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Emma (2009 BBC Version)

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,855 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Emma (2009/DVD)

Beautiful, clever, and rich Emma Woodhouse is convinced she is good at matchmaking after her older sister and her governess both marry suitable husbands. No matter that as Mr Knightley drily observes, in reality, she had nothing to do with these relationships. Yet Emma, certain of her talents, plays a dangerous game as she persuades her new friend, the young, pretty and socially inferior Harriet to reject an advantageous marriage proposal to a local farmer in favour of dashing Mr Elton. So begins a story which challenges Emma's naivety, her social preconceptions and her relationship with Knightley. Fresh and funny, this perceptive adaptation, featuring a stellar cast, brings Jane Austen's comic masterpiece to life.



Although Jane Austen's Emma has been adapted for the screen many times before, including for an American version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, this four-part miniseries is the version to begin with. The story of Miss Woodhouse, a matchmaker and meddler whose wit and misdirection need to be carefully acted to match the novel's complex character, is perfectly expressed through Romola Garai's portrayal. Throughout the retelling of this comedic romantic drama, Garai not only conveys Emma's strong-willed sensibility but also manages to update Emma for modern audiences without relinquishing the traditional manners and tastes that Austen fans love in her 1815 historical tale. Each episode, here, opens with a seasonal shot of Hartfield, the estate Emma rules while caring for her loyal and kind but protective father (Michael Gambon). Having lost her mother early, Emma feels a bond with two other unfortunate children in Highbury, Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans) and Jane Fairfax (Laura Pyper), whom Emma befriends as they return home from boarding schools abroad.

The dramas that ensue revolve around Emma's attempts to pair lovers, with varied degrees of success. Episode One establishes Emma's curious desire to marry everyone off except herself. John Knightley (Johnny Lee Miller), Emma's childhood friend, is constantly by her side, coaching, supporting, and chiding her as she matures into an intelligent, regal young lady. Miller's ability to portray Knightley as the respectable, patient man he is throughout the series also lends this Emma incredible strength. In Episode Two, after Emma's beloved governess, Anne Taylor (Jodhi May), moves out to marry, Emma bonds with new girlfriend Harriet Smith (Louise Dylan), and from here we begin to see some of Emma's plans backfiring. Part of this series' genius is in how it manages, in keeping with Austen's book, to express deeper love developing between Emma and her true mate while Highbury's daily gossip continues. Though in Episodes Three and Four one weathers some minor emotional upheaval with aging parents, losses of wealth, and illnesses, this story is not tragic and most side plots point toward Emma's final love realization, which does not arrive until the last 20 minutes of the last episode. Settings and costumes enhance the story greatly, and views of the village farmers' market contrast with lavish balls and dinner parties hosted by the Woodhouse family and others to underscore Austen's original emphasis on capturing the preoccupations of upper-class British society in her day. Some scenes, as in Episode One when Knightley and Emma squabble for much too long over whom Harriet should marry, drag on, allowing one to marvel at how much free time these people had to worry about other business besides their own. Still, the romance in Emma is quite powerful and humor throughout makes this series ultimately enchanting. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features

Emma's locations

Emma's costumes

Emma's music

Emma's Mr Woodhouse: Interview with Michael Gambon

Product Details

  • Actors: Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Tamsin Greig, Rupert Evans
  • Producers: Phillippa Giles
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 9, 2010
  • Run Time: 229 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,855 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002XTBE6K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,749 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Emma (2009 BBC Version)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on December 30, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Being an avid Jane Austen fan, I have watched every single adaptation of Emma (as well as Austen's other works). The older 1972 BBC adaptation, Emma (BBC, 1972) was quite tepid and the lead actress was not very inspiring in her role, lacking the upbeat, and sunny disposition that one associates with Austen's character. Then there was the A&E version starring Kate Beckinsale in the title role, in Emma (A&E, 1997) which though much better than the 1972 version (which also suffered from inferior production qualities), was still not the best adaptation. Finally, there was the movie version of "Emma" starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and until this current adaptation, this was actually my personal favorite (even though I personally found Paltrow's accent rather stilted)- it was a gorgeous movie with beautiful cinematography and the chemistry between Emma (Paltrow) and Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam) was simply wonderful and altogether credible.

