Emma is a period comedy-drama directed by Autumn de Wilde, from a screenplay by Eleanor Catton, based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel of the same name. The film follows the story of a wealthy and elegant young woman living with her father in Regency-Era England. This version of Emma, in my opinion, was not as good as others I’ve seen but managed to be quite entertaining.
During the Regency-era England, wealthy, beautiful Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) who lives in the Hartfield Estate with her father Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy), searches for a new companion after her governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan) marries and becomes Mrs. Weston. Emma settles on Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), a younger girl whom Emma assumes is the unclaimed child of a gentleman. Harriet’s parents are unknown, but her education has been provided for. Emma learns that Mr. Robert Martin (Connor Swindells), a tenant farmer of Mr. George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), who is the brother of Emma’s brother-in-law John Knightley (Oliver Chris), has proposed to Harriet. While claiming that she would not interfere, Emma manipulates Harriet into declining Mr. Martin’s offer of marriage, much to Harriet’s distress. Emma believes that Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor), the local vicar (reverend) is in love with Harriet and encourages Harriet to transfer her hopes to him, despite Mr. Geroge Knightley’s warning that she (Emma the matchmaker) should not involve herself in the situation.
At Christmas time, Emma’s older sister Isabella Knightley (Chloe Pirrie), and her husband, John Knightley, who is George’s younger brother, come for a visit. Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves) and his wife host a dinner, due to the weather, everyone leaves early. Emma finds herself alone in a carriage with Mr. Elton, who declares his love for her. Flabbergasted, Emma promptly rejects him, so Mr. Elton disappears for six weeks and eventually returns with a wife, Augusta (Tanya Reynolds). There is much chatter regarding eligible bachelor, Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) who finally appears on the scene but is tied to his sick, wealthy, dying aunt. On a picnic with their entire party of social acquaintances, Miss Bates (Miranda Hart), a good friend who talks excessively, announces her beloved niece Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) will be arriving soon.
This version of Emma did not appeal to me as much as others I’ve seen. Emma’s matchmaking is harmless enough but she almost self-sabotages her entire future not to mention causing anguish and despair to others. Often she skates much too close to the rail. There are several families, eligible bachelors, unmarried young women, and endless friends available for Emma to manipulate. The film needs to be very clear on whos who, including their relationship to each other. Perhaps a family tree may have been in order — I’m just saying. It took me a minute to sort it all out since I hadn’t seen Emma in years. Once I and the film got it straight, it all came to light. I dare say, Emma is a Jane Ayre classic that’s funny and entertaining no matter who remakes it. This period piece is fun to watch and worth seeing. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 87% based on 252 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.30/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads: “Other adaptations may do a better job of consistently capturing the spirit of the classic source material, but Jane Austen fans should still find a solid match in this Emma.” It will be fun to see who ends up with who. EMMA is streaming on HBOMAX and Prime Video — Check It Out!
[EMMA is Oscar-nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best: Costume Design as well as Makeup and Hairstyling — Totaling 2 Nominations]