on September 29, 2001
Being a die-hard Austen fan, I couldn't resist watching this movie. Emma Woodhouse's story has always been my favorite of
Austen's efforts, and I am always glad to see her work brought to the screen. I was VERY pleased with this film.
Casting was well done. Northam provides a sturdy, but not overly-stern, Knightley, and Paltrow does an amazing job of convincing us that she is, indeed, British in her portrayal of Emma. Her accent is nearly flawless, and I felt that she truly captured the personality of Austen's most spoiled heroine. The sets and lighting are bright, airy, and perfectly suited to the comedic approach taken by this particular director. The scenes are edited just brilliantly. Each scene flows seamlessly from one to another, and the pace of the plot runs along just perfectly. It moves fast enough to keep everyone interested and slowly enough to make sure that everyone has enough time to absorb what's going on.
The criticism I've heard most often is that the film really only touches on the Jane Fairfax/Frank Churchill subplot for the briefest of moments. I did not find that to be injurious to the film. It's plain, while watching this version, that the director wanted to keep the story light and funny. Adding Jane and Frank's saga would have done two things: First, it would have seriously darkened and dramatized the bouncy and bright atmosphere of the entire film. Second, it would have taken the spotlight off of Emma Woodhouse as the focus of the story. I felt that, given the abbreviated length of time that a movie has in which to communicate a story...the omission of Frank & Jane's affair was a wise choice.
The second criticism I've heard of the film is that it's just too clean and "pretty" to be accurately representative of Regency England. Again...this didn't bother me. The focus of this film is NOT to be true to history. It is not a Regency documentary. It is a fun and aesthetically pleasing depiction of Emma Woodhouse and her friends. It's romantic, funny, charming, and very very pretty to look at.
I loved it.
Emma is a wealthy and bored young woman in Regency England. She lives the good life in her rural manse, where she lives with her hypochondriac father, and she has just successfully seen a match she's made lead to the altar. Flushed with success, she is determined to continue her role as Cupid, which leads to disaster and comedy at every turn.
Director McGrath proves to have a good eye for exterior shots and comedic elements. The script is delightful, the cast superb, and Rachel Portman's score is faultless. The real problem with this adaptation is dear Gwyneth. Paltrow is absolutely lovely and charming as the heroine here, but she is not Emma as written by Jane Austen, and the discrepancy changes the story entirely. To see this character played to perfection, you must see her played by Kate Beckinsale. Before you click the "No" button, hear me out: watch both films' version of the pivotal scene of the picnic on Boxer Hill, where Emma insults poor chatty Miss Bates. Austen's Emma is intelligent but thoughtless, generous but as yet unkind, in the way that young people can sometimes be. The essential drama of Austen's story lies in Emma's realization that she has been mistaken about oh! so many things, in her growth as she internalizes that realization, and in her discovering love when she becomes worthy of it. By contrast, Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect from the first scene. She exudes sophistication; she cannot help it. You never feel that she does not know what's what and who's who, and therefore she cannot develop as Austen means her to. And that precludes her from playing Emma to perfection. That said, if you are a Paltrow fan, you will love her in this charming film. She is effervescent. If, however, you are an Austen purist, then you MUST see the Beckinsale version instead.
Regardless of your opinion of the film, you WILL be disappointed in this DVD. Apparently Miramax's Harvey Weinstein has heard of neither bells nor whistles. Special features listed are: a theatrical trailer, subtitles in English and chapter selection. And that accurately sums it up. There's really no excuse for such a trifling package.
Now I've had my say and you, dear reader, may click away.
Ah, this is a fun movie!
A relatively faithful adaptation of the Jane Austen novel is a bigscreen treat (the recent "Mansfield Park" was a disaster). Even looking at the cover is nice.
An unusually good Gwyneth Paltrow plays the well-intentioned but inept Emma, a pretty, witty aristocrat who believes that "the most beautiful thing in the world is a match well made!" Having married off her ex-governess to a family friend, she decides to take a poor friend of hers under her wing and find Harriet Smith a husband, but royally botches it in the process. Amid the tangle of loves, infatuations, and deceptions, Emma discovers that her own true love has been standing off to the side...
Paltrow is genuinely enjoyable-she practically glows. Ewan McGregor is totally convincing as the two-faced charmer Frank Churchill (despite his own claims, he does a good job). The actors playing Mr. Knightly, Harriet Smith, and the usual smarmy pastor and his creep of a wife are jewels.
