Sunday, March 08, 2020

"Emma." (2020) -- Initial Thoughts

I feel like that little period at the end of the title Emma. is there to remind us that a lot of what we're about to see in the film is going to be... extra.  Very, very extra.

Extra fancy, extra pretty, extra funny, extra sumptuous, extra nekkid, extra dramatic, extra splendiferous, extra elegant.

Truly, this was such a frothy spectacle that my head is still spinning a little bit!  I need to watch it again before I can decide if I actually liked it or not.  I know I liked parts of it, but the whole movie?  I'm not sure.  A second viewing is required.  However, I'm guessing I'm not going to be seeing this again until it's on DVD because my upcoming weekends are really busy.

Anyway.  Yes, let's mention the unclad elephant in the room and get that over.  Yes, Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn) is entirely unclothed at the beginning of the film.  Briefly.  From the side and rear.  It's true.  You can pretty easily see when it's coming, as he's throwing off his clothes willy-nilly in order to get dressed again in a hurry.  If you want to avert your eyes, it's not hard to figure out when to do it.

I thiiiiink the point was to remind us that we can get soooooooooooooo stuck on our ideas of how "proper" people were in the 1800s, but that our ideas ain't necessarily accurate.  Rich people like Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse would have had servants dressing them.  Undressing them.  Re-dressing them.  It's a recurring theme here.  Servants, servants everywhere, dressing and undressing them, seeing them in good moments and bad, tending to their whims and wants.  Putting up with Mr. Woodhouse's foibles.  Would a gentleman like Mr. Knightley or a gentleman's daughter like Emma have casually undressed and redressed with their servants there in the room, attending them?  Naturally!  And yet, some modern moviegoers have had little fits over the 2005 Pride and Prejudice showing Mr. and Mrs. Darcy together at their own home, with no one else around, sharing a tender moment while not 100% fully clothed and shod!  Of COURSE people in Jane Austen's day walked around barefoot at times!  Certainly, their servants would see them without every inch of their bodies covered.  So.  Anyway.  I think that was their point with this.  Did I appreciate seeing Mr. Knightley's bare bum?  Not really.  The male body is not particularly nice to look at, IMHO.  But did I find it totally outrageous that he might not be wearing clothing every moment of the day?  Nope.

So.  Anyway.  Moving right along...


I really liked Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse.  Honestly, he was like 90% of why I wanted to see this movie at all, because the trailers did not excite me.  But Nighy is always a good time, and I am happy to report I was not disappointed :-)  He was charmingly neurotic and fussy, not too sprightly, but not too gloppy either.  I'd love to see him in more period pieces.

I didn't realize that Rupert Graves was in this!  He popped up as Mr. Weston and I gave a happy little gasp.  I like him so much on Sherlock, and it was just delightful to see him in this.  He got lots of screen time too, which I appreciated.  It's not shocking that I didn't know he's in this, considering there are ZERO pictures of him from this anywhere at all on the internet.  Badly done, internet.

Everyone else was all right.  I didn't love or hate any of them this first time through.  I thought they did a good job of conveying the central issue of the book, that Emma needs to come to understand herself and see herself clearly.  It's much the same point as most of Austen's novels, actually -- that giving up illusions about ourselves and those around us is the only path to figuring out who we are suited to spending our lives with.


I'm interested in seeing this again, so I definitely enjoyed it, even if I'm not sure if I liked it.  I think I did.  It's very visually frothy and colorful and fancy.  So fancy.  Like a shot-for-Instagram-or-Pinterest movie, all Interesting Perspectives and Coordinated Color Schemes and Purposeful Scenery.  Artificial in the extreme, but intentionally so.  Which, I think, serves to highlight Emma's own superficiality and growing realization that there is more to life (and to herself) than pretty clothes and pretty people and pretty flowers.

Anyway, there you go.  My thoughts on this new version.  Have you seen it?  Or are you planning to?

18 comments:

  1. Going to see this on Monday with the sibs! Your review sounds basically what I'm expecting... I still love the 2009 series above all, but this should be entertaining at least. :)

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    1. Marian, that will be fun! The 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow is my favorite still, but this one was a good time.

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  2. Good post!

    I liked this movie very, very, very much. I didn't love the casting for Emma and Mr. Knightley AS MUCH as the BBC 2008 version (Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller), but still, I thought these guys did quite a good job. And I loved how cohesive the entire movie felt, how "tight" and taut it felt. It zipped right along, with nothing wasted. Unlike the miniseries, which was four hours and did have a tendency to ramble a bit at times.

    I loooooooooooooooooooooved Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. "I THINK I FELT A COLD DRAFT" we stan a legend xD I loved how he was so sprightly and energetic, you could see at a glance there was nothing really wrong with him--he was just having a blast being melodramatic, lol!!

    I very much enjoyed the aesthetics, how everything was bright and pretty and fancy. And the colors!! The beautiful colors!!! *happy sigh* It did feel artificial, as you said, which USUALLY drives me up the wall, except this was a very ... "self aware" artificial, like the filmmakers were doing it on purpose, so it didn't smack of inauthenticity to me.

    The nude scene with Mr. Knightley ... eh, it annoyed me in that we (the audience) don't need to see it, it's not really tied to the story in any meaningful way; but I do agree with you that ladies and gentlemen of the time period absolutely would've thought nothing of undressing in front of their servants. So it's not like it's INACCURATE. Just annoying. To me. ;-) (And you know I love P&P 05 as much as you do. *fist bump*)

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    1. Thanks, Katie! I'm glad you enjoyed it :-) You're right, there was a very good cohesiveness here, and very little slack.

