For my second review, as part of the Jane Austen Review Challenge, I am featuring the delightful and sparkling version of “Emma” starring Gwyneth Paltrow.
Accuracy to book: The story is slightly condensed, but nevertheless it very much keeps the rhythm and atmosphere of the book and point by point stays very close to the original work. Frank Churchill is not quite as unkind and rude to A Certain Person and is not quite as completely deceitful as shown in the book. Not quite as much of John and Isabella is seen in the film, as in the book. However I am not a serious, sign waving, accurate-to-the book-or-die kind of personage. I simply wish the adaptation to be true to the tone of the book, in which point I think the filmmakers and actors made a very pleasing achievement.
Costumes: Of all the period drama wardrobes I have had the pleasure of viewing, Emma's is among my favorites. Each gown is fresh and lovely and becomes her so particularly well, that they are perfectly delightful to view. My personal favorites are the pale lime green gown that she wears when Mr. and Mrs. Elton come to tea, and the Box Hill picnic gown with the ivory colored overdress with the sage green vine pattern upon it. The other characters outfits are also well done. -. the most memorable being Mrs. Elton’s fashionable ensembles, her church one in particular being so...extraordinary, especially in contrast to Emma's simple elegance.
Scenery/Sets: Lovely, lovely, lovely! The scenery is exactly like a fairyland–or nigh on a fairy-land–for it is the English countryside, and what a lovely flower bedecked and sunny spot it is.
Music: The music interlaces perfectly with the rest of the film–rippling with a lighthearted and satisfactory tone.
The People -
Emma – Emma is the type of character who it seems would be difficult to play as she must at once be meddlesome and have a certain charm which makes her somewhat likeable. I confess that Emma has never been one of my favorite Austen heroines, but this Emma very nearly makes me reconsider. Showing both her flaws and foibles, her true sweetness and ultimate ability to be shown where she was mistaken, she not only executes her character to perfection, but has a naturally fine beauty and elegance. She also complements Mr. Knightley most excellently.
Mr. Knightley – Ah, Mr. Knightley. What a heavy duty he carries as the second most popular Austen hero. Does he bear it well? Yes, indeed. He is not afraid in the least of saying the plain and exact truth–even if it might make him unpopular with a Certain Young Person. As for this portrayal, he simply evinces the true gentleman. when he smiles and laughs and says “EmMA,” in his peculiar Mr. Knightley manner, he is just so –likeable and charming.
Harriet – is wonderful. She is not exactly clever, but very sweet and pleasing. I very much liked how, though she does in a way fall in love with two other men, underneath–despite both Emma and herself–she still likes Robert Martin the best. This is shown by how fluttered she becomes when she meets him whereas with Mr. Elton she was just more awkward and disquieted.
The Others – Mrs. Elton happens to be played by one of my all-time favorite actresses, Juliet Stevenson. Fashionable and nettlesome, I not only say so myself, but my friends tell me that she is hilarious, irritating perfection itself. (For the movie trivia persons: you can also see her as quirky and kind Miss Heliotrope in “The Secret of Moonacre”.) Mr. and Mrs. Weston are both excellently done–as is Mr. Woodhouse.
Favorite Moments and Final Thoughts: Some of my favorite moments: the proposal – “Oh dear..dear? Oh! The deer we need for the um–venison stew!” and “I do not wish to call you 'friend', because I wish to call you something much dearer.” Ah, yes–that whole sequence is a favorite of mine. As is Emma's first tea with Mrs. Elton. From my father to my littlest sister my whole family enjoys this film. There is not one indecent scene and it is romantic without being overly sentimental and lighthearted without being shallow. The entire aura of the story and characters–every little bit of the film, in fact, is so perfectly lovely that it leaves one feeling incredibly satisfied and cheerful.