It doesn't have quite the emotional resonance of "Sense and Sensibility", the BBC "Mansfield Park," or "Pride and Prejudice," but "Emma" is something of a lightweight story--there isn't much in the way of scandals. It's a nice bit of G-rated fun and comedy, enjoyable but not too heavy.
"Emma" was made during a spate of Jane Austen films and miniseries awhile back, and thankfully (except for the fiasco called "Mansfield Park") all of them have been fantastic. Gwyneth Paltrow provides some droll comic relief as the title heroine of the movie "Emma," proving that yes, she CAN act quite well.
Emma Woodhouse (Paltrow) is on a matchmaking rush after she successfully pairs her former governess to a rich widower. Convinced that she can make a good match for anybody, she sets out to pair her penniless, sweet-natured pal Harriet Smith (Toni Collette) with someone more elevated than a prosperous young farmer, such as the eager young minister, Mr. Elton (Alan Cumming). Problem is, Mr. Elton turns out to be in love with Emma, not Harriet.
More romantic complications ensue when a charming bad boy, Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor in a bad wig) comes to the area and seems to be interested in Emma -- until Emma decides to pair him with Harriet. Emma's good-natured meddling continues unchecked, until it threatens her own happiness and her unspoken love.
"Emma" is probably the frothiest of Austen's novels; there aren't any big scandals or anything like that. Embarrassment is the big opponent in here, but Douglas McGrath has a good sense of how to use the droll humor to best advantage. This is definitely a comedy, except for one or two moments near the end; even there, it's amusing when Emma wails "I love John! I hate John!". The only source of humor that falls flat is Mrs. Elton, who is too overdone in her vulgarity and stupidity. Bit of a cheap laugh there.
Gwyneth Paltrow seems very in-her-element as Emma, managing to be cute and fumbling without ever making Emma seem precious or stupid. Ewan McGregor may hide whenever he sees his performance, but he's pretty good as Frank (and fans of his should definitely see him sing a duet with Paltrow -- he has a wonderful voice). Toni Collette is sweet as Emma's rather naive younger friend, Denys Hawthorne endearing as Emma's hypochondriac dad (he's kind of weird, but likeably so), Alan Cumming annoying as the juvenile Mr. Elton, and Greta Scacchi does a great turn as Emma's kindly mother-figure. And Jeremy Northam steals the show as Mr. Knightley, the barb-tongued aristocrat with a kindly heart and a genuine affection for Emma, even though her romantic prodding makes him nuts.
There are a few points in the movie where it does seem a little too light and frothy, but fortunately most of the time the direction stays in sync with the storyline. The lighting, the costumes, the music -- all of them are cute and lightweight. Kids can watch this as well as adults, since there are Disney cartoons that are more offensive than this. (But younger kids will be bored out of their skulls, probably)
"Emma" is a great film for anyone in search of a genuine comedy with lots of laughs and no stupid gags. Definitely something to watch, especially if you like hearing Ewan McGregor sing or Gwyneth Paltrow freaking out over a failed matchmaking.
For some reason, film and Jane Austen are a winning combination. I can think of few classic authors who have been so well served by movie adaptations. This version of "Emma" is yet another success.
All of the necessary ingredients for a period film are here. Glorious houses, extravagant costumes and a dashing cast are all used to good effect. A special note is Ewan McGregor, demonstrating his singing chops long before "Moulin Rouge." He plays a fine rake. Gwyneth Paltrow does good service to Emma Woodhouse, balancing between silly snob and well-meaning, vulnerable girl. Jeremy Northam is a perfect Mr. Knightley and Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding, Sixth Sense) is excellent as Harriet.
The DVD is bare bones, but the presentation is nice enough. All in all, and excellent addition to a Jane Austen film library. Good fun.
on March 10, 2006
I had only read "Emma" once several years ago so I don't remember all the details that one finds lacking in film adaptations. But I must say that I am very pleased with this adaptation of the book. I bought this movie on a whim last week---really knowing nothing about it. I really enjoyed the enitre movie from start to finish and have watched it several times since.
I think it is a "cute" story and Paltrow/Northam play a very likeable Emma/Knightley. Seeing this movie has motivated me to reread the book and although I'm not yet halfway through the book, I do find that quite a bit of the dialogue from the book is found in the movie and in general it follows the book pretty well.
This is an easy to watch, feel good, romantic movie. I liked all the characters, esp Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates. Certainly a great movie to watch on dreary days to lift your spirits. I would highly recommend this to any romantics at heart.
on February 9, 2000
I am 16 years old and a great fan of Jane Austen's works, Emma being my favorite of her novels. This movie was an extremely beautiful production, with an attractive cast and beautiful setting. Praise must especially go to Jeremy Northam and Sophie Thompson for their portrayals of Mr Knightly and Miss Bates.