      Bill Nighy was very delightful. Melodramatic and loving it! Hee.

      Yeah, the nude scene was unneeded. But I was not compelled to fall about in maidenly swoons.

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  3. I read somewhere they included the nudity to 'humanize' Knightley since he spends like 99% of his time "mansplaining." Lame, IMO. I didn't appreciate it. Nudity in a Jane Austen flick? Nah. The entire front row of senior citizen ladies gasped and not in delight.

    Like you, I have no clue how I feel about this movie. Parts of it, for me, felt long, drawn out, and dragged (especially the first half; at one point I remember thinking "It's been like an hour and Frank still hasn't shown up"). Other parts were quite good / delightful. Enjoyed having them at least sort of look the right age. The best addition was Emma going in person to Mr. Weston to apologize / make good. I felt this movie in particular NEEDED that. But a lot of the choices were just... weird. Like Emma's nosebleed right in the middle of the proposal. And the floating ruff she wore at one point. I'm not sure what was 'wrong' with a lot of her clothes (other than the odd layering?) but something about them, time-wise/style-wise, was "off." I also found the weird blasts of hymns and folk music at peculiar points in the movie ... strange and off-putting.

    I like this actress as Emma, even though she looks like a faeirie from a witchy woodland realm, but I didn't care for Knightley's looks at all. As the girl I was with said, "I don't like that he looks like Bill Sykes, with those hideous sideburns." I did enjoy some of their interactions, though. I thought Chummy from Call the Midwife made a splendid Miss Bates, but shallowly, I found everyone rather ODD looking for the time period. I loved the Eltons. And I adored Bill Nighy, but ... I just adore him regardless, lol.

    I came out of it going ??? more than !!!. It'll take another viewing before I decide if I like it well enough to stick it on the shelf beside my other two Emma adaptations, but I know this for sure: it hasn't beat my favorite (Paltrow/Knightley). Not by a long shot.

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    1. *Paltrow/Northam. That's how tired I am tonight.

      I also wanted to add that ... this movie completely neutered Frank Churchill. Other than his nastiness at the picnic scene, it gave no reason to see him as a malevolent force in Emma's life and as the primary reason Knightley had for concern in their interactions ("I feared your behavior [at the picnic] evidence of his influence over you"). As it is, he takes forever to show up, doesn't do much once he arrives, and is an afterthought at the end.

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    2. That would be my one complaint about this version, tbh--you don't really get a chance to feel ANYTHING about Frank Churchill. Much less hate him. And he's quite hateful in the book, so that omission feels ... odd.

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    3. Charity, haha! Interesting explanation. I didn't realize he was mansplaining overmuch? But I never seem to notice mansplaining.

      I didn't mind the music because... it was at least songs they would've sung at that time, and I'd been told that the music was "basically the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack all over again" -- and that was clearly not the case, so I just... was relieved they weren't using music from 1900s Appalachia? Lol!

      I've never hated Frank Churchill, so... no comment there ;-)

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    4. I didn't think he was mansplaining either, but I'm not the director. lol

      Frank comes across as more of a jerk in the miniseries. Aggressively flirting with Emma right in front of Jane. :P

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    5. Charity, lol! Glad I'm not alone in missing that.

      I've watched the miniseries twice and liked it okay. Not something I felt the need to own so I could watch it still even when it wasn't free on Prime anymore. But anyway, it's been at least 2 years since I watched it last, and I just don't remember much from it. Frank in the book never struck me as a creep or a jerk, just spoiled and thoughtless... and when he's played by Ewan MacGregor, he's just charmingly puckish, lol.

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  4. I agree with Katie, I wouldn't complain about it being inaccurate, but I just find it pointless for us to see and irritating.

    Anyway, I haven't seen this yet, but I'll definitely check it out when it is on DVD.

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    1. MC, it's a good one to wait for DVD on, I think :-)

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  5. I have never seen any movie or TV adaption of Emma all because it is a favourite novel and I don't want it "ruined." Nonetheless, the ads for this one have intrigued me to the point of actually considering going to the theatre. Reading all of these comments and such, I think I'll just invest in a large print version.

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    1. Caftan Woman, I can understand that! Have fun with whichever choice you end up going with :-)

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  6. I still haven't seen the original Emma, but I want to watch both. This one mostly for aesthetics.

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    1. Skye, which "original" Emma are you thinking of? My favorite is the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version, but the 2009 Ramola Garai is good too. I haven't seen the 1996 Kate Beckinsale version, or the older BBC version.

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  7. I was so excited to see this newest version. Although there was a lot I did like about it, the bright colors, the score, Miranda Hart as Mrs. Bates, ultimately I was disappointed. I felt most of the characters were rather unlikable. It also seemed that the film left out some of the characters' histories together so their relationships felt shallow rather than deep. And I'm sorry to say that nose bleed ruined one of the most romantic declarations in literature for me! Why?! Why was that necessary?

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    1. StoryEnthusiast, I'm glad you found some things in this to enjoy, at least. I agree most of the characters were presented as unlikable... but I don't actually like most of them in Austen's book either, so that didn't bother me. I'm sorry it bothered you.

      Ahh, the nosebleed. I think they were trying to point out that Emma's learning she can't control everything? Or that she is so nervous and stressed out about what he's going to say that she has a nosebleed? I hear it was a real nosebleed, so maybe they just... went with it? Dunno. In a movie that is so crammed with blatant artificiality, it was nifty to have something that was real and not stylizedly over-perfect.

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