones worth writing about. (This is true in history as well as literature.)

    (I'm mostly joking. Except that, for reals, peasants are boring. That's what I've learned in grad school.)

  5. I think I'm gonna go read some Dickens.

  6. I had pretty much the same reaction. I think I could have overlooked most of this version's faults but I can't because of how awful Mark Strong's Mr. Knightley was.

    We as the audience are supposed to know why Emma ends up with Mr. Knightley and in this version I was just thinking, "Run, Emma! Living alone with your hypochondriac father can't be that bad!"