Gwyneth Paltrow, in the title role, has the beauty of Emma, and played her rather well, but I felt that she could have done more with the role.
My biggest complaint about this movie is how much detail they leave out. Many of the best, and most subtle, scenes of the book were left out, making it inferior to the BBC version. I also found the comedy to be contrived and out of place, quite unnecessary.
Still, this movie is one of my favourites, light hearted and beautiful. Far superior to the mess named Clueless, and quite worth spending the time to watch it.
on November 24, 2006
Although a stylized version of the book, this is a thoroughly fun and enjoyable movie...if not just for the visual beauty of the scenes, costumes, etc, but for the wonderful performances by all actors. This is a true "feel good" movie that I watch often, especially when feeling down...it's for all those who are romantics at heart. I'll even admit the ending (near ending really) always makes me cry, sigh and wonder where all the "Mr. Knightlys" have gone. :)
on December 13, 2000
I was so disappointed with this - I should declare my interest right from the start - I am a Janeite and I don't like to see people fiddling around with the divine Austen - and that is the main reason why I really don't like this movie. Bearing in mind that other's don't mind things being fiddled around with then I have to say that this movie is exceptionally pretty - the costumes and cinematography are undeniably beautiful. It is also paced well and I have probably thought it quite funny if didn't know that Austen was actually both a lot more subtle and a hell of a lot funnier.
Also, try as I might I just can't see Paltrow is right in the lead role of Emma. She is too skinny, and pouty - not at all the vision of Regency beauty depicted in contemporary portraits. Paltrow does do a fine job with the accent being America's favourite faux Brit-girl. But her role isn't helped by they script writers who have messed with book too much in my opinon and thus changed Emma to someone a lot more mean-minded..
On the plus side I just loved the two actors who played Mr and Mrs Elton (Juliet Stevenson and Alan Cummings). They have hit the characters off to a T. Mr Weston is also pretty good as is Frank Churchill (played by Ewan McGregor) - but couldn't they have given him a more convincing haircut?
Perhaps it is the nature of the script but I found Mr Woodhouse completely out of character. The subtlety of Austen's portrayal of this character in the novel is completely lost to the script writers. In her book Mr Woodhouse is an ailing invalidish sort with poor understanding - by all acccounts he should fade into the background, yet Austen allows him to dominate many scenes, with his lack of understanding, repeated comments. The ultimate in overwhelming sickness. In this filmed version Mr Woodhouse strides around manfully full of ruddy good health, but little influence - a complete turn around and he lacks the influence he holds in the book over Emma and Mr Knightley.
Emma is also changed in character. In the novel the subtelty of how Emma interprets events around her - and how they actually appear is almost lost. In the novel, Emma never completes anything - except the portrait of Harriet - and that is quite important to the plot.
The gradual build up in her frustration and that she is led astray by Frank Churchill's lack of social graces is also a necessary plot element in the novel. In this film we see quite a petulant and not particularly nice Emma right from the start - someone who is prepared to gossip meanly to Harriet about the Miss Bateses. I just didn't think a pouty, truculent portrayal of Emma was necessary - nor a rather sulky portrayal of Mr Knightly
As to Harriet Smith she is supposed to be stunningly beautiful. Not taking anything away from Toni Collette who I do think is very pretty - they didn't do a good job in fitting her out with flattering costumes - or hairstyles, and I don't think she rates as stunningly beautiful at all. Its quite a key point to the book really - and it was something that would have been pretty easy to do.
I realise, in the interest of the length of the film it is necessary to cut down scenes, and cut out elements, but very often they completely rewrote lines which altered the scene's meaning completely (Mr Elton's comments on Emma's portrait of Harriet, The first meeting of Frank Churchill and Emma, even the opening wedding scene) All unnecessary. The fact that Austen's perfect words have been read with great enjoyment for hundreds of years leaves me wondering why script writers are so determined to improve them to so little evident result.
If you want to see movies where Austen characters are allowed (for the most part) to speak and Look as they should I felt the Colin Firth 'Pride and Prejudice' or Amanda Root's 'Persuasion' were wonderful
on August 29, 2013
I made the mistake of watching this version after watching the BBC 2009 adaptation of Emma. Personally, I felt the characters lacked the warmth and emotional connection to each other and found this version of Emma shallow and whiny.... overall, I would not rent this movie again.