EMMA., rated PG
EMMA., newly available on home video, is the latest film adaptation of the last novel published by Jane Austen during her lifetime. Set in England in the 1800’s, the film features beautiful costumes, beautiful scenery, good production design and solid acting, but the two-hour film moves slowly, and doesn’t get interesting until the final thirty minutes. The film is directed by Autumn de Wilde in his feature film debut, and the screenplay is written by Eleanor Catton. Emma Woodhouse is played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass, Split). She lives with her wealthy father, played by Golden Globe winner Bill Nighy (Gideon’s Daughter, Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean), on a giant estate in the English countryside. Her lifelong friend George Knightly, played by Johnny Flynn, lives across a field and comes by the estate frequently. George knows Emma well, and is one of the only people in her life that can honestly speak to the selfish, arrogant and at times rude young woman. Emma doesn’t have much that she has to do, so she has taken to matchmaking, specifically with Harriet Smith, an orphaned girl of unknown parentage, living at a local girl’s school, played by Mia Goth. Harriet has taken a liking to Mr. Martin, a widowed farmer, played by Connor Swindells. Emma believes that Harriet can do better, and Harriet trusts her, so Emma convinces Harriet to turn down Mr. Martin’s proposal and instead tries to match her up with the local vicar, the unlikeable Mr. Elton, played by Josh O’Connor (The Crown).
***SPOILER ALERT (although there’s not much plot to spoil!)****
But this bit of match-making backfires when Mr. Elton admits that he is actually in love with Emma, not Harriet, something Emma had completely misread.
Emma hears about, and shows some personal interest in, the wealthy and handsome Frank Churchill, played by Callum Turner, who is soon to inherit a large estate from his aunt. Then, unexpectedly, Jane Fairfax, played by Amber Anderson, the niece of Miss Bates, a local woman Emma can barely tolerate, played by Miranda Hart, comes to visit, and gives Emma competition for the male attention in town.
Although Emma tells her father she won’t ever leave him, the film shows her looking for male attention, while at the same time trying to find a good match for Harriet. And of course, all of Emma’s efforts at match-making go poorly.
Themes in the film include social class differences, love, wealth, match-making.
Content concerns include a brief scene of male nudity when a character is dressing and brief rear nudity when the lead character lifts her skirt to warm herself by the fire, both surprising for a film rated “PG”.
The cast, made up of largely unknown players, offers solid performances, led by Taylor-Joy as Emma. A highlight was the cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt. The music was by David Schweitzer (The Crown), and Isobel Waller-Bridge, and features several Christian hymns, and there were several scenes that took place in the church (weddings, worship services). The costume design was by Oscar winner Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Mary Queen of Scots, Finding Neverland)
EMMA., the latest film adaptation of the final novel published during Jane Austen’s lifetime, while having some positives – the costumes, sets and cinematography – only comes to life during the final quarter of the film. Overall, we were disappointed in this film, which we had looked forward to seeing.