Version: 1997, Miramax; starring Gwyneth Paltrow Jeremy Northam, Greta Scacchi, Alan Cumming; Ewan McGregor
Genre: classic; comedy; romance
Plot Summary: Emma Woodhouse is a beautiful, rick, highly intelligent young woman in Regency England who views herself as the community matchmaker. But things get a little complicated when her plans don’t go as envisioned, people falling in love with the “wrong” people, and her own personal happiness is at stake.
My Review: When will Emma ever learn? When will I ever learn? This was another one of those movies I determined never to watch, convinced I wouldn’t like it. But again, I was proved to be wrong. I guess it goes to show we should always leave room to try different things.
I absolutely loved the sweet spirit of the film. There is something about the way it was filmed that makes it glow with a soft light. Gwyneth Paltrow is beautiful to look at, as are the costumes and outdoor gardens. And the scene at the ball has some of the most beautiful, graceful dancing I’ve ever seen in a Jane Austen film. Rather than appearing to be a bunch of memorized, stiff marching as is usually the case in Regency-era movies, the dancing between Emma and Mr. Knightley is fluid and wonderful.
I’m still not completely pleased with any Mr. Knightley I’ve yet seen portrayed on screen, but Jeremy Northam played a very romantic hero. The movie ends with a satisfactorily sweet proposal and he made a good match for Emma. The rest of the casting was well chosen, and I enjoyed Alan Cumming as Mr. Elton.
I think Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, seems to somehow have slipped through the cracks during the course of the story. And I’m not quite sure there was enough direct interaction with Jane Fairfax to make her presence in the story make sense as a key plot element. But I did think that as far as sticking to the original story and handling such a complicated cat’s cradle of a storyline, this version of Emma does it well. I was pleased to note that they kept the true spirit of the language of Jane Austen’s time intact.
I’ve now seen three versions of Jane Austen’s romantic classic (the ones with Kate Beckinsale, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Romala Garai as the leads). I’ve liked them all in their own way, but still probably have to come back to Masterpiece Theatre’s 2009 as my favorite (Romola Garai captures the spirit of Emma in such a lively way). Which of the Emma versions is your favorite?