Oh my goodness. I loooooooooove the widescreen version! I kept thinking things like, "I never saw Mr. Knightley's reaction there!" "I never saw that part of the dance!" "I never saw Emma have that little moment of realization!" Splendid, I tell you.
So anyway... you probably know this, but Emma is about a rich, headstrong girl named Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) who loves matchmaking. Her rich, handsome neighbor, Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam) tries to help her grow and mature into a nicer and better person. And then she realizes he loves her and she loves him and we all throw flower petals in the air at their wedding.
Right, so anyway, why do I love this movie? Why is it, in fact, my favorite Austen adaptation? Why do I like it better than the book? So many questions, so little time.
I love this movie because it is beautiful. I want to live inside it. Hartfield entrances me. I want to hang out in this room in the evening and read books:
I want to sit in this pavilion and do needlework:
I want to figure out what all these random thingamabobs are that are cluttering up this room:
I want to sit quietly in this rustic corner of the estate and write:
I even want to own chairs like these, though I think they belong to Mr. Knightley at Donwell Abbey, not to Emma at Hartfield:
I'm telling you, I would love to live inside this movie! And I can't say that about very many movies, certainly not about any of the other Austen adaptations I've seen. I usually only feel that way about westerns. So this makes Emma something of a rarity.
And the cast could not be more perfect. I have to admit that in my teens and early twenties, I would have loved to look like Gwyneth Paltrow in this movie. She's still kind of my epitome of graceful, elegant womanhood. I wish I could get my hair to do the pretty things her hair does. Really, I'm almost a bit obsessed with her hair.
Also, Gwyneth Paltrow makes Emma Woodhouse much more sympathetic than in the book. She's saucy and meddlesome and spoiled, but she's also sweet and kind and cheerful, and so devoted to her father (Denys Hawthorne), all of which makes me like her quite a bit.
Then there's Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. He's not nearly as combative as he is in the book. Still bossy, still always chiding Emma for her faults, but he doesn't constantly pick on her. And I feel like he knows himself so well in this, that already fairly early on in the movie he knows he loves Emma, and he's just waiting to be sure of himself and more sure of her before he takes any action.
But as handsome as Jeremy Northam is, the first time I saw this, I was really watching it for one person: Ewan McGregor. And he still delights me: the smiley-est, most obliging Frank Churchill you'll ever see. He actually manages to give the character some depth, which is saying a lot considering that Frank is a vain trickster. But such a charming and happy trickster!
Even though he has the most appallingly bad wig:
Then there are Toni Collette as the sweet-but-shallow Harriet Smith and Alan Cumming as the unctuous-and-clueless Mr. Elton. They never fail to make me laugh in almost their every scene. Brilliant.
And Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates! Oh, she makes me laugh and cry. Poor, dear thing.
Also, I love the costumes. I would love to wear some of these dresses. And I'm not really all that interested in costumes or clothes or fashion! But wow, I love these.
|My #1 favorite (Emma's, not Harriet's)|
|My #2 favorite|
|My #3 favorite|
But I think what really sets this apart from other Austen adaptations is how much it makes me laugh. There are so many moments that I laugh aloud during, and even simple images that set me giggling.
I love how the filmmakers kind of gloried in the absurd in a gentle way instead of taking the story oh-so-seriously. I can never decide if I should shelve this with the comedies or dramas. But I generally shelve it with the dramas because when I think of this movie, the first scene that comes to mind is the scene where Mr. Knightley scolds Emma for being rude to Miss Bates at the strawberry-picking picnic. The first time I saw this, that is the scene where I went from liking to loving it. It adds such weight to the story, and shows that Emma is not merely a spoiled, heedless girl. She can feel for other people, she can acknowledge she's been wrong. She can change.
Okay, I think I've finally run out of things to say here. Oh yes... is this movie family-friendly? Nary a hint of sexual content to be found. There's one scene where some gypsies chase Emma and Harriet and try to steal their purses, and there are a couple of mild curse words, though.
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