The works of Jane Austen are go-to’s for Hollywood, and film industries the world over. Between the feature and television versions of just Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, it’s impossible to count the titles on just one hand. However, this week, yet another version of Emma hits theaters. Here’s what you need to know about Emma.
Emma. is based on the novel of the same name by the iconic and legendary Jane Austen and follows the titular character… a typically spunky Jane Austen heroine. Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), the movie admits, is relatively free of cares, and wants for very little. In fact, her favorite hobby is match-making. Lately, her latest pet project has been matching up her friend Harriet (Mia Goth). She’s that token Austen bestie, she’s a genuinely good person, but suffers from the fact she’s nowhere near as wealthy or good looking as our lead. The film follows as the two women gradually decide what they want from a bevy of handsome and more than eligible bachelors in nineteenth century England. Callum Turner, Johnny Flynn and Josh O’Connor lead the team of co-stars, which includes some real acting luminaries. More on this later. Autumn de Wilde directs from a script by Eleanor Carton.
In tackling this well-tread topic, de Wilde manages to find a new (and surprisingly fresh) tone in the narrative. This is seen most clearly in her crafting of the colorful and entertaining characters filling this world. These people are layered and complicated in a way which isn’t always seen in works of this variety.
Anya Taylor-Joy in particular brings a finely tuned take on the main character. In her hands, it’s easy to see Emma’s evolution. Her flaws are very evident and early on, and in reality, she isn’t particularly likable. There are points where she feels like an Austen era “mean girl”. This is quite a contrast against the flawlessly likable characters like Elizabeth Bennett in the many, many versions of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, the script is keenly aware of Emma’s privilege in this word. However, as she moves through the story, the development and evolution of this character is very apparent in Taylor-Joy’s hands. As the inevitable happy ending rolls around, it’s easy to be happy for this character.
At the same time, Johnny Flynn proves to be a welcomed surprise as George Knightley. He stands out as the restrained and somewhat misunderstood young man, presenting a refreshing take on the typically stoic Austen leading men. The young actor is a relative newcomer on screens; however, this performance gives him such an opportunity to spread his wings (particularly into the third act) that it’s exiting to see what he’ll do as his career continues to develop.
Meanwhile, Emma. brings together a delightfully colorful supporting cast of players, sure to delight those of us with a BritBox subscription. The always amazing Bill Nighy is probably used to the fullest extent as Emma’s hypochondriac father. Meanwhile, Rupert Graves makes a welcomed, though far too short return as Mr. Weston. Finally, Miranda Hart appears as Miss. Bates using in full effect her ability to play comedy with a heart. In short… Anglophiles should be delighted with this one.
While these actors are diving deeply into this fun and saavy interpretation of the classic story, de Wilde brings together a talented and creative team to craft an absolutely delicious looking movie. The costumes by Alexandria Byrne and the production design by Kave Quinn are bright and colorful, fully and completely establishing the light and comedic tone of this narrative. Everything about Emma. is cinematic eye candy.
Despite it being still early in 2020, Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. proves itself to be one to remember. Thank to well-crafted direction and memorable performances, the movie establishes itself as more than just another Jane Austen picture. Austen fans, Anglophiles and rom-com afficianados alike should find something to like in this one.
Emma. is now playing in theaters around the country.