This is truly a stellar production in terms of casting, and production qualities. The title role of Emma is credibly portrayed by Romola Garai, who has also been in other notable productions such as I Capture the Castle,and Daniel Deronda. She is perfectly cast - luminously beautiful, snooty, a busybody matchmaker wannabe who feels self-justified in her quest to pair off couples regardless of their own wishes, and yet possessing of a warm and sunny disposition.
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Format: DVD
I've seen the various adaptations of Jane Austen's "Emma," but no movie (or actress) really seemed to capture the lighthearted brightness, romance and sweetness of that book. Fortunately, such is not the case with the BBC's latest adaptation -- it's a sunlit, enchanting little story that dances along at a leisurely pace, and has a brilliant cast headed by the astonishingly good Romola Garai.

After matchmaking her sister and her governess Miss Taylor (Jodhi May), Emma Woodhouse (Garai) fancies herself an expert on human nature, and on "nudging" couples into matrimony. The acerbic Mr. Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller) isn't impressed.

And after Miss Taylor becomes Mrs. Weston, Emma ends up becoming best buddies with Harriet, (Louise Dylan) a sweet (if not very bright) young woman who is the illegimate daughter of "somebody." Emma becomes determined to pair Harriet with someone deserving of her, and focuses her efforts on matching Harriet to the rather smarmy but charming Mr. Elton. When Emma's latest matchmaking attempt falls apart, she vows not to mess with people's lives again -- but she can't help but be interested by Harriet's potential suitors.

At around the same time, two people that Emma has heard of her entire life have arrived -- the charming Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans), and the reserved and "perfect" Miss Jane Fairfax (Laura Pyper). Emma begins a flirtatious friendship with Frank, but for some reason is unable to get close to Miss Fairfax -- and ends up alienating her further on a disastrous day out. And as she navigates the secrets and rumors of other people's romantic lives, she begins to realize who she has been in love with all along.
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I really, really enjoyed this version of Emma, although there were a few aspects of it that I didn't really agree with. First, the good! JLMiller's Knightley is my favorite by far! He's not too wishy-washy, not too stern - he finds a perfect balance between boyish charm and firm, quiet manly goodness :). I thought Romola Garai was quite good as Emma as well, although at times I was a bit put off by her slightly modern mannerisms. Almost everyone else was really well cast - I especially appreciated that Ms. Bates wasn't portrayed as a complete fool (in the other films she seemed more like a caricature than a character to me).
Now the bad: Emma's modern mannerisms. Things like plopping down on sofas, and generally being a bit lacking in the grace department. If she thought so highly of herself, it seems to me she would have been a bit more self-aware.
Also, Mr. Woodhouse. He was just depressing. In the book he's portrayed as a lovable, slightly silly, worried old man, and I really thought Michael Gambon would do a really good job playing him, but I felt that his performance fell rather flat. I just felt uneasy and depressed watching him.
The last aspect I have an issue with is the script. It's a great script, but I would really like to have seen more of Jane Austen's witty dialogue in there. The script seems to rely a little too heavily on new ideas of humor, or to leave it out altogether. I just don't understand why more of Austen's subtle humor couldn't be included.
That said, overall I thought it was a really good adaptation, with a (mostly) spot-on cast, great acting, decent script, beautiful sets and costumes, and a lovely score. Oh, and I haven't mentioned the best part - people play the piano and sing, and it actually sounds like they're singing! There's no sudden prima-donna-on-a-sound-stage moment. That is a thing of beauty rarely experienced in most period movies. Five stars for that, minus one for slight character and script flaws.
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